Feminism: What It Means To Six UMD Students.

Feminism: What It Means To Six UMD Students

In recognition and celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8th 2017, we asked some of our student contributors what feminism means to them.

At a time when the women’s movement is resurgent it is more important than ever to recognize the different experiences women have, and how the fight for equality must be inclusive of those experiences.

The voices and stories you see below are the next generation who are already taking up the ongoing struggle for equality.

What does feminism mean to me?


Samantha Ernst is an undergraduate student studying Public Health Science at the University of Maryland with a minor in Sustainability. She is interested in understanding more about how different environmental factors affect health and plans to attend medical school upon graduation.

To me, feminism is so much more than the definition many of us have become so accustomed to hearing.

I believe that feminism cannot be boiled down to “organized activities on behalf of women’s rights and interests,” without leaving out critical elements of the movement. Feminism is about gaining equality across a multitude of playing fields, including those that are of political, economic, and social natures.

In the past few years, I have learned that there is never going to be a “right” or comfortable time to stand up the for hard-to-talk-about, yet essential subjects that have been overlooked for so long. However, as a feminist I try to break the ice and start conversations about finding and creating equality for women on a daily basis.

I am incredibly thankful to have been raised and surrounded by dozens of strong women and men whose beliefs and practices align with those of feminism, but that does not mean my, or our, jobs are done.

In a time where the outlook may seem bleak, I feel that feminism can help bring everyone together on multiple fronts. I will continue to actively use my voice to be a woman who supports other women and those who cannot always make themselves heard, so that we can begin to abandon stereotypes and inequalities in our daily lives.

What does feminism mean to me? 

Emily Gorey is a freshman studying marketing and studio art at the University of Maryland. She is pleased to take a break from writing satirical articles for the Rival UMD in order to shine light on a topic of such importance. Emily hopes to pursue a career creating advertisements for nonprofit organizations.

Feminism is common sense to me.

It is the aspiration to reach an age in which my future daughter will not walk through life with apologetic steps for being born the gender labeled delicate and lesser. She will not live with a guilt like mine. A guilt of leaving my best friend alone at a party where she was raped and forced to jump out of a window in order to escape.

My daughter will need not know how the scrapes and bruises from the fall will fade from her best friend, but the trauma of being controlled, reduced and violated will not.

It is a hope for a time when my daughter will not feel as though she needs a boy’s attention in order to feel worthy. My daughter will pursue her education with a fierceness and determination that would not be wilted by the notion of entering the professional world to earn less for equal work.

With a feminist future my daughter will not turn on the television to hear the president of her country taking away her rights. Her president will not have won on the heels of insults and nasty words soaked in misogyny, racism, and prejudice.

My daughter will hold hands with her persons of color, trans, Muslim, and immigrant sisters on a land that is finally level. She will understand how the struggles of their mothers were far greater than mine ever were.

My daughter will not ned to label herself a feminist because “feminism” will have evolved into a term synonymous with the present state of the world.

Feminism is a fight for a future worthy of my daughter and yours.

What does feminism mean to me?

img_3242-1-qmtxxt-150x150Esther Kaufman is an undergraduate student studying Economics at the University of Maryland with a minor in Global Terrorism Studies.  She is interested in the effects of economic policy on issues such as equality, welfare and radicalization of individuals in society.

Feminism is to disregard societal constructs of gender roles in pursuit of ones passions.

However, it is also to be brave enough to, along the way, recognize and reject social constructions that diminish opportunity for either sex.  It is embracing who you are and all the traits that make you unique despite your gender affiliation; female, male or non-confirming.

Feminism is my great-grandmother who served as surgeon during WWII among a unit of men.

It is my grandmother who was a skilled and respected mathematician in a male dominated field.

It is my mother who corrects the men that assume she is a nurse although she has been a physician for years.

It is speaking your voice no matter how distinct it maybe from the one constructed by culture and media.

Feminism is about not being discouraged by societal constructs but instead being brave to demand political, social and economical equality and recognition among sexes.

What does feminism mean to me? 

Kanta Mendon is currently a junior, undergraduate student pursuing a double degree in Government & Politics and Criminology. Kanta is interested in international development, specifically human trafficking and would like to work in the non-profit sector.

Feminism is the acknowledgement that every person deserves to be treated equally regardless of their gender.

It is men and women coming together to fight for equality whether that means equal pay for women or paternity leave for men.

It is not only thinking about your needs but thinking about the needs of women who have been further marginalized by society such as women of color and women who are a part of the LGBTQ community.

Feminism is fighting for women around the world who cannot fight for themselves and having the courage to speak up for them even if the choice to do so may be difficult.

Feminism is encouraging our girls to follow their dreams regardless of what stereotypes are pushed upon them by society. It is allowing boys and men to express their feelings without being ridiculed.

Feminism is the future of this country and the future of our world as long as each of us keeps fighting for it.

What does feminism mean to me?

Chika Okusogu is an undergraduate student studying nursing at the University of Maryland, with aspirations to become a nurse practitioner. Chika values all walks of life and seeks to combine his future career goals with his credo of sympathy.

On this spring-like day, a celebration of solidarity blossomed across the world.

Women and supporters stand side-by-side, nurturing their blooming drive. Behind all of this, behind all the raw feelings being displayed today, is the driving force of feminism.

For too long, “feminism” has been viewed as a dirty word. A word filled with gross, slanderous stereotypes. A surprisingly vocal movement feels that to be a feminist is to be a man-hater, family-hater, and tradition-hater. But by that logic, if I support the Black Lives Matter movement, do I hate cops? Absolutely not. If I support the Baltimore Ravens, do I hate the Pittsburg Steelers? Unequivocally, yes! But petty rivalry is not important right now.

What matters is that people realize that true feminism does not promote narrow-minded hatred or ignorance. Those are only the barriers that stifle progress. They bolster the Glass Ceiling that doesn’t just stop women in their tracks; it bears down on all of society.

What does feminism actually do? It nurtures compassion and self-determination. To me, feminism is the movement that fosters the idea that a society worth living in can only exist if each and everyone of its members can self-actualize their aspirations. To see the unbridled growth of their work. To bask in the efflorescence of their struggles. Feminism is the soil which forests of opportunity sprout and erupt from.  And on this spring-like day, I wish each and every one of you a Happy International Women’s Day!

What does feminism mean to me?

Edwin A. Rodriguez is a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a Criminology and Criminal Justice major and a U.S. Latina/o Studies minor. His fields of interest include policing, Central American immigration, race and ethnicity, and social inequality. He intends to pursue a PhD in Ethnic Studies.

Having been raised by a single mother, feminism for me represents the breaking of heteronormative gender roles that are oftentimes oppressive and most definitely inaccurate.

In the Salvadoran culture, women are expected to do two things: (1) cook for the family and (2) have children. My mother, however, has always been the opposite of this. For those who know her, she is described as independent, hardworking, and determined.

Growing up, I witnessed the struggles my mother endured not only as a single mother, but as an undocumented immigrant as well. As a child, I remember the odd looks she received when she informed people that she was raising me by herself. Above all, I have been present for the seven years she spent applying for U.S. citizenship and studying for the citizenship test. Despite the numerous barriers that attempted to intimidate her, today she is a U.S. citizen and most importantly, she has raised me all on her own.

As graduation quickly approaches, I reminisce on my upbringing and how I will soon become the first in my family to earn a college degree. I always come to the conclusion that my life story cannot be told without the endeavors of my mother.

My mother has never been the kind to sit back and let things unfold by themselves. Instead, she prefers to take the initiative regardless of how difficult something might be. I have carried these attributes with me throughout my college career and they have contributed greatly to my success.

When I think of feminism, I think of my mother and how like millions of other women, she has walked into a world at a disadvantage but has fought and continues to fight for what she wants and for what she feels is right. Without my mother, I would not be where I am today. Without women, society could not and would not progress to where we are today.

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