Feminism has always been a hard word to define because it means very different things to different people. The definition of feminism that I most agree with comes from a book called “ManifestA: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future.” It says, “Feminism means that women have the right to enough information to make informed choices about their lives.”

I personally like this definition because it does not advocate for equality, mandating everyone be treated the exact same way. Instead, it allows women and men to make informed decisions that are right for their own lives.

This definition does not limit feminism solely to “women’s issues” but includes everything about which women make decisions or which they want to make their own decisions. Consequently, because women make up more than half the population, feminism could literally include everything, so long as it allows women the right and knowledge to choose their best options.

The broadness of feminism is one of the major reasons why it has been so hard to define, but, in my opinion, it is also the reason why feminism is so important. This understanding of feminism incorporates issues of gender, class, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical and mental disabilities and other forms of discrimination. Because these other social problems restrict some women’s access to information and the right to make their own decisions, these problems are feminist issues.

Feminism can exist anywhere where individuals are empowering women or enabling them to make their own decisions about their lives and bodies. For this reason, many individuals who do not consider themselves feminists have participated in feminist activism in a wide variety of places.

Since many places are not well-equipped to address issues of gender, class, race and other forms of discrimination, the need for feminist empowerment is greater in some areas than others.

For this reason, V-Day, the nonprofit organization that organizes “The Vagina Monologues,” recently chose New Orleans as the site of its 10th anniversary celebration, V to the 10th. In order to help the city financially and draw attention to the feminist work that remains to be done, V to the 10th will take place on April 11 and 12, bringing in guests from around the world.

On its Web site, V-Day writes, “The women of New Orleans and the Gulf South? have survived the fallout of global warming, failure of public structures, racism, economic hardship, and domestic abuse. All of these are pieces of the story of violence that continues to impact women here in this country and around the world.”

Having just gone to New Orleans on an alternative spring break trip, I fully understand the need for feminism in that city. Today, two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, a lot of work remains because of the underlying class and race issues in the area. Returning to Rochester, I felt extremely frustrated by the state of affairs in New Orleans and confused about what I could do while remaining a college student in upstate New York.

Finally, while thinking about the issues in New Orleans and wondering what I could do to help, I realized just how desperate Rochester is for more feminist activism. I finally felt at peace about not being able to do more in New Orleans when I realized how much I could do in the city I currently reside.

The city of Rochester, like many other things, can be considered a “women’s issue” because of the inability of so many women and men to make their own decisions about their lives due to their gender, race, socioeconomic status and other various discriminatory factors.

Being the home of several famous feminists, including Susan B. Anthony, Rochester has a strong and vibrant history of feminist activism that needs to continue on today. UR students have a unique opportunity to get involved in a city that is really struggling and to create real change.

Feminist activism is still relevant today because much feminist work still remains right in our own backyards. I hope that UR students can embrace Rochester’s strong feminist history and draw on that history to help the city of Rochester succeed in the future.

Nigro is a member of the class of 2009.



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