Junior Sara Lewis and sophomore Sara Stuart, co-presidents of the Women’s Caucus, discuss the group’s mission and future.

 

Describe the caucus’s mission in three words. 

Equality, consciousness, and service. [We] believes in promoting and practicing gender equality. All our members are given an equal opportunity to take on leadership positions, participate, and organize campus-wide programs. We aim to raise individual and campus consciousness regarding historical and current issues of gender equality and women’s rights. We strongly believe in serving both the campus and the Rochester community by spreading our mission of intersectional equality.

 

Can men join?

Not only do we allow men in our group, we encourage men to join. It is a widespread misconception that men cannot identify as feminists. Men offer opinions and share experiences that are equally valuable as those of women.

 

What has the caucus done this semester?

Our most significant event this semester has been “Take Back the Night.” On Tuesday, Oct. 29, over 200 students [stood] in solidarity against sexual violence and rape. Local organizations, including the Rape Crisis Services, Rochester Women’s Equality Liberation Defense, and the Center for Youth of Rochester (CFY), brought representatives and provided students with information about their services for victims of sexual assault. Many students joined us on our walk over to Boulder Coffee, where we held a powerful and emotional survivor speak-out.

 

What would you change at UR in terms of women’s equality?

We would like to see more female-tenured faculty as well as tenured faculty of color. We would also like to see the campus provide equal resources for transgender students, including more gender-neutral bathrooms and health services. We are working to eliminate the stigma and negativity associated with the word “feminist.” At its core, feminism refers to equal rights for all women, and no one should be opposed to that. The more students, staff, and faculty who identify as feminists, the stronger our campus atmosphere will be with regard to racial, gender, and class equality.

 

What work does the caucus do beyond campus?

We are currently working with CFY to plan a service event for youth to [visit] campus and attend an a cappella concert or sporting event. Several of our members are also interested in becoming active volunteers with the affiliated Crisis Nursery Center.

How does the caucus identify with other minority groups on campus?

We have collaborated with the Black Students Union, Sigma Psi Zeta, and Sahir Bellydance Ensemble for some of our past events. All our groups aim to promote racial, gender, and ethnic equality on campus.

 

What challenges have you faced? 

The biggest problem Women’s Caucus faces is that most students at UR have a misconception of the word “feminist” and are therefore skeptical and often reluctant to attend our events. It’s not until they attend a meeting and learn about our group that they become interested in gender equality.

 

What events can we look forward to?

In February, we will be sponsoring our annual production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” It is among the 100 things all UR students must do before they graduate, so we want everyone at the show. We will also be bringing a speaker in March for Women’s History Month, although the speaker has not been selected yet.

 

Where do you see the caucus in five years?

We hope that Women’s Caucus will have grown larger and more influential on campus and in the Rochester community. We hope to see a wider acceptance and embrace of feminism and all that it represents.

Johnson is a member of

the class of 2016.



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