Posted by Alex Brehm
For Sarah Elwell ‘11 and Eliza Straim '11, feminism is a verb.
Elwell and Straim are co-presidents of the Feminist Action Network.
"For me, feminism is something you do," says Elwell. "You do it through the actions you promote and the discussions you have."
"When I was in high school, my friends would call me a feminist, and I'd always say, ‘I'm not a feminist, but …'" Elwell said. But then she stopped avoiding feminism. "It's a social responsibility — it's a human right," Straim said.
Though the group is not officially affiliated with the National Organization for Women (NOW), it embraces the same goals.
FAN's charter defines the group's purpose as encouraging "the awareness of, interest in and action towards the social, political and intellectual concerns of feminism."
"There was a NOW chapter at my high school," Straim said. "I worked on the South Dakota abortion campaign in 2004." The South Dakota campaign protested proposed legislation to make abortions illegal. "We're fighting for something," Straim said.
Feminist issues can be downplayed on a predominantly female campus like Skidmore. "Women forget when we're in this female-dominated environment," Elwell said. "We think that everything's been accomplished."
FAN holds many events to promote discussion of basic equality between men and women.
"In the fall we hold a bake sale, and baked goods cost 80 cents for women and a dollar for men," Elwell said. "Guys are always really surprised, but that's how much women make compared to men.
In America overall it's about 77 cents for women to a dollar for men. In New York it's a little better; it's about 82 cents.
"We really like to get discussions going with the bake sale. So if you can give us a really good argument, or you tell us that you disagree with women getting paid less, then we'll let you buy it for 80 cents," Elwell said.
FAN promotes heavily throughout the year. Annual campus events include a night of bingo and sex toy sale and a "This is What a Feminist Looks Like" button giveaway every spring semester.
At 9 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 6, FAN will put on Empowerment Extravaganza, a joint performance featuring the student groups Pulse, Rithmos, Lift Every Voice, the Sonneteers and the Breakbeats.
The performances will feature the theme of women's empowerment with each group offering its own interpretation of feminism.
March is National Women's History month, but the FAN starts its month two weeks early. Elwell said, "We put on the Vagina Monologues mid-February every year. It features female actresses, stories about women's issues and the proceeds go to a cause supporting women's rights."
For the past two years, a national campaign with UNICEF has sent 10 percent of proceeds from all Vagina Monologues productions to prevent rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The other 90 percent goes to the Saratoga Domestic Violence Center. The performance and the donations are part of V-Day, an annual movement started by Monologues writer Eve Ensler, to rally for women's equality and promote new social causes.
Though based around female activism, FAN is not just for women.
"We'd really like men and women to come find out about the group," Elwell said. "Feminism is about equality for everyone. It's an all-accepting term."
"We have open calls now for directors for the Vagina Monologues, and men can direct. In fact, I'd be really interested to see what would happen," Elwell said.
For more information on FAN, contact Sarah Elwell '11 at firstname.lastname@example.org or Eliza Straim '11 at email@example.com.