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Features Feminist club promotes gender equality

Feminist club promotes gender equality

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Seniors Lisa Wakeland and Savana Blohm and Community Advisor Jamie Stuart of the USM Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance promote their club on Tuesday outside the library.  On this day, members invited new students to join the club and promoted information about their work for intersectional feminism at USM and in the state of Mississippi.
Seniors Lisa Wakeland and Savana Blohm and Community Advisor Jamie Stuart of the USM Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance promote their club on Tuesday outside the library. On this day, members invited new students to join the club and promoted information about their work for intersectional feminism at USM and in the state of Mississippi.

United Nations Women has recently launched the HeForShe Campaign. According to its website, HeForShe is a solidarity movement to promote gender equality.

Emma Watson, most known for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movie series, gave a speech to the U.N. regarding the campaign and the importance of gender equality.  The speech has received over five million views on YouTube alone.

“This is the first campaign of its kind at the U.N.,” Watson said.  “We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible.”

Watson also spoke about feminism.  She said many synonymize the word feminism with man-hating; when, in fact, it is the opposite.

Feminism is, Watson said, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Southern Miss is home to its own Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.  This group advocates for gender equality, reproductive rights, “Yes Means Yes,” sex education, economic equality, LGBTQ+ equality and redefining gender roles.

FMLA also joins with many other groups on campus to promote advocacy for other awareness campaigns.  This month they have partnered with the Pink Ribbon Fund, a group that provides both compassion and financial assistance to those suffering from breast cancer in the Pine Belt community.

“We have vested interest in reaching out to other groups and working with them to bring awareness to discrimination and trying to eliminate it,” said Lisa Wakeland, a senior double major in French and drawing and painting and president of FMLA.

Jamie Stuart, the community advisor for FMLA and a Hattiesburg native, was introduced to the group on Nov. 8, 2011 when he passed a group of women on the street protesting Amendment 26.  

According to CNN, had this amendment passed, abortion and many other forms of birth control would have been outlawed in Mississippi and the state would begin to recognize that life begins from the moment of conception. 

 “I never took on the feminist title,” he said.  “And that day, I said, ‘It’s time for me as a man to man up.”

Stuart said his main goal for being active with FMLA, Pine House in Jackson and other feminist groups in Hattiesburg is for his 11-year-old daughter to one day know what
freedom really is.

FMLA also works to bring awareness to Title 9.  According to the National Center for Statistics, Title 9 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs.  They want students to know, that no matter what gender they are, no student should face sexual harassment, especially on campus.

“One thing we want to hammer into people is if you believe in equal rights you are a feminist,” said Savannah Blohn, a senior at USM who is a triple major in French, English and interdisciplinary studies.

FMLA meets every Thursday at 3 p.m. in Owings-McQuagge Hall Room 111.

The HeForShe Campaign is one of many movements across the nation working to promote gender equality, and FMLA is one of many groups working to advocate the issue as well.

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive,” Watson said.  “Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

For more information on the HeForShe campaign visit http://www.heforshe.org.

Mary Sergeant
Writer and Photographer for the Student Printz at the University of Southern Mississippi
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