By Jennifer Garcia
Feminist issues surround us. We talk and write about them, but they are often dismissed as aggressive and attention-seeking issues to a problem that has already been “solved.” However, feminism is not solved, everything is not perfect and equal for all women everywhere. I identify as a feminist, but frequently don’t feel as if I’ve done enough for the feminist movement. I often look for such opportunities to help our movement and spread the word, which is how I came upon Feminist Action Project.
Feminist Action Project is a student-led organization at the University of Texas at Austin where anyone is welcome to come together to discuss feminist issues and to take action against discrimination, oppression, and inequality. On September 10th, they held an anti-oppression workshop at the Gender and Sexuality Center (SAC 2.112) led by Ixchel Rosal, Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center and interim Director of the Multicultural Engagement Center.
Upon entering the meeting, I met with a diverse and friendly group of young people, varying in age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and identity, and race. After preliminary introductions, Ixchel asked for both our definition of feminism and its importance in our lives. While definitions varied, there was a consensus on equality and feeling safe. Interestingly, most of the women revealed their fear of walking home or to their car after the meeting. This brought up the question of oppression and its role in our lives. How can feminism be “solved” when many women still fear walking alone at night? As females, we are oppressed into feeling vulnerable and unsafe, a privilege many males do not have to think twice about. We are told to carry pepper spray, to have our keys ready, and to always be on the lookout. We’re given directions on how to be “safe,” but hardly ever is a male told to stop attacking women. Why is it only our responsibility?
As part of the workshop, we participated in many exercises to get to know each other better. One of the most interesting for me was the Dyad exercise. For it we had to pair up with someone we didn’t know and for two minutes only listen to them talk about his or her day. We were not to interrupt, ask questions, or change the subject while our partner spoke. It was difficult both talking and listening without interruption. I always expect feedback or questions to keep conversation going, especially with so narrow a subject as how our day went. However, this exercise made me realize the importance of just listening to someone else, without interruptions and without multi-tasking. Ixchel explained how by developing our listening skills little by little, we can come to understand others better by learning about their experiences and hardships.
Following the Dyad exercise, we each had to fill out a worksheet, noting our identities. We had to define our gender identity, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, first language, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, disability, and age. Then we were asked which we identify with most. Who are we at our core? The core identity most significant to each person usually reflected the one they felt was most oppressed and judged in their lives. Identities varied from “queer” to “immigrant” to “female” and “Latino/a.”
FAP created a safe environment where we all felt we could openly talk without judgment. Those who were willing to share their stories and experiences were heard without interruption and with encouragement from all. Everyone talking about their experiences, doubts, and questions on identity, oppression, and social justice issues united us as a group and taught us that oppression is not absolute. Everyone is oppressed and privileged in different manners. One’s experience is not the same as someone else’s.
I look forward to their weekly Wednesday meetings to take action and broaden my perspective on not only feminism but other social justice issues as well. For more information visit and ‘like’ their Facebook page.
1| Featured image and logo courtesy of The Feminist Action Project, please check them out for more information.