Every other Friday afternoon, Women’s Center staff hand over to a student facilitator to lead a group of their peers through a presentation, discussion or activity on a feminist-related topic of their choice.
According to Simone Spencer, a graduate student in higher education administration and a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center, Feminist Fridays are a way to welcome students to the Women’s Center and build community while learning something new.
“I see it as a big thing that builds community,” Spencer said. “I really see that we get a lot of people from our different women’s groups on campus. It’s kind of a time for them to connect as well as [a time for] education.”
Facilitation of Feminist Friday events is open to anyone who has a topic they are happy to talk about. Student facilitators have the opportunity to develop leadership and presentation skills, as well as receive feedback on their ideas and work. Women’s Center staff work with students at every stage to ensure their topics and presentations are well-rounded.
“What we normally do is we help [facilitators] generate a title,” said Alexus Smith, program coordinator for the Women’s Center. “We help them with the presentation, all the activities they want to do, questions, different things like that and help them prepare to give that presentation to the best of their abilities.”
The topics of each event vary widely, from the history of women and roller skating to the culture of divestment. According to Smith, there are very few restrictions on the types of topics students can present on.
“What I’m looking for is first and foremost what interests them,” Smith said. “Then making sure they can connect that to social justice, gender equity, other kinds of justice issues; ensuring that whatever the topic can be linked to one of the pillars of the Women’s Center and really giving them the opportunity to explore their personal interests.
Spencer, who acts as senior events coordinator, said she helps students make their presentations applicable to their peers.
“What I push them towards is relevance,” Spencer said. “I just want people to take the information they get today [and] to be able to leave and apply it to their lives as they continue.
During her own graduate school, Smith held Spencer’s current position as a graduate assistant for the center and saw several years of student presentations unfold. She said one of the fun things about the structure of Feminist Friday is that everyone gets to learn something new.
“It’s really interesting to see what other students come up with,” Smith said. “You’re sitting in the crowd like, ‘I didn’t know the importance of roller skating to women and the black community’ or other topics. And that’s really cool. There have been so many different types of presentations.
Des Woods, a graduate student in higher education administration, led Friday’s event with a presentation on the hidden figures of feminism and social justice. During the presentation, Woods discussed several historical feminist figures who are often overlooked in history lessons, such as Wilma Mankiller and Patsy Takemoto Mink.
“I presented last year and this year,” Woods said. “I just like coming to different community centers on campus and learning different things. I think, especially if you consider yourself a social justice advocate, it’s important to learn more about groups that don’t fit my identity, so that I can learn how to be a better ally and advocate for others. other historically marginalized identities.
As a second-time presenter of Feminist Friday, Woods values the opportunity to learn and educate about topics not everyone sees in the classroom.
“I’ve always been interested in suffrage and social justice,” Woods said. “Going through K-12, you get to see the big names – maybe Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King – and that’s about it. … For every Martin Luther King, there’s [are] 100 other people, like James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, who we don’t talk about enough. I think that’s why I wanted to do a presentation about it and try to pick people who weren’t just American or not just from a certain time period.
This year, Smith and Spencer hope to incorporate even more diversity in topic, format and audience into Feminist Friday events.
“I want to see a little more interactivity between presenters and viewers,” Spencer said. “I want to see more representation among student groups. I want to see [students] who are women of color, more non-binary students, students who identify differently. And I also want to see more male students, just people getting involved in feminism and so on.
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend and/or host a Feminist Friday event.
“I really want Feminist Fridays to continue to become a more welcoming space for every person and everyone who comes into the space,” Smith said.