This past week marked McGill’s second “Who Needs Feminism?” campaign, a movement initially created in 2012 by 16 women at Duke University in North Carolina. According to the “Who Needs Feminism?” website, the goal of the campaign is to “challenge existing stereotypes surrounding feminists and assert the importance of feminism today.”
A key component of the campaign at McGill, both this year and last year, has been the creation of a Tumblr page consisting of photos taken by students expressing what feminism means to them. Elizabeth Groeneveld, the Faculty Chair of the Women’s Studies Program at McGill, highlighted the merits of this aspect of the campaign, and addressed some of the criticism it has received.
“I think that the format is really accessible. Some people have criticized the campaign for just being about making little blurbs about feminism, but I think that if you’re new to feminism it feels really accessible as a campaign, and if you’re not new to feminism it can maybe spark a moment of reflection on how you would want to sum up what feminism means to you,” she said.
Groeneveld stated that another criticism of the campaign has been that it portrays feminism as individualistic, rather than as a movement about collective change and social justice.
Eden Haber, the Community Engagement Facilitator for Residence Life, questioned the legitimacy of this complaint. “First of all, I would sort of question how problematic the individualization even is. I think that finding a personal connection to feminism through understanding how it can affect one’s own life can really help a person to contextualize him or herself within the feminist movement.”
“But I think that my overall response to the individualization of feminism is that if you look at the individual photos you might get that impression, but if you look at them as a collection they actually do present very much a holistic view,” Haber continued.
Nevertheless, organizers of the campaign at McGill this year tried to make changes based on the feedback that was received last year. “One of the other main criticisms with the campaign is that people don’t think very critically or engage critically with feminism which is something that I agree with,” Haber explained.
As a result, in an effort to encourage deeper analysis and critical engagement, this year’s campaign included an Anti-Oppression and Feminism workshop, a Faculty in Rez discussion about feminism held by Groeneveld, and a discussion on feminism in the media focusing on Beyoncé and her new visual album.
Commenting on these additions to the campaign, Haber voiced her belief that the workshops did have a beneficial impact. “I think that people who did a picture after attending an event tended to be more in that headspace of engaging critically and that produced a pretty interesting result,” she stated.
The last criticism which Haber claimed campaign organizers tried to address this year was the potential exclusivity of the phrase “I need feminism.” In order to combat it, the campaign “tried to really open up the statement, and so if you look online a lot of people wrote, ‘I support feminism’ or ‘I need womanism’ or ‘I am pro-feminist,’” Haber stated. “We thought that that would make it more inclusive and help the campaign reflect a greater breadth of voices.”
As organizers wait to receive feedback on this year’s campaign, Haber said that she is generally satisfied with its results at McGill. “I think it’s important to recognize everyone [has] to start somewhere. I’m happy with the campaign. Even if the campaign creates a dialogue about what’s wrong with it, I will still be happy.”