This week on campus, feminism was in the air. A group of McGill students decided to launch their own version of the Who Needs Feminism? movement, which began at Duke University in North Carolina last spring.
According to the Duke campaign’s Facebook page, the movement was originally conceived in response to the organizers’ concern over “what we perceive to be an overwhelmingly widespread belief that today’s society no longer needs feminism.”
At McGill, Who Needs Feminism? consisted of a series of photo shoots across campus and in residences of people holding signs explaining why they need feminism. There was a series of small discussions about feminism in residences throughout the week, and a larger group discussion on Tuesday in the Shatner building.
U2 International Development Studies student Brooke Nancekivell played a central role in bringing the movement to McGill.
“This project has been a really accessible way for everyone who has any opinions about feminism, or wants to learn more, or knows a ton, to express one piece of their thoughts on feminism,” she told The Daily.
Like Duke, McGill has its own Who Needs Feminism? Tumblr to host pictures from the photo shoots and those that people have sent in on their own.
“I think that the photos are a good way to hold people accountable,” said Annie Rose, a McGill student who has been involved in Who Needs Feminism? at McGill. “Ascribing accountability in these situations is important, because it’s really easy to talk the talk and a lot harder to walk the walk.”
On Tuesday, about twenty people filtered in and out of the SSMU Ballroom throughout the two-hour discussion culminating the week. Participants began by talking about what the campaign had accomplished and would accomplish in the future, but the topic soon turned to its limitations.
Adam Finley, a U1 Psychology student who works at Rez Life and helped to organize the week, acknowledged that some of the criticism of it was legitimate.
“Some radical feminists have said they don’t want to participate because it doesn’t do enough or encourages older ideas about feminism, and we understand that, but I think we’ve done a good job of trying to incorporate those critiques into improving the project,” he said.
Isabella Mancini is a U3 Women’s Studies and Sociology student who wrote an op-ed for The Daily about the flaws of a movement like Who Needs Feminism? At the discussion on Tuesday, she spoke about the problems with defining feminism individualistically.
“This idea that anything can be feminism if you want it to be is problematic; feminism is diverse, but not everything’s feminism. Misogyny isn’t feminism,” she said.
U3 Sociology and Cultural Studies student Lily Hoffman had a similar criticism. Citing the example of signs that read something to the effect of “I need feminism because my mom is great,” she said, “[The image] just ends up perpetuating patriarchy, and the movement becomes more about peoples’ own definitions of feminism, which sometimes, honestly, weren’t feminism.”
U2 Sociology student Courtney Ayukawa helped with the campus-wide photo shoots throughout the week. At the discussion, she spoke about the role that the photo shoots played in the overall event.
“There were some signs that strongly critiqued radical feminism for being ‘extreme,’ and then there was another from a radical feminist that kind of discounted these signs, which was an interesting contradiction within the project. But I think that those contradictions led to discussion, which is good.”
The McGill Who Needs Feminism? Tumblr posted more than 400 pictures over the course of the week, with more people sending in pictures every day.
“I think it’s been super successful,” said Finley. “My dad sent in a picture from small-town Ontario. I didn’t think he’d ever say he was a feminist, so if you think about it, that’s pretty damn cool.”