After noticing a lot of students didn’t understand the word “feminism,” a group of dedicated students at Westerville North High School came together to start a new Young Feminists group.
Senior Dion Mensah was one of the founders of the club.
The idea came up in March of this year, when she was researching feminism in the media, for an article for the school newspaper, Mensah said.
“I wanted a change to be made in how feminism is understood and thought, if we don’t start talking about this now, then when?” she said.
The club’s first meeting was in April and more than 30 students attended, including several boys.
Mensah said the club has come a long way since then.
“I’m really happy with how it’s matured so quickly. It was good to start so late in the (school) year and I feel like we succeeded in creating a lot of buzz about the club,” she said.
Mensah and other members put up posters that stated “Don’t be afraid of the F word” to entice students to come to the first meeting.
Unfortunately, these posters did cause some backlash.
“Some guys were bothered by the posters. They called us the ‘Young Lesbians Club’ and tore down our posters and put them in the urinals,” she said. “I think some people hear the word ‘feminism’ and think it means angry militant women or that we hate men. That’s not the case.”
She hopes the club can educate students about promoting equal rights for all genders and that it’s OK to call yourself a feminist.
So far, the group has been watching TED Talks, discussing how feminism is portrayed in the media, designing club T-shirts, crafting a mission statement, making plans to celebrate women’s history month in March and listening to guest speakers that adviser Kim Swensen has invited to meetings.
Swensen, an AP language arts teacher at North, has a master’s degree in women’s studies from Ohio State University. She said she was excited when students approached her and wanted to talk about feminism.
“In my first women’s studies class in college, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, why didn’t I learn about this in high school?’ ” she said. “With Young Feminists, we don’t want to be a self-serving club. We want to make our community better but we still have a lot of growing to do.”
In the future, group members plan on volunteering at a local women’s shelter, organizing a prom dress drive and implementing a “This is what feminism looks like” poster campaign.
“The term ‘feminist’ is a maligned word in our society. In the media there have been conversations about feminism and some young people might want to adopt the word or may not fully understand the meaning,” said Swensen.
Students from Westerville South and Central high schools also have attended meetings and stated an interest in starting clubs at their owns schools.
The group meets at 2:15 p.m. Wednesdays in Swensen’s classroom at North and has a Twitter account at @wnhsyf.