A lot of young people do not identify as feminists due to misconceptions about what the ideology stands for or the erroneous belief that it is no longer necessary. In order to counteract feminism’s sometimes negative image, students at Pomona College recently participated in a photo project that reveals why they need feminism in their lives. Their responses are both thought-provoking and entertaining.
Sophomore Jenna Archer spearheaded the project after receiving an assignment in her Intro to Women’s Studies class to engage in a form of activism. Already familiar with the Who Needs Feminism campaign, she decided to try to bring the movement to her campus.
“[One of the] main goals for this project was to engage people in a discussion about feminism,” said Archer. “Going door to door and approaching people at meals was a great way to talk to people about feminism. I hope that it was productive even for the people who chose not to participate, as they at least engaged in a conversation with me.”
Archer, also a staff member at Pomona College’s Women’s Union, posted the photos to the Women’s Union Facebook page. The response from the community was both positive and quick.
In fact, when Archer approached more students to make signs just hours after posting the first photos, she was surprised to learn that the majority were already familiar with the project via Facebook. Many admit that they had even already contemplated what they might write were they to be given the same prompt. Beyond that, additional students were now emailing her their own “I need feminism” photos without being asked.
The project is a great example of a successful activist-driven social media campaign. Though many associate activism with taking their message to the street, the internet can be a wonderful tool to bring a wider audience to your cause. After all, if you can’t get too many students out to attend a feminist lecture, why not bring the conversation to a place they’re already frequenting, like Facebook?
Over the span of just a few days, Pomona’s “Who Needs Feminism” album accumulated over 80,000 photo views. To put that number in perspective, Pomona College has about 1,500 students, indicating that the project has enjoyed an audience well beyond the college’s own population.
When participating students are tagged in their respective photos, all of their Facebook friends (generally hundreds) from around the world can see the photo appear in their news feeds, and — in turn — click through the entire album. As people either “like” or “share” these photos, their visibility spreads even wider. Suddenly, thousands are seeing ideas about feminism portrayed in a positive light.
“The term ‘feminism’ is unfortunately stigmatized, so I think some people were a bit nervous about putting their faces online next to a feminist statement, but I’ve had a couple of people come up to me and express how validating it was to get [Facebook] ‘likes’ on their photos,” said Archer.
Added Archer, “I think that this campaign helps to make feminism a little more fun, definitely less scary, and hopefully breaks down the stereotype that all feminists are angry, have no sense of humor, and hate men.”
Archer’s initial goal was to find 50 students, but the campaign grew to over 150 participants. We have only posted a dozen of those pictures here, but you can check out the full album.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a member of the Pomona community to participate in this project. Who Needs Feminism has a Tumblr page where people of a variety of ages, ethnicities, genders and backgrounds can submit their own photos and participate in the movement.