The Collegian
Monday, August 15, 2022

Voices of UR leads discussion about feminism

Voices of UR led a presentation and student-moderated discussion that focused on several topics including affirmative action for women, media portrayals of feminists, gender equity and the many understandings of feminism. Presenters discussed their understanding of feminism and how they have grown to accept the term based on what it means to them.

Sophomore Thamine Nayeem said her faith in Allah and feminism mixed without contradiction. Born in Bangladesh and raised in the U.S., she recognized that "oppression is a problem that every country needs to address."

Nayeem encouraged students to re-evaluate their ideas of normality. She discussed the significance of the hijab and veiling practices as used not only by Muslim women but also by men and women in many other countries.

"I assume for many, the first signifier of my oppression is this cloth on my head," she said. "However, what is oppressing is to have people generalize that all Muslim women are oppressed and need to be saved."

Freshman Sami Malik, who is originally from Pakistan, shared the encounters he has had with feminism. He said the term did not really exist in Pakistan. 

"If you start talking about women's rights, people make fun of you," he said. 

Malik and George Katsiotis, another freshman, began their presentation with a disclaimer saying they were in no way experts on feminism and had never really been formally exposed to the idea before this academic year. They said people shy away from the term feminism for two reasons: they are afraid of the term and cultural backgrounds. 

"We feel uncomfortable because we feel we are being accused of something we have never done," Katsiotis said. 

Katsiotis stated the importance of feminism, not only for men but also for women. 

"I need feminism because I still hold gender biases, and I don't want to," he said.
After the presentations, students asked questions and made statements about issues previously discussed.

A polarizing topic introduced was the place that groups such as the FEMEN occupy in the feminist movement. FEMEN is widely known for organizing topless protests to fight patriarchy and advocate for a number of issues. 

"I think saying one part of feminism is wrong or one part of the group is incorrect in their belief is not right," freshman Luriel Balaurea said. 

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Ecru Ozturk, an exchange student from Turkey, placed the specific topic in a larger context.
"Just how ISIS does not represent Islam, sometimes the FEMEN don't represent feminism," she said. 

The discussion was the second event hosted by Voices of UR, a new group on campus this year. The club aims to challenge students to engage with important issues.

Contact reporter Eunice Brumskine at enuice.brumskine@richmond.edu

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