Rachael Smith, assistant lecturer of women’s and gender studies, wishes there was a club like Feminists for Action when she was in college. As a 22-year-old freshman and commuter student, Smith wasn’t involved much in extracurriculars.
“I really didn’t have the opportunity to [join clubs], and I wasn’t in a position to seek out social groups and clubs that were social justice clubs and organizations,” Smith said. “But, if [Feminists for Action] had been around and I’d known about it, I would have done it.”
Now, as faculty adviser for Feminists for Action, Smith is one of the people helping the club return to campus after its membership dwindled in March 2020 due to classes and clubs going online because of COVID-19 concerns.
Feminists for Action is a student organization dedicated to equity and empowerment through advocacy and education, said Betsy Kiel, third-year master’s student and women’s and gender studies graduate assistant.
“We are really concerned with enhancing and empowering the feminist community at Ball State and in Muncie,” Kiel said. “We want to keep learning — we want to grow and be better feminists, be better advocates and then also take that knowledge and help improve various things around campus that we think need improved in terms of equity and accessibility.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kiel said, the organization was having some issues with membership, and there were other organizations similar to Feminists for Action popping up around campus. Once everything shifted online, Kiel said it was even more difficult to keep their membership high and have steady leadership.
Kiel and Smith are two people who have been restarting Feminists for Action this school year. The idea came about after students reached out to both of them with things they wanted to change around campus but didn’t know who to see.
“For a long time,” Kiel said, “the answer had been Feminists for Action, but Feminists for Action didn’t exist anymore, so it was harder for us to help students figure out how to navigate some of the systems here.”
Smith said Feminists for Action previously hosted various events on campus throughout the year and, to increase membership, they are hoping to bring some back if they can.
“Our first meeting of the semester is January 27 [on Zoom] because we wanted to give students some time to get adjusted to their schedules before we started,” Smith said. “We need to elect our board, we need to plan an agenda, we need to plan and we’ve basically got four months to be active before the semester is over.”
Smith said Feminists for Action is planning to take part in Women’s Week at the beginning of March, and as of now, all of its events will most likely be in-person. Once the executive board for the spring semester is elected, the group will also look at planning other activities for the semester.
“The future of this club is entirely dependent on us and where [the group] wants to take it,” Smith said. “But, as the faculty adviser, I want to see it grow to where everyone feels comfortable, to where people understand that just because the word ‘feminist’ is in the name doesn’t mean that it’s just for women or those who identify as female. I want people to understand that feminism is equal to equality, and that’s what we’re fighting and striving for.”