Students in Professor of Women’s Studies Betty Bayer’s senior seminar are making waves in the feminist community online, opening up a vital dialogue on feminism for today’s young women. The students have set into motion a new section, “Student Think Tank,” in the online magazine On the Issues. Featuring a wide array of articles and scholarly essays, the magazine is a progressive, feminist quarterly.
Throughout the semester, the women of the senior seminar poured over countless pages of text, including the section, “The Conning of the Feminists,” featured in the Winter 2011 issue. So moved by the piece, the women worked together to form a response.
Although the magazine occasionally receives letters and feedback from students, it was the work of the William Smith students and Bayer’s letter that moved the editors to begin a new section devoted entirely to the responses of young feminists.
“It’s something we had never considered before,” remarks Managing Editor Cindy Cooper, who credits the creation of the section with Bayer’s passionate letter, inviting the magazine to publish her students’ work. The magazine’s staff decided that an entire forum for student ideas could prove to be an important tool for feminism today.
The response of the women’s studies senior seminar is the section’s first published piece. Upon the formal opening of the new student-inspired section, On the Issues invited Bayer to write an introduction.
“[The students] were eager to reel in feminist questions for close examination and wanted to bring their voices to a more public forum, especially on the place of Women’s Studies in the college curriculum and activism within or beyond the academy,” says Bayer in her introductory letter. “On The Issues magazine served as model and resource in this wider interchange, prompting students to take on the issues in new ways, communicate these ideas to their peers and to the institutions where they live, work and play.”
“This is a great way to open up conversation with students and people studying in the real world, to create a flow of connection,” says Cooper. “We’re trying to raise the level of dialogue about progressive and feminist issues on the internet; opening up those discussions and incorporating students is integral to carrying on a serious conversation. People in the real world want to know what students are thinking and learning – to see how they are growing.”
The article that sparked the new section, “Feminism: Can I Get Mine to Go?,” reflects on the state of feminism in modern context – what it means to women on a college campus, how it defines the self, and how it affects how one sees the world.
“The entire writing of the article was a collective work,” explains Rebecca Perkins ’11. “Because we were working with different members of our class each time, each duo had its own perspective and focus that shaped the article. It was really an interesting process to see the article as it changed from one round of editing.”
The published piece is a thoughtful, thorough reflection that took a semester to craft. “Hopefully this new section will encourage the discussion to reach out to students who are engaging in a multitude of issues by directly inviting their comments and opening up the discussion to them,” says Perkins. “That is exactly what feminism asks for: the opportunity for participation by all interested.”
Gabrielle Perez ’12 echoes Perkin’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of feeling welcomed into a conversation. “Many of the writers featured in On the Issues are established authors,” explains Perez. “We thought we would voice the opinions of college students who felt they have been conned but didn’t know how to address it.”
“I think this new section is extremely important because it gives a voice to those who don’t know how to address feminist issues online; it really makes me proud to know that we had a hand in creating it,” remarks Perez. “I often say that the new wave of feminism is online because blogging is becoming a powerful form of activism. Displaying this activism through different social media outlets is how we get news across nowadays.”
“Student Think Tank” has already garnered significant attention. According to Cooper, the section is getting an extremely positive response. “There are lots of eyes on it and other students have already submitted materials,” says Cooper. Representatives from the magazine also recently announced and publicized the new section at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting, inviting scholars and professors to join students in the conversation.
To read the Women’s Studies Senior Seminar’s piece, visit http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/2011fall/2011fall_students.php.
The photo above features Professor Bayer and the students from the Women Studies Senior Seminar 2010.