Feminism is for Everyone, a student group which advocates for gender equality on Grounds, has experienced a recent upsurge in interest following the publication of the Rolling Stone article detailing the alleged gang rape of a University student.
The group's primary focus is its weekly discussion-based meetings, which aim to shape feminism as an idea relatable to more than just female activists.
“[Our goals are] to have an open discussion with people about feminism, to cast aside the stereotypes about what it is … and hopefully influence people to feel the same way,” said FIFE Co-President Mallory McKenzie, a third-year College student.
FIFE also aims to shed light upon gender-related issues which garner less discussion around Grounds.
FIFE Co-President Caroline Harman, a fourth-year College student, said such issues include transgender rights, intersex operations and the sexualization of women in media.
“The main purpose of our group is to promote dialogue, discussion and education around gender issues to achieve a more broad interpretation [of the term], because many of these things are connected,” Harman said.
The group has been intimately involved in many of the coordinated responses to the Rolling Stone article’s publication as a result of their focus on gender issues.
“FIFE thinks of the article more of as a net positive [effect],” McKenzie said. “We think it’s good that it brought to light this issue and that so many people are now talking about it.”
As part of the advocacy community, FIFE members said the problems discussed in Rolling Stone are not new to them, though they are only now becoming part of a widespread community dialogue.
“People outside of this advocacy community didn’t realize the extent of sexual violence, and that’s part of the reason why it’s shocking and upsetting,” Harman said.
McKenzie said the group hopes to channel this newfound energy into forward-looking action.
“It’s important that students and the community outside recognize the legal constraint they’re under, and not only aim at making the cultural shift but also look towards the national spotlight — what does the legislation say, and how can we change it to make it a better situation overall?” McKenzie said.
Harman said that though interest in the group’s mission has certainly deepened in recent weeks, students do not have to join to make a difference in the movement against campus sexual assault.
“I don’t want students to come away from recent events thinking they have to join FIFE and One Less, but [they] can focus on one-to-one interactions,” Harman said. “If someone makes a rape joke, you can tell them you don’t agree with that and hopefully cause them to think about their words.”
Still, Harman said she hopes FIFE will act as a gathering place for feminists and other curious students moving forward.
“A lot of people don't realize that there is a feminist community here, and it would be great to show U.Va. that there is a strong feminist base, especially in the wake of [the Rolling Stone] article,” she said.