By Sophie Wickert/ March 27, 2015
The University of New Mexico boasts a large and diverse number of student-run clubs and organizations. Over 400 sports, community service, military, religious, political, honorary, ethnic, Greek and academic groups and clubs can be found on campus. Yet there is one small, often overlooked group on campus that is just as diverse as all these combined.
The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance is UNM’s relatively new student-led organization to support feminism. Only around since late 2013, it has a small core of about 10 students who meet regularly, but has connections and implications that reach far beyond to other clubs and to all students. And it can be surprising just how much this group does that pertains to every college student.
Feminism and Men
While the word “feminism” is often marred with misconceptions of man-hating, UNM’s group aims to show feminism’s application to everyone, including men.
FMLA President Kendall Lovely says the club has relevance for all people.
“Our group’s stance is much focused on gender equality. Of course, empowering women, but that would also include… advancing men along as well because things that oppress women also affect men.”
And men are an important part of FMLA, and have even been in leadership roles. “We’re open and inclusive to everyone,” said Lovely.
Feminism and the LGBT Community
Another often overlooked demographic that feminism supports is the LGBT+ community. UNM’s Feminist Alliance partners with the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and the UNM Queer Straight Alliance for many of the events it puts on. “Right now we trying to collaborate with more diverse groups and hopefully that will help it along,” said Lovely.
Emily Ayres, an FMLA member since last year, says that that aspect is what helped initially draw her into the feminist movement.
“When I first heard about feminism it was on Tumblr. And I didn’t really know what it was, but I kind of got an idea from the blogs that I followed and realized that it’s something I agree with. The main thing that drew me to it is that it has a large queer following, and since I identify as bisexual I wanted to join into that,” said Ayres.
In fact, feminism is currently stirring much debate in the transgender community. Judith Butler, gender theorist and profound voice in developing the modern feminism we know today, spoke out against trans-exclusive feminism. In an interview with the Transadvocate, Butler stated that “we all have to defend those necessities that allow us to live and breathe in the way that feels right to us… Either way, one should be free to determine the course of one’s gendered life.”
Feminism and the Issues
But feminism doesn’t just apply to all demographics. It also takes stances on unexpected topics.
Feminism isn’t all equal pay advocacy. Last year the FMLA worked to support voter engagement among college students. Next year they will be promoting student health and counseling on campus. And that’s not even the beginning.
Ayers defines feminism as “important because there are a lot of marginalized people in the world. Like the people in the Middle East who get acid thrown on them because they dare try to divorce their husband who they didn’t even love in the first place… There’s child brides, there’s sex trafficking, there’s all kinds of issues that feminism strives to address.”
The group itself plans to continue with its campus-based discussions to bring about a positive change. “I would also say that in general in the long term we’ll be promoting the same things we are now: reproductive rights, sex positivity, helping with discussion for various issues like sexual assault and inequality,” said Lovely.
FLMA was also a key advocate in favor of UNM’s controversial Sex Week last semester. Furthering sexual education is another important goal for the group.
How to Get Involved: More Info
The FMLA meets every other Friday at 1 p.m. on the third floor of the Student Union Building.
The group has some big events coming up this month, including a fashion show promoting positive body image on April 3, an asex trivia night on April 23, and discussions about sexual assault as part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, which you can read more about here.