Many feminists owe major thanks to Women’s Studies classes and teachers for our feminist awakenings and activist paths. Although I began my activist life at the age of nine, it was the Hunter College Women and Gender Studies (WGS) Program’s annual V-Day events that helped me enter activism in America. After the sexual assault of someone close, I needed an outlet to channel the anger and trauma I experienced; V-Day was the perfect fit. I was involved with V-Day Hunter in some capacity from 2007 until 2010 – even after my graduation.
Quite a few Hunter students – after being moved by the V-Day performances – disclosed their assault to the world by standing up at the end of the performance. For many women, that was a huge step in their journey to recovery. In addition to the survivors and the beneficiary agency, the students involved with V-Day also benefit, picking up invaluable leadership and organizing skills. WGS faculty put in countless unpaid hours to help the entire Hunter community.
Personally, WGS helped me in countless ways, including helping prepare me for my current feminist job. After I became involved with V-Day, I became a more active member of the Hunter College Women’s Rights Coalition, eventually becoming its president. The WGS program was instrumental in the club’s development, allowing us to use the WGS library as a meeting space until we were able to secure our own club room, and its staff guiding and mentoring us every step of the way. We were one of the most active groups on campus, holding at least one event/program every other week, participating in everything from fighting for immigrants’ rights to fighting gender violence.
In 2007, Hunter was the site for a historic and intergenerational feminist conference that brought along notable feminists from across the nation, including Gloria Steinem. The WGS Director referred me to the organizers to help with the conference, which became a life-changing experience for me. I had the epiphany that I wanted to devote my life to feminism.
I met National Organization for Women (NOW) NY State President Marcia Pappas during the conference, who invited me to join NOW. NOW has become one of the most important parts of my life; I am currently on the National Board of Directors of NOW, as well as the chair of both the national and NY State Young Feminist Task Forces.
Noticing my work with the feminist club, the President of Hunter’s student government asked me to run for a position, and I was on the executive board. That position helped me and one other CUNY student in our efforts to propose and create the CUNY-wide-sexual-assault policy for all half-a-million students.
On a more personal note, my feminist activism was directly responsible for introducing me to another Hunter student – my wonderful, feminist husband.
This post is not an attempt to reminisce about my personal feminist past, but a plea to everyone who has ever benefitted from a gender studies class or professor to help Hunter College turn its WGS program into a department – affording it the resources it needs to change lives like mine.
Hunter is one of the largest degree-granting entities of its kind in the country – with women making up 72% of its students. Yet, the Women and Gender Studies program does not have a voice in college governance and is starved for resources. Enfranchise WGS! Please sign this petition to help.