Club Feature: Feminist Alliance

The Feminist Alliance/Women of Color Alliance room on the second floor of the Pugh Center fills on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. The club’s weekly meetings consist of a discussion topic and free food. This week, the topic was body positivity and the club members snacked on pizza, salad, and cookies from the Dana pack-out program. Past discussion topics have included sex in college, underground fraternities, reproductive health, and menstrual health.

Members spent most of the hour discussing ideas for the upcoming Sexplorations event on Nov. 19 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. The event is held annually in the Spa with tabling by various clubs on topics related to to sex. Club member discussed the possibilities of displaying feminist pornography, playing “Pin the Clitoris on the Vagina,” distributing how-to flyers regarding various sexual acts, supplying female condoms, and talking about different ways of grooming pubic hair. The conversation was very informative for members, many of whom gained insight into previously uncharted territories.

In a post-meeting interview with the Echo, Iliana Eber`20 explained her commitment to the Feminist Alliance, saying “I’ve been part of the Feminist Alliance for all four years at Colby and it just very quickly became like a second home because of the people and also the space. I think it’s a really good opportunity to learn and grow and be able to think about how I conceptualize and practice my feminism and much how it’s changed since I’ve gotten to Colby, and I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to be so vulnerable and open about that without the Feminist Alliance.”

Reflecting on the importance of the club outside of its benefits for individual members, Eber continued, “I also think that the presence of the club on this campus is really important, not only with the big events like Take Back the Night, which is obviously a really huge, important deal, but also just with the community that we cultivate within the club and that’s what keeps me coming back year after year.”

Take Back the Night is an event held by the Feminist Alliance every spring semester, which includes an anti-sexual assault march through campus followed by survivors of sexual assault sharing their stories, either first person or by submitting anonymous responses to be read by club members.

Explaining what led her to join the club, Nettie Cunningham `22 recalled that “last spring, at least for me, when there was a lot of stuff going on, really negative stuff on campus, I thought FemAlliance was a really powerful experience for me just in that we were able to unpack things that were, I guess, being unpacked by the community as a whole but this just felt like a comfortable space to do it, an open space to do it. It really helped me work through those things and understand those things better that I don’t think I otherwise would’ve understood as well.”

When asked what she meant by the negative events on campus, Cunningham explained that these included the presence of four swastikas throughout JanPlan and the spring semester, among other hateful acts.

Anna Kalra `23 reflected on why she chose to become involved in the Feminist Alliance in her first year at the College: “I came from an all girl’s high school so I think it’s really important and special for me to have a place where it can just be a group of women that are just good people and we can just sit here and eat some pizza and talk about things that are important to us and I think that that’s nice to have, just your own special space.”

Aidan Sites, `22, one of the co-presidents of the club, shared the value of Take Back the Night, lamenting that “we’re always seeing sexual misconduct and sexual violence happening on this campus. I think it’s an annual time for everyone to come together and acknowledge that. As time goes on we have to keep coming back together because it keeps happening.

Expanding upon the other work the club does, Sites shared that “what I’ve noticed is a lot of reactionary [action], what we notice as a group, what change we want to see happen on this campus, and then through that we’re able to decide what kind of events and what kind of action we want to take. We want to get tampons and different products in all the bathrooms on campus. That’s something that the group this year has become passionate about and we’re working on.”

Eber added that “we could put them in the [preexisting] machines but the goal is that they’d be free[…]it used to be an existing thing and then it kind of just fell off the wagon.”

Sites said that the club is working on contacting the Student Government Association about funding for the project.

Eber mentioned another project being planned for this year. “We’re planning a Dana [dining hall] takeover where we’re trying to get a bunch of people to occupy the space that’s normally dominated by male athletes in Dana and just kind of say this is a space for anyone and everyone and it’s not like certain groups or individuals or attitudes get to quote-unquote own any part of the campus, so kind of like an active reclaiming, and a small one, but hopefully one that will just be a little reminder.”

Commenting on some past projects, Eber noted that “in the past we’ve brought a lot of speakers and activists. The poet Olivia Gatwood came to campus…and Justice in El Barrio, we brought them in conjunction with SOBLU [Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity] and they did a whole talk, they’re based out of Harlem and it was about local grass roots activism.”

Before officially moving the meeting into sanctioned “hang out time,” Sites made sure to emphasize that “anyone can be a feminist despite your gender or how you identify with your sexuality.”