When Her Photo Became an Anti-Feminist Meme, This College Woman Fought Back—and Thousands Joined Her
From internet memes to campus quads, young people are reworking feminism to meet today's challenges.
1. Kelly Broderick: Challenging stereotypes, celebrating feminists
One of Kelly Broderick’s favorite photos shows her holding a sign that says “This is what a feminist looks like.” But she was shocked when the photo was taken from her online profile, altered, and used as an anti-feminist meme on Facebook.
In response, Broderick created the Tumblr site “We Are What Feminists Look Like,” inviting people to submit their own photos. She also wrote an article about her experience for feminist website XOJane.
“I thought I’d write an article, get a few pictures, and see what happens,”
Broderick says, but the site went viral overnight. It now has more than 6,000 followers and more than 1,300 submissions, with more coming in every day from all over the world. The contributors are diverse in age, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Many include notes with their photos. Some say the blog inspires them; others say they are proud feminists.
Broderick, who is in her senior year of college, sees the site as a way to challenge stereotypes. “I think it’s important for anyone who identifies as a feminist to stand up and challenge assumptions. I wanted it to be an example of diversity, and how so many people can come together.”
2. Western men against violence: Promoting healthy masculinity
While it’s common these days to see feminist groups for women on college campuses, feminist men’s groups are harder to find. A student-led club at
Western Washington University, Western Men Against Violence (WMAV), is one of a handful of campus groups in the United States that focus on masculinity and preventing violence in personal relationships.
“Our goal is to start the conversation,” explains club member Alex Fairhart, a senior and biological anthropology major at Western. Basing its activities on the idea that silence and apathy condone violence, the club encourages men to take a stand, teaching them strategies for talking to peers about healthy masculinity and behavior. WMAV works with other feminist organizations on campus, hosting events such as “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” a march to raise awareness about violence against women.
When the club brought anti-sexism advocate Jackson Katz to speak on campus, several hundred students attended the event. Jazon Fernandez, a former head of WMAV who now works at Planned Parenthood, explains why he and other young men are working on the issue of gender equality: “Violence against women isn’t a women’s issue–it’s a people issue.”
3. Andrea Pino: Ending sexual assault on campus
“What’s worse than rape is betrayal,” wrote Andrea Pino in the Huffington Post, describing the failure of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to support victims of sexual assault. A year after she was raped, Pino responded to that failure by leading a group of sexual assault survivors in filing a Title IX complaint against the university. That prompted an investigation by the Department of Education and fueled the national conversation about sexual violence on campuses.
Title IX mandates equal rights to education regardless of gender. In 2011, the federal government cited Title IX in instructing colleges to take “immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.”
Pino helped found the Know Your IX collective to promote awareness and activism on the issue of campus sexual assault. The collective plans to build its online presence, establish a campus network, and start a hostel for survivors.
“This time last year I was the first person at my school to come out and say, ‘I’m a survivor,'” says Pino. Now she helps others file Title IX complaints, gives talks across the country, and is encouraged by how many people are working to change rape culture on campuses.
Ray Stoeve is a Seattle-based queer and trans writer who received a 2016-2017 Made at Hugo House Fellowship for their young adult fiction.
Erika Lundahl is a freelance writer, independent journalist, activist, fundraiser, and musician based in Seattle.