Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” It wasn’t until college that EKU junior Jessica Vaught found her “why.”
While a student at Western Brown High School in Williamsburg, Ohio, Vaught became interested in feminism, though she didn’t yet know the name for it. When she came to Eastern in fall 2014, she began formally learning about feminism, intersectionality and privilege. Still, that knowledge was only the beginning.
Last fall, Vaught attended a Colonel Craze event where she first heard the name “Feminists for Change.” She asked around, but was told that the club had fizzled out in 2013 when most of its members graduated.
With her interest sparked, Vaught approached Dr. Lisa Day, English professor and director of the women and gender studies program, asking about a potential reboot of the former club. Day invited Vaught to take on the task. Nervous, but excited, the double English and Spanish-education major accepted the challenge and began gauging the interest of her friends and coworkers from the Noel Studio, who then spread the information to their friends, and so on. Feminists for Change quickly began to gain momentum.
According to Vaught, Feminists for Change strives for “an intersectional, action-oriented approach” toward feminism. It hopes to not only educate the EKU community about feminism and what it entails, but to help students take that knowledge and act on it. Its first event, in Fall 2016, was a panel centered on the question “What is Feminism?” Professors from various departments sat on the panel, sharing their opinions on the subject and answering questions from students.
Since then, FFC has become more action-based. The group attended the Women’s March on Lexington in January, has undergone Green Dot Bystander Intervention Training, and once a month escorts women at the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.
Reflecting on the impact of FFC, Vaught explained, “It’s really brought students who are passionate about the same things together, showing them that they’re not alone and there are other people who care about this stuff, too.”
She also emphasized the importance of action. “It’s one thing to be informed about these issues, but it’s another thing to actually do something about it. I had read about all these things, but it wasn’t until I came to EKU that I had a platform to act on it. I think that’s the biggest thing FFC offers students.”
FFC plans to reach out even more to the campus community in the coming months. The organization has an event titled “Empower-mints” on March 3, and is planning an event with Planned Parenthood for March 8. It also hopes to begin a monthly documentary showing, and to make Green Dot, a violence prevention program, more pervasive on campus.
Vaught has grown as a leader as she has taken on organization and planning responsibilities for the club. She was recently presented the Vagina Warrior Activist Award, given annually to an EKU student who strives to end violence against women and girls through activism. “I am realizing that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was,” she said, conceding that she cannot take full credit. “There are so many amazing people who have really given their all to this club, so while I have seen myself grow, I am definitely not the only one.”
Day is one of those many influential helpers. “Dr. Day has all of our know-how,” Vaught said. “We come to her with an idea and she has all the resources that we need and advice about how to make it the best it can be.”
Day speaks just as highly of Vaught and the FFC team and is optimistic about its future. “There’s just such a high level of conviction, passion and determination. All I have to do is say ‘Go’ and they take off. When Jessica first approached me about reviving FFC, I was ecstatic. She has truly breathed life back into this organization, and I can’t wait to see all of the great things that are going to come out of it.”
To learn more about Feminists for Change, contact Vaught at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Facebook group Feminists for Change at EKU.
-- by Yasmin White, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management