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HHS Feminism Club gains strong support

The HHS Feminism Club held its first meeting last Wednesday, with 28 students attending. This is the club’s second year at the school. Submitted photo

Hastings High School students Marisa Schommer and Hannah Hornbuckle are self-proclaimed feminists. They don’t hate men, they don’t burn bras or hold protests in the street. They simply believe in equality for all genders.

But around the school, they noticed that many people didn’t understand what it really means to be a feminist. They encountered people who claimed to be anti-feminist because they associated feminism with the negative, extremist behavior that tends to attract media attention. They heard sexist or misogynistic comments. And they decided they were going to do something about it.

Last year, Hornbuckle, a junior this year, and Schommer, a senior, launched the Feminism Club. They asked English teacher and Raiders Digest adviser Kari Jaeger to serve as the new club’s adviser and submitted a proposal letter to the school’s administration.

The club works to raise awareness about women’s rights issues locally and internationally. Its goal is to help people take a stand, speak up about what they believe in and stay educated about injustices around the world.

It started with just a handful of students, but it’s quickly gained traction. At this year’s first meeting, held last Wednesday, the group had 28 students in attendance, and Hornbuckle and Schommer knew of more who had expressed interest.

The response is great, Schommer said. To her, it means that she and Hornbuckle weren’t the only students who noticed there was a need for more education and awareness about what it means to be a feminist and how to respond to situations where gender equality – or inequality – is a factor.

When it started, however, there were some students who were upset and expressed concern that the club would encourage hate. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth, according to its members.

One of the main goals of the club is to redefine the word feminism, Jaeger said. They do that by having discussions about current events and issues, providing steps the group can use to help solve problems, listening to speakers and watching films that address gender equality.

Oftentimes, people say things that are offensive out of ignorance rather than malice, Hornbuckle said. They don’t necessarily know what they’re saying is offensive. Club members talk about how to respond to those situations, and how to determine the best course to take in addressing negative speech or behavior.

Last year, the group heard from AAUW member Laura Leak, who talked about the challenges she encountered as a woman. They heard from former HHS student Jolena Zabel, who has done human rights work in several national and international organizations. The Hastings AAUW also provided a documentary on the American women’s movement.

This year, the group is hosting award-winning poet Sierra DeMulder on Oct. 27. She’ll be speaking to more than 400 HHS students.

The club has also joined Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that works to change policies and raise funds to help girls in places where it’s hardest to be a girl, according to the organization’s website, girlup.org.

A diverse group

The HHS Feminism Club breaks the negative feminist stereotype in its membership alone.

“We’re very diverse,” Schommer said.

The group has boys and girls from 10th to 12th grade so far, and they have members of all gender and political orientations as well. And while the club does have some overlap with other clubs, its wide diversity sets it apart, Schommer said.

“But we’re all coming together over this issue of equality,” Jaeger said.

And that’s good, because the issues aren’t limited to women.

“So many feminist issues affect everybody,” Jaeger said.

And even more, they’re all respectful of each other’s differences, Hornbuckle added, even when discussions get a little heated. At the end of the day, everyone still gets along. A big part of that is because they all come with an open mind.

“Anyone who’s there is there to listen and learn,” Hornbuckle said.

The club meets about twice a month during the school year.

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