March 2, 2021

ONONYE | Happy Early International Women’s Day. Here’s How to be a Better Cornell Feminist

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I know this is a week early, but considering that my column is titled Womansplaining, there is no way that I’d pass up on a chance to write a column about International Women’s Day ––and more broadly, Women’s History Month. This year’s United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” That is a long (and very important!) title, emphasizing the importance of elevating women into leadership positions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There is obviously no perfect feminist (contrary to my Instagram bio where I self proclaim myself the “professional feminist”) and no right way to advocate for women or gender justice. However, if you’re thinking about ways to be a gender advocate on campus this month, here are eight ways to be a “better” Cornell feminist. 

Take a class in feminist, gender and sexuality studies. 

If you’ve met me at any point in the last three years, you probably know my mantra: “Every person should have to take a feminist, gender and sexuality studies course on campus before they graduate.” Throughout my FGSS career, I have studied Beyonce’s impact on feminism, marital rape laws, the Disney princesses, Nigerian feminist poets, Greek life on college campuses and influencer culture. Every aspect of your life, past or present, has to do with gender. Take advantage of the amazing courses and professors — some of the best in the country by the way — dedicated to studying these issues. You will learn something. 

Join a gender justice club on campus.

This is an easy one, considering that there are more gender justice organizations on this campus then anyone could count (and people have tried!). Do your research and find a club that intersects with your interests. There are clubs dedicated to promoting women in STEM, offering support groups for women and marginalized people, clubs dedicated to providing support for survivors on campus and many more. Here are a few of my favorites on campus: The Women’s Leadership Initiative, Gender Justice Advocacy Center, She’s the First and Planned Parenthood Generation Action

Keep the Cornell Health Hotlines and Talk-Lines card in your wallet. 

I have had the Cornell Hotlines and Talk-Lines business card in my wallet for the past year. The card has important hotlines and services provided by Cornell including the Cornell Health phone number, the Ithaca Crisisline, the Tompkins County Advocacy Crisis Line and the TransLifeline. The card also includes national text and chat services. Keep the card on you in case you or a friend ever needs it. 

Stop taking advantage of the women in your campus organizations.

This is something you might not think you’re doing, but you probably are (regardless of your own gender or sexuality). Is there a woman in your org who always ends up doing the behind-the-scenes work and never gets any recognition? Is there a woman in your org who is a shoo-in for president, but no one thinks she’s a strong enough leader to actually be president? Are you tougher on women applicants during recruitment? As someone involved in almost every club on campus (not really, but kind of really), almost every club on campus has this issue. Take time to think about your implicit biases and how they play out in your extracurricular activities. 

Stop calling Martha, Martha. 

It’s not that hard. Shameless plug, but read my article on all the reasons why you should refer to your female professors, lecturers and administrators on campus by their official titles. 

Attend an event at the Women’s Resource Center or LGBT Resource Center.

The WRC and LGBT Resource Center have great programming events targeted at gender justice on campus. They provide guest speakers, community circles and targeted programming to raise awareness about gender justice and provide support systems for community members on campus. Although we currently aren’t able to visit them in person (to grab candy, talk to staff and use their weighted blankets!), we are lucky to have them as a virtual resource this semester. 

Take ConsentEd training seriously. 

Take ConsentEd training seriously. Take ConsentEd training seriously. Take ConsentEd training seriously. I want to say this so many times that it sticks. When ConsentEd leads a workshop for your community on campus, listen to what they say and show the facilitators the respect that they need. I cannot tell you how bad a look it is to try to “get your way out of” ConsentEd training when their mission is to make campus a safer place for all of us. 

Read a Book. 

I’m not being sarcastic. Read a book, watch a documentary, listen to a podcast, attend a guest lecture. The first step to getting involved with gender justice and advocacy is to learn from the people who are doing the real work. Take some time this month to learn about feminism, figure out what you’re passionate about and make an action plan to be better. For bonus points, use the week to learn about notable Cornell alumni who fought for gender justice including (but not limited to!) Kimberlé Crenshaw ’81, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56, Pearl Buck M.A. ’25 and Toni Morrison M.A. ’55. 

Anuli Ononye is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at aononye@cornellsun.com. Womansplaining runs every other Wednesday this semester.