The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



FeministND promotes equal rights, provides a place for discourse

| Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Women’s History Month, every year during the month of March, is a time to reflect on issues surrounding women’s rights and promote organizations that uplift women, according to FeministND (FemND).

FemND is a place for like-minded students to gather and engage in discourse, outgoing club president Julianne Downing said.

Julianne Downing sits at the Feminist ND booth during ht e activities fair in Fall of 2021. Courtesy of Julianne Downing
Julianne Downing, outgoing club president, sits at the FeministND booth during the activities fair in Fall 2021.

Downing, a senior majoring in American studies and peace studies, said her first priority for the club is to maintain their place on campus — believing it to be important to have a space where women can go to discuss issues that are important to them.

“The most basic mission of this club is to keep existing on a campus that is highly patriarchal in its nature and its constitution. It’s really important just to keep holding this space,” she said.

FemND isn’t just focused on issues that directly impact women because they believe social justice issues are intertwined and impact everyone, Downing said.

“A lot of people are under the impression that feminism is narrowly about gender equality and gender justice across the gender spectrum,” Downing explained. “We ally ourselves with a lot of causes around social justice. We are co-sponsoring events with Shades of Ebony, with PrismND with SolidarityND this year, so we’re just constantly looking for opportunities where other student groups are moving towards justice for their interest groups for their identity groups.”

Chessley Blacklock, the club’s incoming president and an applied computational math and statistics major, emphasized that FemND focuses on making the club as inclusive as possible and that they are non-partisan.

“We’re existing to be a place for all feminists, and I think that’s something we work really hard on,” Blacklock said. “There’s a lot of different ideas of what feminism can be, whether you’re an eco-feminist, a Catholic feminist, you ultimately share a home with us, and I think that also brings up a great place for discourse within the club as well.”

Downing acknowledged that people may expect them to take more radical stances and push progressive ideals, but she said she holds more importance on their continued existence.

“I think there are people within our club and even people on our board who feel like we’re not necessarily pushing boundaries at some junctures. That is always a conscious decision to maintain club status and maintain a space rather than lean in what some might perceive as a radical direction and get shut down,” she explained. 

The current club began in 2016, took a brief hiatus in 2018 and subsequently returned with professor Mike Rea as their advisor in 2019.

University spokesperson Dennis Brown said the current club has not been shut down at any point by the administration.

Other versions of women-led feminism clubs/groups have existed at the University since women were first admitted in 1972. This year, Notre Dame is celebrating the 50th anniversary of women at the University.

FemND holds meetings, sends out newsletters and has up-to-date social media accounts to alert its members to fun events and gatherings.

Jing Tong, a psychology major and member of FemND’s board, explained that they have a monthly digest that highlights feminism-related news and events around campus.

FemND stickers and a pamphlet Courtesy of Julianne Downing
FeministND has lots of resources for members to access. They gave out pamphlets and stickers during the Fall 2021 activities fair.

FemND has spent this year’s Women’s History Month celebrating and uplifting other clubs’ events such as Shades of Ebony’s Women’s Month.

Rea, Club advisor and Reverend John A. O’Brien professor of philosophy, said he is very passionate about women’s rights, especially within his realm of philosophy.

Rea explained that he hopes to empower FemND to highlight important contributions women have made in various fields.

“One thing Women’s History Month can do is foreground the contributions of women to a whole wide variety of disciplines,” he said. “Read some women!”

Downing and Tong said they shared the hope women and anyone honoring women this month will dig deeper into activist history.

“It’s great to have individual profiles of women who are successful, but the whole point of Women’s History Month is to look at the history of women, especially at this campus, and to stay in touch with that tradition of female empowerment. I think is really important,” Tong said. “By staying in touch with the roots of that movement, we are able to progress to other areas of social justice.”

Blacklock said she hopes women can learn that there is still more work to be done.

“We sit at a very interesting intersection, with it now being 50 years since the first class of women was admitted to Notre Dame,” she explained. “We don’t want to celebrate women for so long until we run out because there’s no more progress being made.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About Bella Laufenberg

Bella Laufenberg is a sophomore biological sciences major, who likes news much more than organic chemistry. She is also in the journalism, ethics and democracy minor. At The Observer, she currently serves as an Associate News Editor.

Contact Bella