The F-Word: Feminism

by Heather Shea Gasser

Why do people shy away from identifying as feminists? What are the stereotypical images that the word “feminist” provokes? How does one integrate a feminist identity into working in Student Affairs? These questions and more are why we intentionally titled this blog and linked its purpose to feminism.

While there are many definitions of feminism, I personally like bell hook’s definition as “the movement to end sexist oppression.” Oppression based on perceived gender norms affects everyone, men, women, transgender individuals. And, more importantly, anyone who seeks to promote principles of gender equity and social justice in society can be a feminist.

I recognize that the label “feminist” doesn’t resonate with everyone and many people resist identifying as such because of the negative stereotypes with which the word is associated. In my previous experience working as the director of a campus-based women’s center, I often interacted with students who would say “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then proceed to share something that that indicated that they were indeed approaching the world from a feminist perspective. Gmelch writes about this phenomenon in her book “Gender on Campus” (1998) and quotes a college student:

“It’s a question I’ve dodged many times. This avoidance only adds to the reasons I should become more aware. I know the stereotype that goes along with the ‘feminist’ label. I’m not an extreme person, but I realize that gender seems to play an unnecessary role in too many facets of my life. It angers and then confuses me when I think of this and all the cues that are so ingrained into our culture for me to notice.”

How has gender contributed to your experience? We want to utilize this blog space to uncover the various ways in which it might impact us. We want to provide space for dialogue and discussion. And, most importantly, we want to provide a space for feminists to connect and address the personal, political, and professional issues that impact our work in and study of student affairs on college campuses.

As we make connections between individuals we create communities of support and empowerment. Feminist leaders share power and allow for open participation by all. We hope this blog embodies this. We want open participation and engagement and invite you to contribute. Please contact us via this form if you’re interested in contributing!


  • Gmelch, S., Stoffer, M. H., & Yetzer, J. L. (1998). Gender on campus: Issues for college women. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.




3 thoughts on “The F-Word: Feminism

  1. The word feminist seems to have negative connotations in society, which I believe is partly due to people not understanding the definition of the word itself. It’s also this false idea that for women to be equal you have to take equality away from men.

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