Just over a year ago, the five of us gathered at ACPA at a 5 p.m. ed session in Indianapolis hopeful that a few folks would straggle in at the end of the day to talk with us (roundtable-style) about feminism in student affairs. Much to our surprise, the room was full to the gills, spilling out into the hallway. Shocked at the much larger audience than we expected, we proceeded with openness and vulnerability to tell our stories under the title Wonder Women: Leaning In as Women in Student Affairs. Clearly there was a need and an interest for opening up space within our professional development for the intersections between our personal, political, and professional lives as feminists working in student affairs.
After the session, we wondered out loud, where else can we continue this conversation with all of these fabulous people? and, how can we invite more voices to this discussion? and further, how can we move this forward for the purpose of social change?
And so in April 2014, we launched this blog, Feminists in Student Affairs, to provide a forum to continue the invigorating feminist conversation, connection, and activism. In the 11 months since, we’ve gained over 200 followers, received over 18,000 views, and posted nearly 50 contributions from over 21 different authors. We’re thrilled to welcome Amy Howton and Kristen Abell to the core editorial team. We’ve featured posts on topics ranging from faith and feminism, to modern mentorship, to the invisible single woman, to engaging feminist men, to professional dress and authenticity. We’ve invited personal friends and colleagues to contribute and also published submissions from individuals that none of us know personally. It’s an open and inclusive space, and still a work in progress. We’re deeply grateful for our all of our readers, subscribers, critics, and bloggers!
Now, a year later, we thought we’d each talk about what this blog has meant to us since its inception last April:
Jennifer Keup: “The experience of launching and contributing to this to blog has been truly transformational in so many ways. It has provided me with a platform to explore ideas about which I care deeply and a community to help support and challenge me in that exploration. However, one of the biggest epiphanies for me has been the shift in my notion of feminist leadership as something I was striving for personally in my own search for mentors, struggles with social gender norms and expectations, and development of feminist leadership capacity to something much bigger. Each time I shared my stories and thoughts via this blog, I realized that what I once thought was solely my own personal narrative was actually representative of a much broader perspective and often illustrated the intersectionality of the personal, professional, and political aspects of feminist leadership. Embracing this new outlook has reminded me of the broader significance of these conversations, inspired me to continue to engage in this work, and motivates me to mentor the next generation of feminist leaders.”
Jodi Koslow Martin: “Women need women to help them shape their stories. Many of us know that sometimes things don’t feel real until we’ve told someone else. Social media embraces this notion and plays upon it. Yet, unlike a Facebook post which may be about controlling our image, I think that launching a blog with professional women is the unFacebook. We’re able to share our moments as our real, authentic selves. And, we’re able to learn from our peers or, better yet, experience the sighs of relief that come when you realize you are not the only person who has experienced a difficult work situation, an awkward moment, or a major disappointment. We’re all in it together and life is just seemingly better in a community of shared stories.
Jennifer Stripe: “Truth telling can sometimes feel like a risky business for a leader, especially in the politicized (and ever shrinking) world of higher education. Being a part of this group of bloggers has allowed me to tell my truth authentically and learn from others. It has helped me challenge assumptions, explore my feminist identity, and grow as a leader – college administrator, partner, mother, friend. I am honored to have shared my thoughts on topics that seemed to speak to readers and look forward to the rich experiences we will share going forward.”
Sara Hinkle: “The blog has provided me with a source of catharsis, validation, and connection. I wrote about topics that were very personal to me, whether dealing with the imposter syndrome, my experience as a pregnant professional, feeling lonely as a leader, or being left out of the conversation and ignored as a single, childless woman. Though it can be risky to share at such a personal level, it felt liberating to give words to my feelings and experiences. What I didn’t necessarily expect was the positive response that I received when I cast my words out to a wide audience. There were others who could relate to my experiences and had felt the same way. Whether from people I knew or complete strangers, it felt wonderful to have my feelings validated and know that I was not alone in some of the challenges I experienced. In this way, we’ve created a community and I value being able to connect with others and share our trials and successes.”
Heather Shea Gasser: “About six months prior to the launch of the #SAfeminist blog, I started a personal blog that I titled Beyond WCenter. I started that blog because, after leaving a position as the director of a women’s center, I needed a space to process, share, and analyze the intense personal transformation that had taken place within my life as a result of working in as a “professional feminist”. While I enjoyed the writing, the space was just that –- personal. Upon launching the #SAfeminist blog, I’ve found a greater sense of community and connection (and commiserating!) among the variety of contributors and their work. Hearing and reading other voices, sharing my stories within this space, and connecting with the other editors through the editorial process resonates on a deeply personal level and feeds my feminist soul. In short, this experience has been incredibly rewarding. Thank you.”
So, what’s next for the #SAfeminists??
- Three of us (Jennifer, Jodi, and Heather) are presenting about our experiences and key learning moments through feminist blogging at the ACPA 2015 convention in Tampa. Our presentation: #SAFeminists: Fostering Commitment to Gender Equity in Higher Education will be held on Friday, March 6, 2015 from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM in the Marriott Tampa Waterside, Grand Ballroom Salon B. This program was co-sponsored by the ACPA Standing Committee for Women and the ACPA Commission for Social Justice Educators. Come hear our stories, meet the other bloggers, and learn how you can contribute to the Feminists in Student Affairs Blog.
- Later in March we are launching a feminist advice column: Dear Jane!
We know that working in student affairs can be tricky sometimes, and it’s often hard to ask our coworkers or colleagues for advice. Now we’re offering you the opportunity to submit your trickiest questions about student affairs to our advice columnist, Dear Jane. Keep an eye out for Jane’s posts coming in March!
- We are working with a larger committee of social change leaders within ACPA to develop and implement the ACPA Transformational Feminist Initiative. We are collecting information at convention about the type of professional development opportunity that would best meet the needs of wide cross section of student affairs professionals, educators, faculty, and graduate students. The resulting professional development opportunity will be a focused educational approach to teach transformational feminist leadership and how participants can carry that out in the culture of their everyday lives. There will be intentional conversations that target, recognize and discuss the intersectionality of diversities in their broadest forms and how to maximize those characteristics/gifts in the work environment. The #SAfeminists are thrilled to be invited to contribute to this worthy endeavor. Stay tuned for more info!
We end this post where we began… we still want to continue the conversation. Please connect with us virtually or in person at ACPA. We look forward to more feminist dialogue!