Clubs Goin’ Up at West: Feminist Club

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Clubs Goin’ Up at West: Feminist Club

By Grace Geraghty

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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of 10 features about clubs at West.

At the first meeting of the new Niles West Feminism Club on August 25, 25 feminists, male and female, representative of every grade, showed up in the suddenly-overcrowded room 1210. At the center of all the activity stood founders, juniors Rida Yousuf and Lejla Vojnikovic animatedly discussing their plan for the club with its new members.

Their home-made T-shirts, reading “girls just wanna have fun…damental human rights,” matched the tone of the group. All around the room, other students were engaged in passionate discussion, on topics spanning from some negative responses to the club to the definition of the word “feminist.”

Begun by Yousuf and Vojnikovic and sponsored by English teacher Jody Weatherington, the Feminism Club is open to all genders, and involves discussion of feminist ideas and principles among students, as well as meeting certain other goals.

“The club has three main goals,” Weatherington said. “We are volunteering and raising money for groups that promote education, equality, and vital services for underserved women; we are educating ourselves and others about gender inequality; and we are working to empower ourselves.”

Between these goals, Vojnikovic said education is a top priority.

“We hope to show, not only the members, but the school as well, that equality is possible, and every little step counts,” she said.

The club has not always been met with such great enthusiasm. During its initial promotion on the Class of 2017 Facebook page, the club received a lot of negative backlash from other students. Many members attributed this to the negative connotation the label “feminist” carries.

“Feminism has worn many faces over the years,” Weatherington explained. “When I was in high school, there was definitely a negative, man-hating connotation with the term. Thankfully, that man-hating image has fallen away–for the most part.”

Given the passionate discussions of feminism going on around the globe, Vojnikovic and Yousuf felt like the club could be a way to properly define feminism, effectively clearing it up for those who despise the term.

“Feminism isn’t a bad word, it’s about equality,” Vojnikovic said. “More people need to be aware of the really great things that come from it, and how it’s a view of a positive change for everyone.”

Several students inside the club agreed with this definition.

“I’m really glad somebody at Niles West is finally clearing up the term for everybody else. Lots of people think all feminists are crazy, but in reality, all we’re trying to do is demand the equality we deserve,” junior Jessye Gassel said.

This new attitude is an exponential difference from when Weatherington was a student, a time when a feminism club would have been subjected to intense backlash.

“Had there been an official Feminist Club at my high school, I would have joined. However, I was fortunate to have found a group of strong… friends who served this role in an unofficial capacity. We didn’t call ourselves feminists, but I know now that we absolutely were,” she said, “I wish that the club had actually existed so more kids had exposure to feminist ideology.

With this club and the amount of students learning about feminism, the idea of feminism will grow exponentially. Vojnikovic and Yousuf are aiming to educate the next generation of feminists at Niles West. They hope their ideas about equality catch on and help bulid a better, fairer world for everyone.

If you are interested in joining Feminism Club, come to room 1210, Tuesdays after school or contact Vojnikovic or Yousuf at [email protected] or [email protected]