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‘The Feminist Chats’ build community among feminists on campus

Von Smith
Ukrainian native Taisiia Maslenko discusses the impact of gender in war-torn Ukraine and the status of the feminist movement in Eastern Europe during the Valentine’s Day Feminist Chat in Cherry Hall on Feb. 14.

Students gathered in Cherry Hall to discuss feminism at “The Feminist Chats” event on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

“The Feminist Chats,” organized by Marla Zubel, a twentieth-century literature and film professor at WKU, provided an atmosphere where faculty and students made valentines, and discussed women in sports, gender roles in society, the war in Ukraine and motherhood. 

“The goal of ‘The Feminist Chats’ is to build community among feminists on campus,” Zubel said. “By creating an informal space for us to come together to discuss pop culture, current events, and engage in debate around issues that matter to us.”

Taisiia Maslenko, a WKU student born and raised in Ukraine, shared news of the role that women have played in the war in Ukraine, stating the Ukrainian Army has the biggest percentage of women in the military among all of Europe.

“There wasn’t a lot of raising awareness about women’s struggle in war, from the global feminist community, the focus of feminism of Ukraine and it was mainly focused on providing aid to Ukrainians,” Maslenko said. “Feminists in the U.S. and the world are not talking about women’s active role in the war. In Ukraine, we talked about the heroism that Ukrainian women face when fighting Russia but here in the U.S., feminists are silent on the topic.”

Zubel continued to add that she hopes to enrich the group’s lives on campus and to promote engagement with feminist ideas and practices beyond the classroom. When asked about her reasons behind starting “The Feminist Chats,” Zubel said she took inspiration from other campus organizations and her own experiences as a university student.

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies opens its Valentine’s Day Feminist Chat in Cherry Hall, Room 301 on Feb. 14. (Von Smith)

“I was inspired by ‘The Chai Chats’ organized by Global Learning and International Affairs,” Zubel said. “I was reflecting on my own time as an undergraduate student and thinking about the times I felt most connected to other feminist students. I realized it wasn’t in the classroom, although that is important, and it wasn’t even at the big events where important people came to campus; give interesting guest lectures. It was at the meetings of a group of students, mostly women but also a few men, who came together for a regular knitting circle.”

Zubel stated that those meetings were fundamental in her personal and professional development because of the opportunity to discuss topics that mattered to them. She was able to develop meaningful connections with other students. In addition, Zubel was able to apply the feminist theory that she learned in the classroom to more free-flowing conversations about current events.

Natalie Shearman, a WKU student, explained her love of baking and how it isn’t necessarily a gender-specific activity.

“For me it’s less of a gender thing and more of a cross-division thing,” Shearman said. “It’s my way of expressing my gratitude for people in my life. With my busy schedule, I don’t always have time to spend with my relatives, but I’ll get up at 4 a.m. and bake cookies and leave them sitting out for you. It doesn’t have to do with gender because there is no expectation for me to do that.”

News Reporter David Campos-Contreras can be reached at [email protected]

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