Feminist Leadership Conference at SMC Encourages Female Empower

Erika Cunningham proudly wears her black shirt with bold, pink lettering that reads, "This is what a Feminist Looks Like."

Cunningham, a member of the Visionary Feminists Club at San Diego Community College, bought this shirt was she attended the Feminist Leadership Conference held at SMC last weekend.

The Feminist Majority Foundation, which hosted the event, conducted workshops on issues like reproductive rights, immigration, sweatshops, family planning and sustainable development.

The Conference began Friday with two seminars called "Speak Out" and "Action Training Networking" and a later pizza party with Dolores Huerta, an advocate of social justice. On Saturday Melanie Klein, SMC Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies, welcomed participants to the two-day event. Directors and Organizers from the Feminist majority Foundation spoke. Student leaders from UC Merced, Scripps College, Cal State Northridge, UCLA, and Occidental College shared their experience as feminists.  

One workshop, "Countering Violence Against Women Worldwide: Femicide, Rape and Anti-Abortion Extremism" exposed the grim realities of violence against women in the U.S. and Guatemala.  

Marina Wood, a member of the Mujeres Iniciando en las Americas (MIA), presented a PowerPoint of her work with MIA. MIA's mission is to increase awareness in the United States about the mistreatment of women in Guatemala. As Wood cited in her presentation, MIA is trying to destroy the gender discrimination that exists. In Guatemala, MIA volunteers have their male volunteers teach beside a female volunteer in order to show children that a man and a woman can have a positive interaction, as well as to reinforce their gender equality message.  

In the same workshop, Katherine Spillar, Executive Vice President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, spoke about the need for more women on the police force. "Once we have more women as police, then less cases of domestic abuse will go unnoticed," Spillar says.  

Other workshops emphasized encouraging feminist action and leadership on campus. Student leaders held a panel on how to start, maintain and expand feminist clubs at school.  

Participants of the event made friends with people of similar beliefs. Others had their beliefs reinforced or even questioned. Jacqueline Sun, the Feminist Majority's West Coast Organizer, at the said of the conference's success, "We're going to smile for months!"

Feminist comedy duo Frangela and spoken word artist Yazmin Watkins performed before feminists from all over California headed back home.

"Feminism is about a bridging instead of a dividing," said Cunningham. "Feminism speaks to me as a human."