Department employs selfie to promote feminism

By Onize Ohikere

Today’s campus society is swarmed with information, from clustered bulletin boards to the table tents at every food stop. This increases the struggle to make one group’s information stand out from the rest.
For the Women’s and Gender Studies department, a mirror, a hashtag (#FeministDragon), and colorful directional arrows were all it needed to draw the attention of students and staff.
The board, located by the department’s office in MacLean Hall, features a hanging mirror and the department’s Twitter handle above it. The board’s left side displays a list of classes the department will be offering in the spring.
This is the second interactive board the department has arranged this semester. The first board, which also featured the mirror, had a list of upcoming events, pictures of some well-known feminists and a quote from Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian feminist.
“This year we decided we wanted to raise the visibility of Women’s and Gender Studies on campus and in the community,” said Kandace Creel Falcón, department professor. “As part of the work, we have been launching a social media presence.”
Falcón explained that aside from Twitter, the department is also creating an active presence on Facebook and in a blog space.
The idea to create an interactive board stemmed from one of the department’s social media classes.
“I put out the option for our Women’s and Gender Studies students to enroll in an internship with me to help work on coming up with the theme that would embody our social media work,” Falcón said.
Women’s and Gender Studies senior Chandler Esslinger seized the opportunity.
“I feel like a lot of people really don’t know what we’re about,” Esslinger said. “The board is really just a way to physically engage with people and to drive them to Facebook and Twitter.
Though #FeministDragon is aimed at creating a social media presence for the department, the Twitter trend also works as a piece of something bigger.
“It has risen out of some of the work that has happened in terms of the growth of online feminism,” Falcón said, referring to the #365FeministSelfie project.
The initial hashtag was started by a blogger who encouraged women everywhere to post a selfie of themselves every day of the year via social media sites.
“The goal is to kind of destabilize some of the negative ideas that are circulated about women’s appearances and showing a diversity on what feminism looks like,” Falcón said.
Esslinger said the project was an inspiration for her social media theme.
“I thought that this movement to take a feminist selfie was really cool, and I wanted to encourage people to do that,” she said.
So far, the response has been positive.
“I think people have been really excited to see that our program is relevant to their experiences outside their academic life,” Falcón said.
Esslinger agrees.
“I think we’ve gotten at least 20 selfies,” she said. “I see people standing there either reading or taking a picture, so that has been really fun.”
For some students, the uniqueness of the board is what appeals to them.
“I like it,” freshman Adam Shehata said. “I go there and adjust my hair sometimes.”
For others, it resonates something deeper.
“It’s a point of pride,” said Spanish and Women and Gender Studies senior Melissa Gonzalez. “It’s a way to see people who have some of the same viewpoints you have and you can feel validated.”

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