Buttons bearing the provocative message “This is what a feminist looks like” once again appeared all over campus on Monday, marking Boston College’s second annual Feminist Coming Out Day. The event, which was created last year by assistant history professor Arissa Oh, was devised as a way to respond to the statistic indicating that female BC students, on average, lose self-esteem during their undergraduate careers. Oh hopes to use this day to reclaim the term “feminism” from the negative connotations that have engulfed it in recent years, and, in doing so, show female students that they are supported.
One goal of the day is to prompt reflection among BC faculty, staff, and students on the meaning of this term, hopefully compelling everyone to decide whether he or she considers himself or herself a feminist, and to be able to defend that. This goal is certainly a valuable one, as it encourages the kind of critical thinking that BC pledges to foster in its students and hopefully allows the BC community to view the buttons now dispersed throughout campus as an invitation to investigate individuals’ feelings on the topic.
This year’s Feminist Coming Out Day built upon last year’s-which featured only the appearance of buttons-by adding a small flier with each button listing different meanings of feminism and giving out free cake in the history department for most of the day. While these features did provide the day with a more concrete focus and perhaps engaged some students who would not have otherwise sought out a button or handout, more can be done in future years to engage the vast majority of students, who shy away from discussions of feminism and gender issues.
The history department received support from several academic departments, as well as the Women’s Resource Center and the vice provost for faculties, in order to put on this year’s Feminist Coming Out Day, indicating fairly widespread interest among faculty and administrators in the day and the issues it brings up. Oh has expressed her concern about the limited chances at BC to engage issues of gender and feminism, and the success of her first two Feminist Coming Out Days have created the perfect platform from which to launch a more far-reaching and visible annual event. She and the history department have taken the important and commendable first step of introducing the day to BC, and now those passionate about the topic should seize the opportunity to make it an institution. By tapping into the groups and departments that have expressed support for the idea, Feminist Coming Out Day has the potential to grow immensely in future years, perhaps by adding greater student-to-student outreach or a more accessible event, such as a lecture, which could provide more opportunities for the types of discussions the day is aiming to provoke.