Empowered Women, Empower Women

Cameron Cardona, Class of 2019.

International Relations Major, Gender Studies Minor

Women’s Leadership Initiative Co-President (2018-2019 )

 

If you identify as a feminist, defining feminism might seem like a simple task. Quite possibly, it might be something you’ve defined on countless occasions. When I first stepped foot on campus, odds are I would have defined feminism as “the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” As time went on, however, my definition and understanding of feminism as a theory, movement, and practice has drastically changed.  Today, I credit my transformation as a feminist, empowered student, and professional to my challenging IR coursework and my involvement in Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI). Let me explain!

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WLI was the first student organization I joined my freshman year. I excitedly attended monthly meetings and events, oftentimes awkward and alone; however, the discussions held broadened my perspective on my experience, privilege, and understanding of feminism. Like a bee to honey, I kept coming back.  After two months, I was more in love with WLI than the average student is with Hawk Wraps! All I wanted was to learn, listen, and discuss feminism and feminist issues outside of the classroom. Luckily, WLI provided me with a space and community to do exactly that!

As freshman year came to an end, I desperately wanted to increase my involvement in WLI, and to my excitement, I was invited to join the executive board as Social Media Assistant my sophomore year. Suddenly I had the unique opportunity to apply my understanding of feminism as an academic discipline through my new leadership role. But trust me when I say I was nervous! Being given the responsibility for creating engaging and intersectional content on WLI’s Instagram, as well as organizing a campus-wide social media campaign, was as daunting a task as trying to find a table in the Library during finals week.  However, I quickly realized that my IR courses, relationships with professors, and support from other empowered students within WLI and the Poli Sci/IR department, prepared me immensely to successfully create original content emphasizing radical and liberal feminist ideas and WLI’s mission.

Thanks to the academic courses I’ve taken, I now eat, sleep, and breathe feminism. Being exposed to critical feminist theorists like Cynthia Enloe, bell hooks, and Kimberle Crenshaw, has provided me with academic context to utilize outside of an academic setting, both on and off campus. So much so, that I often find myself referencing feminist theory any chance I get. While I haven’t been able to take every course offered in the IR department that incorporates feminism, I fully intend to do so, because the benefits I have gained from my completed courses already, have been overwhelming. The IR department and faculty have significantly expanded my understanding of feminism as a political theory, which in turn has enabled me to think and act more critically as a student, leader, and engaged citizen.

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Now, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. With everything I have gained and learned as an IR student and WLI E-board member, determining a plan for my future has and continues to be a very difficult task. There are so many possibilities and it is simply too hard to choose. During my weekly existential crisis about my future, I struggle to decide what I want to “do” with my life. Should I start my own international NGO, advocate for survivors of sexual violence, work in diplomacy, write policy, or teach? Often, I come to the overwhelming conclusion that I simply want to do it all. Although my future path remains unclear, I can say that without a doubt, WLI and the IR department will help me get there. With the support of incredible professors who challenge me in and outside class, the community of supportive Poli Sci/IR peers, and the network of leaders in WLI, I constantly find myself growing in confidence and capability.

Thanks to that growth, I am grateful to continue my involvement with WLI as one of the Co-Presidents for next year (2018-2019). As “campus tides” continue to shift and student groups make more waves, I want to work towards increasing and developing WLI’s intersectional framework to foster discussion between students of different identities. I encourage anyone who is interested in joining WLI to come to our meetings in the Office of Inclusion & Diversity every month, attend WLI sponsored & co-sponsored events, and follow us on all social media platforms! No matter your identity or existing knowledge of feminism is, WLI meetings and events are always open to all students across campus. The greater the diversity of leaders, experiences, and ideas, the greater we are able as a community to work towards more understanding and effective application of inclusive feminism. All in all, I am incredibly proud to be a student in a department with supportive faculty, who tirelessly work towards helping develop academic growth, and an organization with leaders, who make up an empowered and inclusive community.

Instagram: sjuwomenlead

Facebook: SJUWLI

Twitter: SJUWomenLead

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