A social media campaign born out of a Duke classroom is rebranding the word "feminist."
For the 16 women behind Who Needs Feminism?, the GOOD Goes Viral challenge winner on GOOD Maker, the topic alone was taboo enough to toss Duke University and the internet into a frenzy. The organizers (and classmates) dropped what they jokingly refer to as “the F-bomb” on campus in the name of a social media campaign. Armed with a camera, whiteboard, and dry-erase marker, these women were determined to bring awareness to a matter they believe is central to everyone.
Sparked by a Women’s Studies class called "Women in the Public Sphere," Who Needs Feminism? was a reaction to the utter lack of dialogue about the topic on campus. Launched in April 2012, the social media campaign began as the class’ final group project, in which all 16 students took their campus by storm asking the simple question, who needs feminism? to their student body. The purpose was to get people talking about feminism face to face.
"We felt like there was negative connotation in feminism that was blocking conversations outside of people in this course," says Ashley Tsai, one of the founders. "In the course we learned a lot about women, activism, we all began to see how important all of that was. Who Needs Feminism? is what eventually evolved out of that."
The campaign, which launched as a Facebook page compiling and tagging photos of Duke students holding their handwritten responses to the question, received a couple thousand "likes" shortly following its launch and spread to Tumblr and Twitter when the founders noticed that it was an issue gaining traction even beyond Duke's campus. Thanks to the multiple social media tools available, the founding students ran with the concept of rebranding feminism, unleashing it from negative stigmas that may have blocked accessibility, and instead, turning it into a more relatable, universal issue. Who Needs Feminism? has become a springboard for individuals from all over the globe to express themselves and speak out against oppressive social and gender structures.
"Do we want to define feminism? That’s impossible, but we know it's important," Tsai says. "What we're trying to show is that feminism is not just for women. It’s a movement that includes everyone. That was why we came up with Who Needs Feminism? That question was able to address relevance of feminism to all different types of people."
The organizers plan to keep the dialogue going by building a central website to be a platform for multimedia projects and also act as a cohesive home for their Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook pages. The founders also plan to turn their former group project into a campus-recognized organization and are in talks with other college campuses to set up campaigns across the nation. Interested in bringing the movement to your school? Send them a message through their social media platforms. If you want to add your voice to the campaign, submit to the Tumblr account here.