Alliance strives to dispel people’s feminist labels

By Sandra Masibay

Breaking barriers, facing stereotypes and raising consciousness are all issues and actions the Women’s Alliance contends with.

The Women’s Alliance has a six-year history on the NIU campus which originated in 1987 as an informal discussion group. The group received formal Student Association recognition in 1989.

The Women’s Alliance is a group based on, but not exclusive to, NIU’s campus. It is open to both men and women who are intent on establishing and preserving the equality of women.

Amy Magnussen, NIU senior art history major, co-chairs the Woman’s Alliance.

“Women’s Alliance is inclusive of all people. Everyone can be active. To make any kind of change possible, you can not incorporate only one group of people, but many,” Magnussen said.

“Unless there is understanding between women as well as between women and men, we can not progress as a people,” she added.

When asked about the stereotype of a feminist Magnussen replied, “We may have people in the group that would seem to fit that stereotype. Before a person stereotypes, they should try to see what’s behind that person. Under the name of feminism is a diverse group of men and women.”

“I think people like to discount things once they find out you are an active feminist. When people start to see you one way, they forget everything else you are about. It becomes just a label,” Magnussen said.

She also said that her opinions were her own, reflective of her own viewpoints, but not necessarily the opinions of the alliance as a whole.

Michele Lao, NIU junior accounting major and fellow co-chair said, “To me, a feminist is a person who believes that both men and women are equal. I don’t mean if that guy can lift 150 pounds, so can I. A lot of people don’t understand that. I say I’m a feminist and it scares people. They think bra-burning, men-hating. I just laugh at them.”

To diffuse these kinds of stereotypes the Women’s Alliance tries to educate the community about different issues concerning and affecting women through the sponsoring of speakers or discussions.

Last year, Women’s Alliance brought the East Coast theatre group, Sleeveless Theatre, to NIU and also co-sponsored the performance of a one-woman act, Carol-Lynn Pearson.

Women’s Alliance also participated in last year’s, “Take Back the Night”, a march protesting violence against women.

“There are a multitude of issues the Women’s Alliance tries to address—economic, political, social and emotional. We are a diverse group of people with as many different viewpoints,” Magnussen said.

“The Women’s Alliance tries to address as many of these issues as we can, successfully,” she said.

One issue the Women’s Alliance focuses on, especially on the NIU campus, is that of violence against women.

“The blue-light call boxes are a nice idea, but what’s the likelihood that people will get assaulted by one of those boxes? The construction on campus is setting up barriers where people can get confined in making it easier to get assaulted,” Magnussen said.

The Women’s Alliance will be setting up self-defense courses. Last year, self-defense courses were given and the response was very positive, Magnussen said.

Meetings for Women’s Alliance are held twice a week in the Holmes Student Center. For more information, call 753-1038.