Before this semester, Concordia College did not have an organization focused solely on women’s rights and empowerment. A new organization, Stand With Her, was founded this year by a group of students who saw what Concordia was lacking and decided to make a change.
“I really wanted to join a women’s rights organization, but we didn’t have one. I was surprised and kind of sad, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just do it myself,’” said first-year student Olivia Slyter, founding member and president of Stand With Her.
Other students, including sophomore founding member and vice president of the organization, Abigail Peterson, also shared this thought with Slyter. “It is shocking that Concordia didn’t have a general feminist organization,” said Peterson.
Concordia requires the founder of an organization to find four other members to support and join the club. Slyter set out on her mission and successfully recruited other students to join. Following the additional steps required to have an organization approved, the founders held their first meeting on Jan. 16.
First-year student and founding member Makena Schafer said the mission of Stand With Her is, “to empower women at Concordia, make them feel safe, make them feel important, make them know that they’re valued in all aspects and equal in all aspects. We really just want to unite all the women on campus and make them feel heard in Concordia’s community.”
Slyter believes what sets this organization apart from others is that it more broadly encompasses the issues of women and is open to everyone. “Anyone is welcome who identifies as feminists. It is not just limited to women, it’s (open to) anyone of any gender identity, any race, any sexual orientation. The whole point is just (to be) a safe space for anyone to share their experiences and opinions,” said Slyter.
Slyter emphasized that Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World means knowing how to engage with each other.
Issues of feminism are intersectional, said Stand With Her advisor professor Indira Neill Hoch. “Issues of race and racism are feminist issues, disability is a feminist issue, income inequality is a feminist issue. Advocating for feminist issues should aim to improve the lives of everyone within a community,” said Hoch.
In our world, being a feminist comes with a stereotype, said first-year student and founding member Stella Peterson. “When it comes to the word ‘feminism,’ it is a very controversial word. People might be skeptical of joining the club because of that, but our definition of feminism is making sure everyone is equal, included, and feels safe.”
The primary goal of Stand With Her is to create a comfortable and safe environment for everyone on campus. “We’re not out here to critique other people’s views or attack them on their participation in the feminist movement. We’re here to make sure everyone feels safe,” said Abigail Peterson.
Stand With Her is planning on organizing events, such as inviting guest speakers, hosting self-defense training and movie nights, facilitating general discussions, participating in women’s marches and volunteering at the local women’s clinic.
Supporting an organization like Stand With Her happens in many ways, said first-year student and founding member Ava Welsch. She said it can be something as small as sharing an Instagram post or telling your friends about it. To become involved, sign up for emails or go to meetings. There is no obligation to attend every meeting. “You can come and go as you please — it is a safe space,” said Abigail Peterson.
Meetings will be held on Sundays at 6pm. As of now, they will be on Zoom per the recommendation of the college, but Slyter said they will return to being in person as soon as possible. The Zoom link can be accessed through emails sent by the organization. To get put on the email list, direct message @standwithher.conco on Instagram or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.