A blank whiteboard stands outside University of Louisville classrooms with smears of red marker staining the edges reminding students as they pass by to take up the marker and declare why feminism matters. This past week students across University of Louisville’s campus broke the silence on what feminism means to them and why they care about it.
“Ambition shouldn’t be defined by gender,” said senior political science student, Sam Molony, Engaging Issues Chair of the Student Activities Board at UofL. Molony, along with her vice chair Allie Funk, created UofL’s first Women’s Empowerment Week in hopes that a conversation swooping campus would catch the attention of students and defy the stereotypes of feminism.
Whiteboards throughout campus declared how women’s empowerment matters to both male and female students because “becoming a mother should be an option not a requirement” and “girls should be able to see a woman president in their history books.” Every hour of each day students would take up the red marker and declare what women’s empowerment means in their life. Molony said, “When I passed the boards each day, there was a new reason why some student believes women empowerment matters.”
“Women’s Empowerment matters because Ginger did everything Fred Aistare did, backwards and in heels.”
With a generation inundated with definitions of what it means to be a woman, the muddled ground can be difficult to navigate or even to define on your own individual terms. “The point of women empowerment is to say that every single woman is different from another and has different ambitions and goals, but those do not make any woman any less of a woman,” said Molony.
UofL provost Shirley Willinghanz said, “Women’s empowerment means we can be all that we can be” in the video  for Women’s Empowerment Week.
"Women's Empowerment matters because I was not meant to be a housewife."
Part of UofL’s diversity plan for 2015 is to increase the number of female students enrolled in stem subjects, science, technology, engineering and math. The university has developed several programs to target and grow the number of female students in these areas. One such program, Inspire (Increasing Student Preparedness and Interest in the Requisites for Engineering) introduces high school females and minority students with career choices in engineering. Inspire hopes that by introducing minority and female students to career options not typically represented by them, these students will realize their wide career options and academic potential.
"Women's Empowerment matters because women's rights are human rights."
Molony said, “The university community truly does see the clear inequality that happens between genders in our society.” Women’s Empowerment Week hoped to teach “some students about those inequalities and change their perspective even just a little bit,” said Molony.
With students daring to hold signs across campus declaring statements like, “Feminism shouldn’t be a dirty word” and “My body is not a sexual object,” women’s empowerment week challenged the stereotypes plaguing modern women today.
“The problem is the stereotypical views that still float over women's heads, and a change in these views start with us, the newest generations of adults,” Molony said, “We have a chance to change the stereotypes and allow women to freely be whoever they want to be.”
"I support women empowerment because my body is not a sexual object."
The same tones ringing from students at U of L’s Women’s Empowerment Week match themes that rang from Bing’s ad at the recent Golden Globes grabbing national attention. Applauding women, like Margaret Thatcher “for blazing a trail,” Malala Yousafzai for standing “up to educate us all,” and women on the front lines of the U. S. army, the ad challenges women at the end to “Be Brave in 2014.”
“I just hope that we have changed someone's view of womanhood and opened their eyes to the gender inequalities that women deal with everyday in their lives,” Molony said. This past week UofL students, both women and men, were brave in telling their story of why women’s empowerment is important to them.
Photos Courtesy UofL