Strengthening feminist student voices

Illustration by Aleah Green

In this year of turmoil and change, the Associated Students for Intersectional Feminism (ASIF) fight for equality, just as they have since the organization’s founding in 1932. 

As the 2019 winner of NAU’s Diversity and Equity Award, ASIF has been recognized for community-impacting events like Riot Fest, an arts and music festival that raises money for a local domestic violence shelter. In addition to fundraising, ASIF provides free counseling, tampons and pads, a feminist library and an inclusive community. 

This year, COVID-19 forced ASIF to make some changes, but the club still brings positivity and inclusion to NAU. With meetings every other Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m., the club is staying connected and strong. Senior Abigail Paternina, president of ASIF, said the club’s purpose remains the same, even in the era of COVID-19. 

“The purpose of this club is to educate and empower members of the NAU community to speak up about social injustice and gender inequality,” Paternina said. “We have a lot of fun and relevant topics coming up, and it’s crucial that now more than ever we stay united and active in our community.”

The club is considering hosting events via Zoom, such as movie streaming, baking parties and socially-distanced picnics to stay united in a safe way. 

Despite the changes of this year, Paternina said ASIF wants to make events as fun and comfortable as possible for members. The club is a community and is family-driven by helping members in whatever way possible, she said. 

That sense of community was very strong at ASIF’s first meeting of 2020, hosted through Zoom. Positivity radiated off the returning and new members of the club.

Freshman Cheyenne Holloway said she joined ASIF to talk about her passions and take part in activities to help others. 

“I’ve always been interested in learning, participating in and helping others with issues like the patriarchy, women’s reproductive rights and mental health,” Holloway said. “This club piqued my interest since it included these aspects and seemed like an open-minded space to freely discuss these topics without judgment.” 

Conversations during the first meeting ranged from the definition of intersectional feminism to controversy around the color pink, along with ideas of body positivity and self-acceptance. 

Throughout the meeting, leaders and returning members of ASIF explained that club meetings are a safe place to share experiences and thoughts, and to learn and grow among accepting minds. 

Junior ASIF member Megen Schachter has been a part of the club since she was a freshman. As a woman, Schachter said ASIF has enabled her to build a supportive community and feel comfortable in herself. 

“As a feminist, this club has educated me so much,” Schachter said. “There were so many issues I never thought about or things I could be more sensitive to. This club really helped give me perspective, and every time we meet, I feel like I learn something new and important I can take with me into my own activism, and even into my classrooms as a future teacher.”

At its roots, ASIF is an educational club that strives to educate and empower while introducing members to relevant discussions and prepare them with truth, Paternina said. In all the chaos that is 2020, Paternina said she knows ASIF has important work to do.

The club has meetings scheduled around important topics in today’s world, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and how COVID-19 disproportionately impacts People of Color. 

“We have a platform and we intend to use it to educate people on how they can be an ally to the movement,” Paternina said. “We plan to show how they can pay reparations and help people in need through petitions and GoFundMe fundraisers, and how to navigate difficult conversations about race and inequality with ignorant family members.”

Paternina said she plans to continue education and activism throughout the year and is looking forward to a virtual Riot Fest in spring. She said people are free and safe to share their art with other people motivated in resisting institutional oppression at the festival. 

Members of the club are encouraged to participate in the arts and music festival or just attend and enjoy the expression and accepting environment. Schachter said that ASIF as a whole is an opportunity to express oneself and grow together. 

Even if someone is afraid of speaking their thoughts, Schachter said their club is open to hearing anyone out. Their club represents a way to do something for the community in a safe space where everyone can feel comfortable.