March is Women’s History Month, a designated time to honor and reflect on the accomplishments of women throughout history.
Women’s History Month is generally associated with the feminist movement, a term used to describe collective efforts to improve the situation of women.
Nursing freshman Madison King was not exposed to feminist theory growing up, but she’s always identified with the movement’s core values, she said.
King sees feminism today as a social and cultural movement that identifies the effects of issues like gender roles, the gender pay gap and sexual harassment.
The movement’s relation to gender appeals to King because she struggled with her gender expression in the past. King said she has always self-identified as a tomboy and felt different from her two sisters, who presented themselves in a more feminine way.
Because of this, King knew at a young age that she didn’t want to wear makeup or dresses because she was told she had to.
A mistake King felt like she made in her feminist journey was thinking that she had to ignore gender roles or completely reject them.
She used to subscribe to the idea that it was detrimental if another woman wanted to fulfill a gender role like being a homemaker or having children.
King has since realized that as long as a woman is making choices on her own accord, there shouldn’t be an issue with her decision.
“I think [feminism is] about establishing an idea that there’s a freedom of choice, that it’s all okay,” King said.
To King, becoming a better feminist involves everyday disscussion of the issues affecting women, as well as sticking up for herself and other women.
Like King, information systems sophomore Hannah Thomas' journey into feminism has involved gaining the confidence to speak up for herself when necessary.
The biggest area of growth Thomas made was acknowledging her power as a woman and growing into her own voice, she said.
In high school, she was more close-minded, Thomas said, and she often found herself following typical gender norms. Once she got to college, however, she was able to be herself and do what she felt was right.
Thomas is a member of Women in Business, and her involvement in the organization helped her identify the sexism that women in business face.
For Thomas, becoming a better feminist comes through being able to identify discrimination in her everyday life and going one step further by calling it out.
For biochemistry freshman Emily Mauldin, having a strong work ethic and being rewarded and recognized for her accomplishments is a big part of what it means to be a feminist.
Mauldin has had to challenge misconceptions about what it means to be a feminist from her youth and is still growing in her knowledge and daily practice of feminism.
In the past, she thought feminism was all about growing armpit hair and saying women can do whatever they want, and no man can stop them. But now she understands it’s more about being the best version of herself she can be.
One area of growth Mauldin went through was not allowing men she dated to take complete control of the dynamic. Through this, she learned how to maintain an individual identity while in a relationship.
“I have had some exes, or whatever, that have just made it clear that they were the main person in that relationship, and I just didn’t need that,” Mauldin said. “I needed someone who loved me for who I was and not who they wanted me to be.”
For Mauldin, embodying feminism is achieved by doing what fulfills you and makes you happy, no matter what might be in your way.
It’s hard when someone’s opposing you, especially if it’s another woman, Mauldin said. But sometimes you just need to just block out your mind and do your own thing.