The Augustana Feminist Equality Movement club, also known as Augie FEM, has embarked on its first full year of action. Co-presidents, juniors Cheyenne Chontos and Emily Delzer, started Augie FEM last spring.
“[Emily] and I were talking over Instagram after she saw me posting feminist things,” Chontos said. “We said we should start a club about this and the rest is history.”
The club focuses on providing a community for discussion and education about feminism and feminist topics while working for equality in all areas of life.
“[The club] is about empowering women and men, volunteering, giving back to the community and having a community on campus for dialogue about what is happening on the news,” Delzer said.
“The general atmosphere is to have fun while pushing for change,” Senior Zach Dickmann said.
Delzer and Chontos are worried about the term “feminist” being misrepresented.
“It’s an iffy topic and can be perceived negatively,” Delzer said.
Darcie Rives-East, English professor and Augie FEM advisor, said she is excited about the direction the club is heading in.
“One thing I want to emphasize is that feminist means both men and women,” Rives-East said. “There is a terrible thing in our culture that men are not feminist. Feminism is about gender equality. It is not about hurting men, it is about working towards equality.”
“We welcome everyone, both men, women and everyone beyond the binary genders,” Chontos said.
Augie FEM is not the first club on campus centered around feminist ideology. A couple of years ago, there was the Augustana Women’s Association (AWA). However, the club fell dormant and disappeared off the roster.
Recent events, like the presidential election and debates over legislation, have brought feminism front and center.
“What’s happening now is a regression of gender equality,” Rives-East said. “It’s unacceptable and frightening, and I’m glad we have a club on the feminist front that is cognizant of race, sexuality and taking a political stance. Last semester, the club hosted a documentary movie night where members also colored and put together zines about women’s reproductive rights and distributed them around campus.
This year, Augie FEM started a monthly book club. The first book, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, is a coming-of-age novel about a young Latina girl in Chicago.
Additional activities for the year include guest speakers, documentaries, community service for homeless women in Sioux Falls and getting active politically through phone banking, writing letters and calling senators.
The main project Chontos and Delzer have planned for the semester is a fundraiser to help women on the Pine Ridge Reservation who miss school because they cannot afford menstrual products.
“This is something right in our own state that needs attention,” Chontos said. “Period products in South Dakota are taxed at 4.5 percent, despite them being very necessary products for a large percentage of the population.”
On the Reservation, period products cost even more because few stores supply them in rural areas.
The club is hosting a bake sale on the second floor of the Madsen Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 21 to raise funds for the cause and organize “period packs,” or care packages with feminine hygiene products, to donate to Pine Ridge. Donations of menstrual products are welcome.
“The club itself represents feminism the best in their terms of inclusivity and coming together for a common cause,” Dickmann said.