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The Blue & Gray Press | November 20, 2017

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Local Wants NOW at MW

By SARAH SMITH

“I’m not a feminist,” is the response that Diana Egozcue frequently receives when she asks young women to state their views on feminism.

This type of reaction reveals the current generation’s desire to distance itself from previous generations’ feminism. It is also the reason that Egozcue, president of the Fredericksburg chapter of the National Organization for Women, wants to start a UMW branch of the 42-year-old feminist advocacy group whose mission is to eliminate sexism and gender discrimination.

The school’s policy states that student invitation is required in order to form a student interest group, according to Assistant Vice President for Public Safety and Community Services Susan Knick. Egozcue therefore cannot initiate a UMW branch of her own accord.

“It has been very hard getting on the campus. We’ve been told that the students have to ask us to come,” Egozcue said, adding, “I would love to talk about equal rights on campus.”

Sophomore Melissa Patterson thinks that a UMW partnership with an organization such as NOW would be an asset for the students. Currently enrolled in a Women’s Studies course, she supports overall expanded understanding of women’s rights issues.

So far, though, no one at UMW has taken up the cause. Egozcue found in surveys of young women that while most support movement toward equal pay between the sexes, few are willing to label themselves as feminists.

“Feminism has definitely become a dirty word,” Patterson said.

One current focus of the Fredericksburg chapter of NOW is getting the Equal Rights Amendment passed in Virginia. This legislation, which failed to pass in Congress in 1982, states that legal rights cannot be denied on the basis of sex.

“As far as starting a chapter [on campus], I know students have separate issues, but we’d love to learn about them,” Egozcue said.

Still, Egozcue considers this generational difference of opinion on the goals of feminism is a major obstacle for the movement.

“We want young women to pick up the gauntlet, and young women just don’t seem to be coming forward. It’s sometimes disheartening. They say, ‘You’re older—those aren’t our issues anymore,’” said Egozcue.

Patterson concurs that the goals and merits of feminism have changed over the years. Equal representation in education is no longer a struggle, as females are out-numbering males in higher education. Other women’s rights debates still continue, however.

“Equal pay and reproductive rights have made depressingly little progress,” Patterson said.

Whether these debates will fuel a student movement toward joining forces with the members of NOW, however, remains to be seen.