Franciscan feminism: women and men join together to overcome sexism, remain pro-life


Last semester, Rebecca Bratten-Weiss, Franciscan University English professor, gave a talk on the Catholic perspective of feminism. Not only did her presentation serve to educate the student body, but it also started a discussion on campus about feminism and its spot at Franciscan and in the Catholic community. Now, this dialogue is something that Franciscan Feminists, a new club on campus, is trying to spread.

“When I arrived at Franciscan I was like any other student: scared, excited but, nonetheless, holding a set of fairly reasonable expectations for what my life at Franciscan would hold,” said Izzy Farineau, founder and president of Franciscan Feminists. “As I began to reconcile the expectations with the reality, I realized that for one reason or another, Franciscan University in many ways seemed to hold and practice a set of sexist attitudes and problematic ideas about men and women. I found this not just troubling but motivating. Rather than give up, I reached out to God in prayer and asked him to confirm for me that there was work to be done.”

Farineau’s group is open to everyone on campus, including men. The group meets to discuss issues regarding campus as well as the general issue of feminism. The purpose of this is to brainstorm ways to find a solution.

“(Franciscan Feminists) wants to overcome the oppression that threatens the dignity of the person and work towards equality, all while upholding the teachings of the church, and remaining uncompromising on pro-life issues,” Farineau said. “For most students, feminism is a dirty word. Most associate it with radical bra-burning or merely equate it with the pro-choice movement.”

She continued, “Feminism existed long before these and has endured through them. Feminism is not a movement but a series of movements bound together by a common message: It is of the utmost importance to both sexes to overcome sexism, exploitation and the subjugation of women.”

When Bratten-Weiss offered her talk, she spoke of four different waves of feminism that fought battles from political struggles in suffrage to social equality and gender roles. Ultimately, feminism comes down to grappling with the feminine image in society.

“I think one of the larger weaknesses of some later and more isolated movements within feminism has been to make men feel alienated for the sake of uplifting women,” Farineau said. “In reality, misandry has done more to hurt the cooperation between the sexes than to help it and I won’t allow it to be part of this club.”

Farinaeu said, “Dialogue is very important if we want men to understand how, as the sex with the current social ‘upper-hand,’ they themselves have a special call to advocate for the recognition and elimination of sexism when they encounter it, to advocate for the integration of the sexes where they remain subservient or unfairly stratified and to stand up for life issues at all times. This is the mission of both sexes, so I want both sexes talking about it in my club.”

The group believes that a Franciscan Feminist is not only a woman standing for her rights, but also men, students and staff standing alongside the feminist issue in the Franciscan and in the global community.

“At bare minimum I hope this club sparks on-campus discussion on women’s issues like sexism, violence and how important it is for the pro-life movement to fully embrace those issues,” Farineau said. “What I really want, however, is to begin a tradition that will endure long after my class graduates, something that continues to improve the relationship and cooperation between the sexes here at Franciscan.”

She continued, “I want something that lets women and men know that their objections and opinions are being heard and can spark into action. I want women to feel empowered, and I want men to value their role in helping achieve this. I want people to stop seeing feminism as a dirty word and appreciate how needed it is today, in the church, on this campus and especially in countries where women’s lives (are) much more difficult than our own.”

Franciscan Feminists meets every Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Tower Room of the J.C. Williams Center to offer a weekly respectful space to talk about women’s issues.

Franciscan Feminists is sponsored by Students for a Fair Society.