In a recent survey completed by HerCampus.com, a global online community for college women, 78.5 percent of respondents said that they would consider themselves to be feminists.
Her Campus surveyed 3,135 college women between the ages 17 and 23 from schools all across the United States, asking them a variety of questions related to feminism and other issues concerning women.
The average age of the women surveyed was 19.5 years old. Out of all the respondents, 55.1 percent attend a public college or university, 41.2 percent attend a private college or university and 3.2 percent attend a community college. Eleven percent of them are studying internationally.
According to the Her Campus website, they completed the survey “to understand (college women’s) take on feminism, women in politics, women in the workforce and all sorts of hot-button issues surrounding these themes.”
T.J. Boisseau, the director and associate professor of Purdue’s women’s, gender and sexuality studies program, said she was surprised that over 78 percent of the respondents identified themselves as feminists.
“My experience with college students, not only at Purdue but at other institutions as well, is that that is much higher a percentage than the students that I encounter who would identify as feminists,” Boisseau said. “But I was very happy to read it. I find it encouraging. It actually makes me want to look a little more closely into the question of how many students would identify as feminists in college, because it’s possible that I and my colleagues tend to underestimate how many students already identify as feminists.”
When asked if they believe all people are entitled to the same civil rights, liberties and opportunities regardless of their gender, 97.5 percent of the respondents said they do. Boisseau thinks that number is noticeably higher than the percentage who identify as feminists because the definition of feminism is “variable.”
“Depending on who you’re talking to, it might include more than just basic equality. I also think that there’s something about the word feminism ... that people in general often assume that feminists want women to have more rights or more power than men in society, which is kind of ridiculous,” said Boisseau. “... I also think that the reason that some people don’t identify as a feminist is because the term feminist suggests not just that you agree that men and women are equal and should enjoy equal rights, but that you are working to promote that idea. In other words, it implies a kind of activism and a commitment that expresses itself in activism.”
Boisseau said she thinks although feminism is “more central to our culture than it was 30 years ago” when she was in college, it is still not the norm.
“It’s still something I think most people have to seek out. It’s not something that comes to them in just our mainstream media and family culture or through schooling,” Boisseau said. “It is something that I think a lot of students encounter first in college and a lot of students don’t even encounter it in college unless they look for it.”
Boisseau believes that to further address and promote women’s issues, Purdue needs to provide its female students with a women’s resource center and a rape crisis center.
“We might be the only major university that I know of that does not have a women’s resource center,” she said. “... We (also) might be the only major university I know of that does not have a rape crisis center and relies solely on community and town facilities and services for that.”
To read more about the results of the survey, visit www.hercampus.com/life/hcs-feminism-campus-survey-2015.