Here are some faces in which the future of feminism is reflected: those of young, queer activists. At the recent winter meeting of Sociologists for Women in Society, an association of a thousand feminist sociologists, we recognized three of these bright young women, who received our Undergraduate Social Action award.
Tonhu “Alex” Dao is a student at the University of California, Davis, where she has been a leader in the Queer Student Union and APIQ (Asian Pacific Islander Queers). Davis is the campus where a police officer infamously pepper-sprayed student demonstrators. At a teach-in afterwards, Alex wowed professors in an impromptu speech, making connections between the campus’s unwelcoming climate for queers and people of color and the privatization of the university. Professor Maxine Craig writes, “Alex Dao puts into practice everything I have hoped to teach about feminist critical consciousness, about building political coalitions across differences, about the power of nonviolence and the importance [of] real democracy.” Working person to person, Alex ensures that marginalized voices are heard and that coalitions are built among disparate student groups.
Sarah “Izzy” Pellegrine, a student at Mississippi State University, began her activism at the only high school gay-straight alliance (GSA) in the state of Mississippi. As a high school senior, she co-founded the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSSC) and still serves on its Queer Youth Advisory Board. These experiences led Izzy to major in social work and sociology, in keeping with the mission of MSSC, which helps high school students fight for anti-bullying policies, hold queer proms and start GSAs–of which there are now four currently active in Mississippi.
Finally, Stephanie Bonvissuto is a student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she leads the Queer Student Center. She encourages discussion about how even marginalized people can marginalize one another, urging all of us to become aware and make changes. At the institutional level, Stephanie ensures that university administration is aware of queer and trans student issues, and that administration and students work together to keep building community.
If these three women are any indication, the future of feminism includes young women who are queer, informed by social science research and theory and committed to taking ongoing action.
Photo of awardees L-R: Maxine Craig accepting on behalf of Alex Dao, Stephanie Bonvissuto, Social Action Comittee chair Jeanne Flavin and Izzy Pellegrine. Image courtesty of Sociologists for Women in Society.