Campus / News / April 20, 2011

Feminist discussion at the dinner table

College enrollment, why things get labeled as “feminine” and pink nail polishes were just a few of the things discussed at Knox’s Feminist Dinner Table. Started by Lisa Knisely, lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies, the table serves as a weekly place for students and faculty alike to gather and discuss feminist issues.

However, one encounter with the table, which meets once a week, will lead to discussion on a range of topics much broader than the traditional definition of “feminism.”

“In a lot of ways, I think this table is just a way to have a conversation,” Maria Filieppoene, who works for Admissions and attended the table, said.

Over the course of an hour, she was proven right. The table started off discussing a recent incident in which a J-Crew ad showed a six-year old son of one of the creative directors wearing pink nail polish.

“They’re calling it an attack on masculinity,” admissions counselor Julia Ricciardi, another attendee, said, a statement that led to further discussion over the large outcry the media displayed in response to the event.

“Why do you need to be frightened over something so silly?” freshman Christopher Poore said.

The question of why such an incident raised so much furor and what caused something to be defined as masculine or feminine was one the table continued to refer to throughout the evening. In between, however, they jumped between discussions of black bean burgers and fashion in France during the French revolution. With a combination of student and faculty attendees, a wealth of random knowledge was dropped into the conversation, with historical examples and fashion trends being cited and discussed as often as modern feminist writers or news pieces.

After only a few weeks, the table already had some repeat attendees, but there were new faces as well.

“I wanted to learn more because it wasn’t until Knox that I started realizing I had feminist views,” freshman Jessica Weller said, explaining why she chose to attend Feminist Dinner Table. “I didn’t want to admit I was feminist because of all the negative stuff that goes with it.”

The table was not hesitant to recruit further, enticing more attendees from those who happened to be passing by.

“I heard about you guys through the grapevine,” senior Noel Sherrard said, joining in the conversation after some brief hounding from those already seated.

There was also a brief but heated discussion of attendees’ favorite dead women, with answers ranging from Pocahontas to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Knisely also recounted memories of attending a reproductive rights conference and meeting a woman who had been in jail as a result of activities with the Weather Underground, a group that originally targeted only property for its attacks. This, in turn, led the discussion to feminism and architecture.

“Do we sort of live in architecture that is dominated by male perspective?” Ricciardi said.

It was these types of tangents and sporadic discussion style that made up Feminist Dinner Table. Scattered in with serious topics of conversation were jokes and teasing that made a friendly, open place for discourse.

Feminist Dinner Table is held Monday nights from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Oak Room.

Katy Sutcliffe

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