During Women’s History Month, The College Today will take a look back at the women who led — and are leading — the College of Charleston to the place it is in 2017 and will be in years to come. Today, we highlight two new women’s rights groups on campus.
It may come as a surprise, but there has never been a women’s rights student group at the College of Charleston, at least not in the current era. But that’s about to change in a big way.
Recently, two new student groups focused on emphasizing important issues and raising awareness about gender fairness and equality have been established at the College. One group is calling itself The Majority, and the other is the new campus chapter of the nationwide organization One Love. And they’re both getting up and running just in time for Women’s History Month.
Charlotte Carulli, a senior double majoring in political science and women’s and gender studies, is one of the principal organizers behind The Majority.
“Recent events, not just in the U.S., but globally, are indicative of a huge amount of backsliding on important issues for women,” Carulli says. “For example, in our country, there’s the constant series of attacks on Planned Parenthood. And in Russia, there’s a growing movement to decriminalize domestic violence. Our members regard both of those as regressive and symptomatic of a trend in the wrong direction. So we decided to form a group that can help turn society in what we feel is a better direction.”
Carulli says the group named itself The Majority because roughly 64 percent of the College’s students are women.
“Often, that’s perceived as a negative but we feel that it’s actually a positive situation,” she says. “For us, it’s empowering that we are a college full of women, and we think that everyone should be proud of that.”
Carulli and her fellow organizers working to make The Majority an officially recognized student group at the College — a process that could take several more weeks. In the interim, the group’s members are putting together ideas for a series of events and activities that will help promote awareness about their cause.
“Once we become a recognized group, we plan on dividing up into specific committees to begin organizing events that will raise awareness about the group and the goals that we’re focused on,” she says. “We want The Majority to offer advocacy for these issues, but also want it to be a fun learning experience for anyone who chooses to participate.”
That includes men, she says.
“We’ve already got three male members,” says Carulli. “We want to make sure that everyone knows this is an inclusive group. It’s not just for women or feminists, it’s for anyone who cares about these issues. Although we are a women’s group, we want to focus on the issues that a lot of groups face; men, people of color, gay individuals, transgender people and all of that. We aspire to be an intersectional feminist group that focuses not only on the rights of straight white women, but on the rights of all individuals. We’ve actually succeeded in recruiting a lot of students who we didn’t think would be interested, but they are.”
At roughly the same time The Majority was forming, first-year students Annie Mineri and Kate Cockerham were establishing a College of Charleston chapter of One Love. This organization helps young people understand, recognize and advocate against relationship violence. One Love was founded by the mother and sister of Yeardly Love, a senior at the University of Virginia who was beaten to death by an ex-boyfriend in 2007.
“We were both enrolled in Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies last semester and consequently attended The Escalation Workshop, which is a film-based training put on by One Love that offers education about relationship violence,” says Cockerham. “After participating in that, we decided it was important to start a One Love group at the College. Now, we’re both interns with the organization and have conducted workshops of our own.”
Mineri adds, “We both experienced forms of relationship violence in high school, so we were looking for an organization like this to exist at the College.”
Both Mineri and Cockerham, who have named their group Team One Love at CofC, are keen to explain that relationship violence isn’t limited to women.
“Statistics tell us that one in three women and one in four men will experience relationship violence in their lifetimes,” Cockerham explains. “And it’s not always physical. It can take the form of emotional abuse as well. It’s a pretty broad area, and it applies to all relationships equally, not just heterosexual ones.”
Understanding how to recognize relationship violence is one of the key teachings of One Love.
“Most of the time, relationship violence doesn’t rise to the level of assault,” says Cockerham. “Much of it is emotional or verbal abuse that doesn’t get reported.”
Both Mineri and Cockerham point out that One Love provides awareness and education that can lead to the prevention of relationship violence.
“We’re not trained to counsel anyone,” says Mineri, “but we can steer them toward resources such as the College’s Office of Counseling and Substance Abuse Services or the Office of Victims’ Services.”
Mineri and Cockerham hope to spread the word about One Love at the College by speaking to classes and orchestrating awareness events.
The first of those will take place on One Love’s giving day on May 3, the anniversary of Yeardly Love’s death.