On Tuesday, February 28, a large group of Sewanee students gathered in the Mary Sue Cushman Room of the Women’s Center (the “Wick”) to listen to Fleming Beaver (C’15), Aaron Browning (C’14), Will Copeland (C’14), Jewlz Davis (C’16), Cullen Mitchell (C’16), and Birpartap Singh (C’15) as they shared their thoughts on feminism. The FeMENism Pinnacle Luncheon, hosted to provide a variety of views on feminism, provoked thought and conversation for days to come.
“This event is so important because it sheds light on other views on campus,” Women’s Center resident Michelle Howell (C’14) says. “We could have filled the panel with every self-defined feminist male on this campus. But that would be ineffective. This panel offers a spectrum of views on gender, and we support that spectrum of views at the Wick. Feminism will not be successful without the voices of everyone. The Wick respects these voices and that’s why we included a variety of panelists.” After each guest at the event piled his or her plate with Natural Bridge catering, the seats filled quickly. Fleming Beaver stepped up to the podium with an introduction to the panel. “I’m Fleming, and I’m a feminist,” he said. Following these bold words was a speech with a broad but powerful description of feminism as he understands it. Afterward, he turned the microphone over to the five men on his left.
The second to speak was Cullen Mitchell, an openly gay student on Sewanee’s campus. With a humorous and audacious speech, Mitchell described his life at Sewanee as a male feminist with an entirely new perspective on how he views gender on the whole. “We live in a culture dominated by the pressure of masculinity,” he said. In conclusion, his philosophy was to view less of the “he” and “she” roles and more of the “we” of Sewanee: a diverse but cohesive community that strives for understanding.
Singh was third to speak, and his words revolved around the differences between women’s rights in the East and the West. “Women who live in third world countries… view the United States as a place where they can go and succeed in whatever it is they desire,” he said. With a speech reflective of the American Dream, Singh moved the crowd to consider the fortunes of the feminist movement in the United States.
Fourth, Aaron Browning provided a hilarious and engaging account of “relational failures,” then led his speech into the realm of Sewanee sex and relationships. “Yes, we have our biological differences… but let’s not let the exaggeration of our differences keep us from being empathetic, engaged, eager to understand,” he said. His personal and fluid account of experiences with women and “the dating game” was only a component of his overarching goal to express the importance of viewing each person as an individual. Will Copeland, who spoke next, had a unique story about his Sewanee experience. Though he is not a feminist, Copeland provided a fresh view of Sewanee as a place where each person can focus on the kind of person he or she wishes to become. His optimistic and refreshing speech, though not created to directly address feminism, was one-of-a-kind.
Finally, Jewlz Davis shared his incredibly inspiring views on the women and faith in his family. “God loves all of his children, and He loves them all equally,” he repeated after his father’s words. Davis, who is a feminist, pointed out the feminist movement’s strengths and weaknesses with care. His frustrations revolved around the hierarchy of feminism and the pressure to “fit the mold” of a typical feminist. Though critical, the speech did not miss his goal of being hopeful and encouraging toward the movement’s goals of equality and, ultimately, “family.”
The gathering ended with excited conversation and individuals waiting to shake the hands of the six men who spoke at the Women’s Center for the Pinnacle Luncheon.