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The Feminist Federation of South Bend is born

Organizers of the Feminist Federation of South Bend hosted a launch event in downtown South Bend. From left to right Karen DeCocker, April Lidinsky, Terri L. Russ, Jamie Smith (Preface photo/RYAN LOHMAN)

Organizers of the Feminist Federation of South Bend hosted a launch event in downtown South Bend. From left to right Karen DeCocker, April Lidinsky, Terri L. Russ, Jamie Smith (Preface photo/RYAN LOHMAN)

By: RYAN LOHMAN
Staff Writer

Four women in capes held a party Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Emporium Building in downtown South Bend to introduce a new federation of superheroes. What was their superpower? Feminism.

The superhero-themed event launched The Feminist Federation of South Bend. The caped crusaders, who included Professor April Lidinsky of IU South Bend and Professor Terri Russ of Saint Mary’s College, welcomed attendees to join the new federation, eat refreshments and brainstorm about what’s next for South Bend feminists.

“We want to rebrand feminism in our community and show that it can be for men and all gender identities,” said Lidinsky, who also wore a pair of shiny red boots.

She said the goal of the federation is to connect campus and community.

“We want to show up places and support people who do things to promote equality,” Lidinsky said.

Lidinsky said the federation sprung from her collaboration with Terri Russ, a professor of mass communication at Saint Mary’s, when Russ auditioned for the Michiana Monologues, a stage production at IUSB featuring stories written and performed by local women.

“Dr. Russ and I began a conversation about having the campuses more connected. But we also wanted something broader – campus and community. Then we really did say at the same time, ‘A feminist federation of South Bend!’ and, ta-da: FFSB was born.”

According to the group’s Facebook page, they are a community-campus coalition of people committed to feminist ideals of social, economic and political equality for all. The group’s mission statement ends with, “We believe activism is fun!”

And the mood was lively, with a diverse crowd of about 30 people in attendance at Saturday’s event.

Most participated in the few activities available to break the ice. Pictures were taken of attendees holding signs that read, “This is what a feminist looks like,” and markers were passed out for members to jot down ideas for events on paper taped to a wall. In keeping with the superhero theme, organizers gave instructions on how to make your own cape.

IUSB was well-represented at the launch. Rhonda Redman, an IUSB sophomore, heard about the event at a meeting for the Michiana Monologues.

“I love the name,” she said, “I’m really excited about what this group could do.”

Lori Hicks, an IUSB grad student of English and creative writing, also attended the event.

“I believe that feminism is something everybody should get behind, whether you’re a man, woman or somewhere in between,” Hicks said.

Now that the federation has launched, they plan on making a bigger impression with their next gathering. Organizers passed out flyers for the One Billion Rising for Justice campaign, a worldwide organization formed to raise awareness of violence against women. Those involved locally have organized a demonstration that will take place Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 12:15 p.m. under the marquee of the State Theatre in downtown South Bend. There, participants will dance as a flash mob to the song “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.

According to organizers, future events will depend on the level of community involvement.

“We want to become a fixture in the community,” Russ said. “We want to get to the point where we have an office, and we want to see other communities take our model as an example of what they could do.”

For more info on the federation or flash mob, visit www.facebook.com/feministfederationofsouthbend.

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