PRINT: From Tampons to Town Hall Meetings

FAU NOW is making changes in the FAU community in big ways.


Group photo of FAU NOW. Photo courtesy of Alex Liscio.

Kendall Little, Managing Editor

Editor’s note: This story is in the UP’s latest issue that can be found digitally through our Issuu page.

At the end of the Fall 2020 semester, Joi Dean cleared the shelves at her local Target of any menstrual products it carried, but not for her own use.

After receiving quizzical looks from other shoppers and even the cashier, she drove her tampon and pad-stocked car to different charities in the area and donated all $800 worth of menstrual products.

This was only one of the events the FAU chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) held this semester. Some were less extravagant, such as hosting virtual meetings about activism or organizing two town hall meetings to discuss racial issues at FAU, but all brought a difference to the FAU community.

Chapter president Dean felt that FAU students typically operate in small, like-minded groups and she wanted to bring about a change.

“I really want to bring people together,” she said. “I want to bring in these people that might agree with feminism or might be a feminist and might not know it.”

NOW is full of accepting and diverse members, but Dean wanted to branch out and bring in people who wouldn’t ordinarily have conversations about feminism or other types of equality.

So Dean reached out to Sigma Chi Fraternity.

Together, the frat and the feminists volunteered at Boca Helping Hands, which is a non-profit that provides food, medical, and financial assistance to those who need it.

From general meetings every Tuesday that are open to all to special events and opportunities for bonding, NOW has an opportunity for every student to get involved.

Eshanie Whitehead, a freshman English major, says that she joined the organization because of how dedicated the members are to making a change.

“NOW goes above and beyond when it comes to educating, discussing, and advocating for change,” she said.

NOW is designed to inform the FAU community about topics like feminism, LGBTQ rights, and racial equality. Though the FAU chapter of NOW was founded in 2017, the national organization was founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan.

Friedan led the women’s rights campaign in the 1960s and even sparked the second wave of feminism with her 1963 book, “The Feminine Mystique.”

From petitions to protests, the founding members of the organization fought long and hard for their rights. 51 years later, the feminists of FAU brought NOW to the Boca Raton campus to continue the fight for true gender equality.

“We cover a wide range of topics and that really gets you to see the world for what it is,” NOW member Rafaela St. Juste said. “Knowledge is power and the more I went to NOW meetings, the more confident I became in talking about subjects.”

NOW isn’t just for informing, its members say. It’s also an inclusive group of people that help each other develop their views and beliefs.

Graphic by Michelle Rodriguez Gonzalez.

“It gives you the ability to see the world [through] different lenses and not be so narrow-minded. NOW has been a place where I have been able to express my feelings and be validated by other people. And that’s the most refreshing part,” she said.

Whitehead shared a similar sentiment.

“I love NOW because it’s inclusive without a catch – you’re free to be yourself with judgment or fear while learning leadership skills!” she said.

The chapter officers now hold weekly meetings over Zoom where everyone is encouraged to attend, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion.

In the meetings, topics like performative activism, civil disobedience, and women’s rights history are discussed by officers and members. The goal is to inform and inspire change within the community.

Before the pandemic, members of NOW would set up tables in the breezeway to share what they’ve learned with students that passed by — hopefully inspiring some to get involved with the organization or join the fight for equal rights.

The NOW officers have big plans for the rest of the Spring 2021 semester.

“Some of my goals for NOW this semester include continuing to advocate effectively and grow prosperously despite the pandemic keeping us separate for the most part!” Vice President Lillie Feller said.

Dean ensured that any upcoming events would be safe for members to attend.

“We’re trying to do kind of a hybrid model of some in-person things with some virtual things. For the in-person things, obviously we’re trying to be COVID-friendly and we’ll be masked and outdoors,” she said.

Joi Dean

Joi Dean. Photo courtesy of Jasmine Bridget.

Joined: 2017
Became President: 2018

Over the four-year course of her FAU academic career, Dean won the Student Executive Leader of the Year Award, spoke at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington D.C., and spoke on a National Public Radio (NPR) podcast.

“Getting in front of people and pretending like I know what’s going on was very much an act until it kind of started working,” she said.

Dean spoke about feminism on various panels, including three for Women’s Equality Day.

“It’s interesting to see the support for Women’s History Month, which is great, and it’s cool, but what are we going to do besides that? How are we going to make sure that women feel safe walking around campus at night? How are we going to make sure that we don’t promote a rape culture on campus?” she said.

Dean touched on the inconsistencies in support for women, even among women-led organizations.

“You’re posting about Women’s History Month, but then if a woman comes in that doesn’t look like you and think like you, or is gay, or is different than you, you look at them sideways,” she said. “If you’re going to fight for some women, you need to fight for all women, especially trans women.”

Lillie Feller

Lillie Feller. Photo courtesy of Alex Liscio.

Joined: 2019
Became VP: 2020

Feller is the first person of color in her family to pursue higher education and plans to be the first to attend graduate school as well.

“I never thought of going to college as an accomplishment until I joined NOW,” she said. “College is drilled into our heads as a norm, but so many people that look like me are becoming the first to have this opportunity, and that is an important thing to take note of.”

Feller has plenty to be proud of, including her identity as a woman of color.

“I spent a long time wishing I had an easier path to tread, but being a woman of color is a unique and wonderful gift. Our ancestors are the foundation of literally everything this world has amounted to,” she said.

To Feller, being a woman is more complex than it seems.

“To me being a woman has nothing to do with femininity; it has to do with finding strength in vulnerability, being unapologetic in your power, and continuing to enrich the world with light and love,” she said.

Feller believes that she is enriching the world through NOW.

“With NOW I’ve been able to learn so much about different inequalities and injustices that I can now share with other people in my life,” she said. “NOW has become an incredible platform of information that I am privileged to pass on to people in my life that are curious about how to get involved, how to effect change, and how to advocate for equality.”

Melinda Avila

Melinda Avila. Photo courtesy of Alex Liscio.

Joined: 2018
Became treasurer: 2020

Melinda Avila wants to become a teacher who advocates for marginalized students. Being part of NOW is one of the many steps to get her into a classroom.

Taking part in NOW allowed Avila to become a better ally for marginalized communities, a skill that she feels is valuable to have when going into the field of education.

“I am allowing myself to learn because I am a cis-gendered woman so I don’t know some of the struggles of non-gender-conforming people or the LGBTQ community. I get to learn different perspectives and different outlooks on life and I feel like I can be a better ally,” she said.

Other than being an ally, Avila reflected on some of her accomplishments as not only as a woman, but as a woman of color.

“I’m proud of my GPA and I’m happy that I got scholarship opportunities,” she said. “I think I underestimated my capabilities as a student.”

Avila shared that she is proud to be a woman, even though she experiences a fair share of subtle misogyny.

“I think being a woman is really living in your truth. As women, we are all multifaceted. To me it’s not so constricted in like femininity, like being masculine. It’s more like embracing your troubles and triumphs.”

Kendall Little is the Managing Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @klittlewrites.