Featured UCLA Feminist: Lauren Pell
Photo by Pratyusha Javangula.
“In a society where so many people are treated unequally, a movement to bring equality to one group must by extension be a movement to bring equality to all groups. If feminism intends to raise up women, it must also intend to raise up those suffering from racial oppression, ableist oppression, transphobic oppression, and so on.”
Third year International Development Studies student Lauren Pell has “been a feminist for as long as [she] can remember, or at least certainly before [she] knew what feminism was.” Specifically, Lauren recalls an experience in elementary school where she distinctly felt like she was being treated unfairly because of her gender.
She explains, “I had gotten into a physical altercation with a male classmate, and rather than both of us being reprimanded for our behavior, the teacher told me it was my fault because ‘it wouldn’t be a fair fight, since boys can’t hit girls.’ When I went home, my mom chastised me and said ‘I can’t act like a boy all the time.’ My gut instinct told me something about the whole affair was just wrong.”
Feminism is a movement of many colors, body types, cultures, and progressive belief systems—Lauren believes this is a key strength of the movement. She explains, “It’s definitely a good thing that feminism is making the inextricable relationships between race, class, and gender the new bedrock of the movement.”
She also praises modern feminists for being more discerning about what kinds of ideologies are permissible within the community. According to her, this filtering process is paramount to fostering greater inclusion and eliminating one-dimensional schools of thought, like white feminism.
Nevertheless, Lauren admits that feminism, like any human rights movement, is not perfect. It will continue to require that its followers regularly cast a critical eye not only on society as it currently exists, but also on the movement as it currently exists. She says, “It’s a tough problem to manage, because on one hand we don’t want to exclude anyone, but on the other hand, with so many issues to tackle, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like we aren’t doing enough for all the people in the world suffering from global injustice.”
Going forward, she is optimistic about the future of feminism and the social and political goals it will accomplish in the future. She cites the rising popularity of gender-neutral bathrooms as an example.
“Ultimately, feminism is about agency and personal freedoms, and there is no better example that comes to mind than that of all-gender restrooms. It’s an issue that seems small, but speaks to much larger issues about what society tells us is and isn’t possible. People just want to be able to use a restroom without being harassed or sexualized – we should let them,” she exhorts.
Her personal contributions to feminism and human rights campaigns at large include her involvement in community service through the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity and her aspirations to join the Peace Corps after graduating from UCLA.
“Feminism has always been a part of my everyday, and will necessarily continue to be a part of my experience as a woman. I look forward to seeing how feminism and I grow together for the rest of my life.”