Sophia O'Keefe / Mustang News

Sophia O’Keefe is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News photographer. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Women’s rights issues have been prevalent for centuries, but recently the world has seen a surge in feminist movements. Individuals and activist groups fight for these rights while empowering the female-identifying people of the world. I was interested to hear from women of Cal Poly about their views and feelings on this subject and what being a woman means to them.

I met with three different women in places they felt the most comfortable. I snapped photos of them at their most candid, natural moments and asked them all the same three questions. They answered whichever ones they felt compelled to, each in their own way.

Agricultural communications senior Holly Ann Wilson at the stables with her horse Getta.

What does it mean to be a woman to you?

“When I was younger, I played with dinosaurs instead of Barbies, I rolled around in the dirt and ruined my favorite clothes instead of having tea parties, I ran up and down the house singing ACDC and Johnny Cash and never did I think twice about it. I have never fit into the conventional feminine mold and I feel like there are a lot of other women who feel the same

Sophia O’Keefe / Mustang News
Sophia O’Keefe / Mustang News

way. We feel best and at our strongest in our element, in whatever environment makes us happiest. For me, that place is the saddle. I feel best in a pair of dirty jeans with a big-bottomed horse and my hair a mess. This type of woman is strong, assertive and independent and yet supportive and forgiving. I strive to be like her every day.”

What do you hope to see in the future regarding women’s rights?

“Women have been constantly pushing the boundaries and breaking through the glass ceiling long before my time. My goal, as a woman and a contributor to society, is to continue persevering. Women are equipped with all of the tools necessary to be competitive, but it is up to us to use them.”

Political science freshman Rosa Elena Lopez at the Arboretum on campus.

What does it mean to be a woman to you?

“To me, being a woman means challenging the notion that we can be categorized or put into a box. It involves recognizing the complexity that comes with the label ‘woman.’ People are dynamic and complicated and women are no exception. But I have to say the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word ‘woman’ is ‘trailblazer.’”

Sophia O’Keefe / Mustang News
Sophia O’Keefe / Mustang News

What do you hope to see in the future regarding women’s rights?

“Despite the tremendous progress made, women worldwide still face violence, discrimination and institutional barriers. In the future, I hope we will have improved access to education for women worldwide, have bridged the wage gap and put an end to trafficking — both labor and sex slavery — and reformed laws and polices that are detrimental to the rights of women.”

Graphic communication junior Sheila Ahi at the library.

What does it mean to be a woman to you?

“It’s hard to pin down all women to one sort of trait or attribute and I think that’s the point. To me, being a woman means staying dynamic. Not in the energetic, aggressive sense, but more like constantly changing. Women have these unrealistic expectations placed on them of having to fit into the box of how our society views females, but what truly makes a woman is challenging that idea. Playing with the barriers of that box in our own unique ways, just by simply being ourselves.
“Nothing makes you more or less of a woman. You become a woman when you start accepting yourself for who you are — with your strengths and faults — while not trying to fit into a mold.”
How have recent events regarding women’s rights (new presidency, women’s marches, etc.) affected your feelings towards this subject/these issues?

Sophia O’Keefe / Mustang News
Sophia O’Keefe / Mustang News

“Women are woke! It makes me so happy to see this wave of women speak up about being able to have freedom in their own lives. It raises a lot of perspective shifts, whether it be in a court of law or over the dinner table. I have friends who might not agree with personal choices of one another, but all across the board they fundamentally believe that each woman should have the right to choose — whether it be over their education, career, lifestyle or their own bodies.
“Women across the the country are standing up for themselves, trying to get politicians to understand that they need to be properly represented in the government, too. As long as intersectionality is addressed with this activism, I think it will have a huge, positive impact on the future. Laws are impactful and if there are false facts or personal beliefs in the way, a lot of women will suffer at the hands of incomprehension.”

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