Making "Her" Campus "Their" Campus

As the new Editor-in-chief of Her Campus Utah, I’ve received the questions “why ‘Her’ Campus?” "Why not ‘Their’ Campus?” more than I had ever expected. Maybe I should have seen it coming. Maybe this an answer we should have rehearsed. Maybe this was a question my Gender Studies background demanded an answer to. After all, it is 2018, a wide range of gender identities and pronouns are being recognized and honored in university contexts and beyond. In fact, our university, the University of Utah, was ranked second in the nation for LGBTQ+ inclusivity this year. So…why is it Her Campus, and not Their Campus? The answer is simple: our founders.

In 2008 three young Harvard graduates named Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Annie Wang and Windsor Hanger Western made their dream a reality, and gave a voice to thousands of collegiate women--a voice that desperately needed to be heard. Her Campus, at its origination, catered to a need that wasn’t being met: a publication specifically for collegiate women. So, naturally “Her” Campus was born. But why is our history relevant? Why is that any reason to maintain our highly-gendered and somewhat exclusionary name, especially when all 340+ chapters welcome members/writers of all gender identities? Well, firstly, we maintain our name “Her Campus” to pay homage to the women (Lewis, Wang, & Western) who worked hard to build a worldwide organization that has empowered women, men, non-binary, gender-queer, and trans folk alike. Though I can’t speak for our founders, I am confident that their vision was not to exclude he, they or ze pronouns. Nor was it ever meant to exclude male, non-binary, or non-gender conforming writers, photographers, and videographers.

To make sense of this all, I like to think of Her Campus as having waves, similar to waves of feminism. Though second-wave feminism is sometimes considered problematic, and not effectively intersectional, it is still an important part of our history, one we can’t discount. Sure, Her Campus’ title is not necessarily inclusive, but what’s more important is the work that’s being done every day by over 12,000 contributors. We have editors publishing LGBTQ-friendly content by the hour. We are recruiting more male/trans/non-binary writers every school year. A new racially-inclusive or body-positive article is submitted every day. And we are slowly but surely replacing “boyfriend” with “significant other” in our article titles to welcome a readership of all different sexualities (gay, straight, asexual, pansexual, etc.).

What we all have to realize is that there’s always work to do in EVERY organization, EVERY business, and EVERY club. We should never feel content being stagnant. Sure, Her Campus could always be more inclusive (race-wise, sexuality-wise, gender-wise, and otherwise). But that doesn’t mean we aren’t making huge leaps every day, month, and year. Our name “Her” Campus certainly does not suggest that this is a women-only organization. A great example of magazines with gender-exclusive titles that can still be inclusive in their mission is Ms. Magazine. Ms. Magazine is an American-liberal feminist publication that was also originally created with women's interests in mind. So yes, it is possible to transform the image of Her Campus while still honoring the tradition and vision of our original founders.

We welcome writers of all racial backgrounds, gender identities, and sexualities to apply to Her Campus Utah this fall. For information, email [email protected] or fill out an application here

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