Girls just want to have fun[damental rights]

Camille Baker, features editor

For most, feminism embodies the belief that men and women should be equal. But to Colleen Lee, the term means something much bigger. Colleen, senior, said feminism is about striving for unity and equality among all genders.

“Feminism isn’t just about raising the status for women to be equal to men, it is about all genders,” Colleen said. “In the Constitution it said that all men are created equal. If we didn’t emphasize the subordinate groups, we would still be under that same reign [of only white men having authority].”

Colleen attended male feminist panels about the societal oppression of men and the concealment of their emotions. Last summer, she also attended a reproductive rights workshop and had the opportunity to work with Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood CEO, as well as Monica Simpson, founder of SisterSong, a reproductive justice movement for women of color. Colleen is also an active member of Teenage Advocates for Sexual Health (TASH), where she devotes time to advocate work to spread the word about safe sex. Colleen said she also plans on participating in a program where she will be trained to become a sex educator, or “sexpert.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Colleen said of the high STD rates in St. Louis. “In the [TASH] program, we learn about sex ed and what it should be, rather than what is taught in schools. That includes consent, sexual assault and LGBT sex ed.”

The idea of empowering women and spreading gender equality is a common belief in the Lee family, according to Christie Lee, Colleen’s mom. She said she supports Colleen’s beliefs of fair treatment for all as a Unitarian Universalist.

“A lot of [Colleen’s] upbringing has been making sure that people are being treated [equally], Christie said. “I would not say I’m super involved in what Colleen is doing, but I am super supportive. Her desire to be an advocate for others [makes me proud]. I would love for her to pursue her dreams [of activism] and go wherever the wind takes her. She inspires me. There [are] times in your life when you meet someone and know they are going to do something, and for [that] to be my own child, there really are no words.”

Along with Colleen, Nina Clark, Lafayette High School junior, is an active member of Eliot Unitarian Chapel. She said Colleen is incredibly involved in the church community. The two focus on educating their peers in youth group about gender equality, safe sex and feminism. Clark said they also spread their message to larger groups of people through social media.

“Colleen is a really supportive, open person [who] tries to uplift all people,” Nina said. “She tries to portray the message of feminism to anyone, no matter what they think of her. She wants to make the world better and doesn’t really care if that upsets other people.”

Colleen said she hopes to see a change in sexual education. She said she plans on attending the University of Missouri Columbia to pursue social work, and wants to continue to promote the ideas of feminism while educating others about safe sex.

“[Women] are struggling to even walk to their car without fear of being raped,” Colleen said. “That’s not OK. In order for the world to progress, you have to keep moving forward. Good sex education can help foster a better society and [then] we can focus on other issues like the pay gap, using proper pronouns and being more accepting.”