Interview: The founders of campus movement Redefine Mine

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Michael Drummond/File

With the ongoing fight against sexual assault occurring on college campuses across the nation, including  right here at UC Berkeley, three UC Berkeley women have established the movement Redefine Mine in an effort to challenge the dominant notions of gender identity that perpetuate rape culture, as well as Eurocentric stereotypes of beauty. On Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Wurster Hall, Redefine Mine will ask participants to dress in black and either write across their bodies or hold a sign with a particular quote they find empowering. The three founders — Holly Wertman, Thanh Mai-Bercher and Kat Furman — spoke to The Daily Californian about the movement, its history and future, and what it means to them.

The Daily Californian: For those who haven’t heard of the movement, what is Redefine Mine, and what does it mean?

Holly Wertman: Redefine Mine is a movement to reclaim and define the space that we take up for ourselves, rejecting outside perceptions and judgment. We organize photo shoots and a walk for empowerment, where participants can choose quotes or sayings that they want to represent them and restructure the lens through which they are viewed. These pictures and actions are platforms through which people can empower themselves in the face of public expectations of who they should be and how they should act.

Thanh Mai-Bercher: Redefine Mine is an opportunity for individuals to reclaim their bodies and uplift their voices. When you pass through spaces, you are often judged and met with assumptions about different aspects of your identity based on a variety of things — your ethnicity, how you dress and how it all relates to your gender performance. We want people to be able to display themselves in their own words — on signs, on their bodies — and, in a powerful sense, to show others what they may not immediately think of when they see you. We hope to challenge sexism, street harassment, beauty standards and colorism, assault and faulty notions of consent, and a host of other issues that affect marginalized groups.

DC: What inspired or moved you to start Redefine Mine, and how did you go about establishing it?

Kat Furman: In high school, I participated in a demonstration called SlutWalk in Venice Beach. SlutWalk is an anti-slut-shaming rally that originated in Toronto in 2011 that has since gone international. It was an experience that made me realize that so many women are limited just because they are women. And then on top of that, we have to deal with being further limited because of the judgments of others — the way we dress, what we choose to do with our bodies and how we choose to exercise a freedom that doesn’t truly exist. I started college and saw that oppression and sexism didn’t stop there. One in three women at UC Berkeley will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. I get cat-called almost every time I walk home alone late at night. I go to parties where women are told to not put down their drinks, not to get too drunk, not to wear too short a dress. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to create change. So I enlisted the help of those who shared my passion, fought my fight — and together, we created Redefine Mine. It is more than just a space to fight sexual assault or combat sexism; it is a malleable and ongoing fight to reclaim, redefine and revolutionize all that limits you.  

DC: What has been the public response to Redefine Mine?

HW: Last year, the movement gained a lot of traction and reached more people than we ever thought possible. People really appreciated the opportunity to empower themselves, create their own message and define their own space. We had people messaging us saying that this movement deeply affected them, allowed them to connect with like-minded individuals and helped them feel ownership over their own bodies. We even had students around the country asking us to help establish the movement at their respective schools. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and has made it clear that when you encourage people to challenge the forces that constrict them, it empowers us all.

DC: What can individuals who want to get involved with Redefine Mine do?

TMB: People can get more involved by contributing to Redefine Mine as a movement that starts with individuals and their communities. When people talk about feminism, they often only have one idea in mind, and we want to expand this by sharing information with people who may not think it’s applicable to them. Start conversations, share articles, pay attention to intersectional issues. Sharing unique quotes and photos from the event will hopefully expose people to other issues that they may not see as relating to themselves — such as challenges faced by women of color and trans individuals — and bring these discussions to their communities.

DC: What do you envision for Redefine Mine going forward? Is it branching out to other colleges?
KF: I envision Redefine Mine continuing long after we all graduate from Cal. I hope that it will leave a legacy not only of the event but of a culture of feminism, equality, empowerment and respect. Right now, we are focusing on getting our voices heard at UC Berkeley, expanding the movement, reaching out to those who haven’t heard about it or who have yet to realize the extent of the issues being faced. Ultimately, in the next few years, I would love to see #RedefineMine move past my Berkeley circle. I hope to see yellow walls and messages of empowerment flood my newsfeed from across the nation and beyond. I hope that people everywhere will use social media as a catalyst for change, spreading the hashtag “RedefineMine” along with messages of what they fight for, why they matter and why they deserve respect, equality and a space to call their own. But I am only one voice, and we represent only a small fraction of the issues that can be addressed by this movement. This movement is greater than me; greater than my collaborators, Holly and Thanh; greater than the student body at Cal. Slut-shaming, rape culture, sexism and inequality are global issues. We will take these issues one at a time, but every body counts, every voice is heard, every fight matters.

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