By Erin Delmore
“I think all the divisiveness today in our society creates interest and activism,” said Summit resident Elinor Redington.
“When I first started teaching here four or five years ago, there seemed to be an apathy for some of these issues. But today I see students becoming more involved and more interested and as a result, becoming more active in it, which is exciting,” Seton Hall Adjunct Faculty for the Department of Religion Michael Oliver, Ph.D said.
Oliver presented during the conference, which drew full classrooms on an otherwise quiet Friday on campus. Students said they didn’t just come for the extra credit. To young and old, students and professionals, women and men, we asked who has a role in this movement?
“By looking at the responsibility that men have to women and that women have to men and how we as a society can come together as both sexes to address issues that are prevalent and how they affect our lives, you know. Having both sides there to listen and participate helps a lot. You know, one side can’t solve issues that both sides are facing. You need participation from each side to address the issues that we’re facing,” freshman Loves Bond said.
Junior Emily Betz said, “I think it’s up to particularly our generation right now. We’re going to be the ones who are making a difference in the next step for gender equality because obviously we haven’t gotten to that equal state yet. But I think that’s why it’s so important for people our age to study it in school and stuff like that because we’re going to be the ones making a difference.”
“Men have a role to play in that because the tables have been tipped one way for the longest time so it would actually take a lot of cooperation from both male and female for the tables to be equalized,” senior Miguel Dejesus said.
That’s the basis of a popular social justice campaign that’s taken hold with celebrities and college students.
“I’m a big fan of Emma Watson and she has this huge push for He for She. Part of her big thing is bringing men into the conversation for women equality. So I always found that really moving that she’s trying to bring this other half of the population into it because it is a fight for both sides, I think,” said Betz.
And for an older generation: reflections of a bygone era.
“I dragged some of my kids to the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] demonstrations actually in Somerville because we lived in Somerset County, and they still remember that, saying, “Mom…” and now I’m doing it again. I’m in front of [Congressman] Lance’s office in Westfield demonstrating for human rights and the refugee and immigration and the Affordable Care Act. So I think it’s very important that we’re all out there,” Redington said.
That sense of political activism is driving first-time voters — and even first-time candidates — to the ballot this year as New Jersey holds elections for local and statewide offices.