Natisha Chen is a senior nursing major at Drexel. She leads the Students Advocating Feminism and Equality organization in discussions on breaking barriers of adversity and creating equality for all races and sexes.
The Triangle: What’s your story? What brought you to Drexel?
Natisha Chen: I transferred to Drexel back in 2011 from Temple University. Now that I look back on it, Temple wasn’t really the best fit for me. I was attracted to Drexel due to the fast-paced courses and additional opportunities provided in a larger nursing student community. I also liked that there was a women’s studies department. At the time of my transfer, I knew that Temple was talking about getting rid of their women’s studies department due to budget cuts, and I was pretty upset by that.
TT: What is your role in Students Advocating Feminism and Equality?
NC: Right now in SAFE, I try my best to facilitate a place where people are free to discuss the ways patriarchal constructs are affecting their lives. It can be really frustrating to see the ways that [women] are limited because of a certain set of unspoken rules that society abides to. I call these unspoken rules “patriarchy.”
TT: Can you describe the organization? How did it get its start at Drexel?
NC: Our organization is a pretty informal group of men and women who discuss things they’ve seen, heard, read and felt and kind of brainstorm what constructs brought about our feelings. Patriarchal thinking informs a lot of our decisions and a lot of the decisions that others seem to make quite compulsively. It was started by a group of folks who really wanted to be able to vent through their frustrations and work toward eliminating them. We initially started a lot of discussion about sexual assault since, unfortunately, it’s pretty common on college campuses. In the most nonacademic way, we opened up a conversation that discussed something like party behaviors and how we normalize things that shouldn’t be so normal.
TT: What are some of the topics SAFE covers?
NC: We cover sexual assault, non-cookie-cutter sex, feminism — what it is and where it’s going, body positivism, music, current events, and most importantly, communication styles. A lot of the time we end up talking about race culture and the way that masculinity affects race culture as far as what a woman might wear and how they’re stricter about being slutty versus being appropriate. We talked about how when guys are at parties they talk about girls, and that might not be necessarily what everyone wants. It’s kind of like the party culture that’s out there that people wind up doing.
I think that a lot of what we try to do is explain what feminism is. It’s not a women’s movement; it’s more of a movement for everyone. I think that feminism kind of represents all of these things and that when you think about it from a woman’s perspective, that’s just one barrier. Feminism has a lot of factors, because what if you’re a woman? You’re going to feel all of these things that women are feeling, plus race. And I think race just adds to the point in that people perceive you and the things that you can do and how you can do them.
TT: What do you think students get out of the organization?
NC: With any sort of group, I think people like that they can have a discussion with like-minded people. And even if they’re not like-minded, they stop by to learn something new. Because patriarchy affects so many aspects of our lives, it can be overwhelming to tackle and easy to submit to complacency. So in some respect, I think there is comfort in knowing that people have your back should you feel beaten from the current state of things.
TT: Does SAFE have any goals for this year?
NC: As a new group, our current goal is facilitating communication between those who may not seem to share the same ideas as us. It can be really frustrating when someone makes unknowingly crude comments related to gender, sex, other races or people from other classes. So rather than speaking from a place of frustration, our goal is to speak from a place of peace and understanding. We attempt to acknowledge why people may feel differently from us and communicate in ways that speak to their way of thinking.
TT: What do you like the most about SAFE?
NC: What I like most is that it exists! A lot of people tend to not know what feminism is or don’t consider feminist thinking a priority. It’s nice to know that people think that feminism is relevant considering how patriarchy informs a great deal of the way we live our lives.
TT: What challenges do you face in your role in SAFE?
NC: I think the biggest challenge that I face is the challenge of being overwhelmed. I like that everyone in group offers a wide variety of perspectives, but that also makes it difficult to figure out what will be engaging and what will make the largest impact in sharing information. I’d say that one of our groups’ common frustrations is “street harassment.” We kind of examine the power dynamics of who gets harassed, who does the harassing, if there are specifications to time and place, and what bystanders can do to help.
TT: What are you involved with outside of SAFE?
NC: Outside, I’m a volunteer at Planned Parenthood. I’m a nursing student. I work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. What else do I do? I have a roommate and a cat. I’m very family oriented, I live next door to my grandparents, so I kind of just hang out with them because I’m their only grandchild.
TT: What’s your favorite thing to do in Philly?
NC: I’m a big foodie. I love going out for sushi. I’ve tried a lot of restaurants. I love going to Sabrina’s. I eat a lot in Chinatown. I really like Asian food and all sorts of funky ethnic cuisines.
TT: What’s something that people might not know about you?
NC: I’m training for a half marathon! I just started training this week. A lot of people don’t know that yet. There’s this new run, it’s called the Love Run, and it’s coming to Philly on March 30, so it should be pretty good.
Triangle Talks is a weekly column that highlights members of the Drexel community.