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BU Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team Feminism Campaign Goes Viral

Photo essay exemplifies the spirit of the sport

As the sun was setting during a late afternoon practice of the BU men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams last month, Teddy Kahn (CAS’17), vice president of the men’s team—the Ozone Pilots—and his fellow players stopped to watch their colleagues on the Lady Pilots team. The women were doing something out of the ordinary.

A stack of discs sat near them, waiting to be inscribed. The women got to work penning messages, then held their discs aloft as each of them was photographed for a campaign they had launched, titled “I Need Feminism Because…” The campaign, which Lady Pilot cocaptain Jacki Salustro (COM’17) says was created after some players were feeling disappointed and fearful following the presidential election, is designed to draw attention to the need for gender equity.

After the election, says Salustro, “I remember thinking, wow, we haven’t come as far as I thought. We’re in this college bubble where you think that everyone is open-minded and that we’ve come so far in how we see things and see people.”

When the men realized what the women were doing, they decided to join the photo campaign. Soon, photos of both male and female players with their inscribed Frisbees were posted on the women’s team’s Facebook page.

The campaign was suggested by rookie Apryl Hsu (CGS’17) in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s election loss. It was “seeing the lack of morale among women,” Hsu says, “especially the women on our team who are so passionate about feminism and equality,” that made her bring the idea to the captains.

They immediately put it into action, and nearly all the members of both teams volunteered to participate in the campaign. This show of unity wasn’t surprising to Hsu, who says that when she joined the team, she “felt so welcomed. There’s no sense of community like there is in the ultimate community. It was amazing. I joined the team, and it was like I had known everyone for years.”

That feeling of family extends to the Ultimate Frisbee community worldwide. It prides itself on a tenet called the “Spirit of the Game,” which says competitive play should never supersede mutual respect and sportsmanship. The sport is also in the middle of a push for gender equity in media coverage of the sport’s professional leagues, creating a climate Salustro says was ripe for a campaign like that of the Lady Pilots.

“As ultimate is stepping into the limelight as a sport on ESPN, everyone wanted to make sure that women got equal coverage,” she says. The BU campaign “was in line with that initiative, so professional teams and really big figureheads in the ultimate community were sharing it and contacting us.” Among those figureheads are members of the board of directors of USA Ultimate, the US governing body for the sport.

The Lady Pilots’ campaign has resonated beyond BU, both nationally and globally. To date, Ultimate Frisbee teams at Duke University, the University at Albany, SUNY, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa have joined in the effort. Even crosstown rival Northeastern has gotten involved. At the Huskies’ request, the two women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams were photographed after a recent scrimmage with a sign reading, “We need Feminism because Gender Equality is the Ultimate Goal.”

Since the photos were posted in mid-November, the photo album has gone viral, garnering over 4,500 shares and more than 4,000 likes.

“We were so excited to see them take off with it and start the conversation there,” Salustro says.

“We definitely did not expect that much noise to be made about this,” says Hsu. “We’re a catalyst for conversation. We’re putting this idea out there, and we want people to keep going with it.”

The messages by the BU women and men emphasize the importance of feminism both politically and personally. Hsu’s Frisbee says, “I need feminism because we have yet to have a woman president.” From Elizabeth Hannigan (CAS’18): “I need feminism because sexual assault occurs on campuses without serious consequences.” Other messages: “…because emotion should be seen as strength,” “…because it’s easy to ignore sexism when it’s in your favor,” and “…because no one can limit me in what I am capable of.”

“What’s great about the project is that every single disc that we wrote was superpersonal,” Kahn says. “It was whatever each individual wanted to write.” His disc reads: “I need feminism because I want to be respected as a male nurse practitioner.”

“I’m currently a biology student, but I’m in the process of applying to grad school for a nursing degree. I’m really excited about the prospect of it,” he says. “Nursing is still a largely female-dominated field, and it carries some negative connotations for men. It’s a really awesome job that I’m looking forward to taking part in.”

Kahn says he’s honored to have been part of the campaign, but he stresses that it was the women’s team that started it, and “they deserve all the credit. It’s been amazing to see how far it’s spread.”

The women’s team members are pleased by their campaign’s outside reception, but what they find particularly gratifying is the cooperation from their BU male colleagues.

“It has definitely brought our teams a lot closer together,” says cocaptain Annika Chan (SAR’18). “We’ve been able to open up the conversation and actually talk about the issues that have been going on. We’re the future of America, and it’s brought us closer as a family.”

View the “I Need Feminism Because…” Facebook album here. Both the men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams resume competitive play spring semester.

Taylor Raglin can be reached at traglin@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on BU Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team Feminism Campaign Goes Viral

  • Richard on 12.14.2016 at 12:40 pm

    Equal Pay Act of 1963

    • Nick on 12.14.2016 at 5:37 pm

      Ahhhh gotta love the vague factoidist. Comes wandering in to throw down what they think is some sort of shutdown comment, the grand silencer, the comment to end all comments.

      Often (and is no exception in this case) fails to understand that their comment lacks substance. So let’s provide it:

      The Equal Pay act has no bearing on the treatment of women within social, political, domestic, religious, grammatical, any other sphere outside of the economic one. And even then, because salaries are usually closeted information, there’s not really much enforcing this law outside of an honor system. And don’t go screaming about the law, because if bias causes someone to be passed over for a job or a raise or promotion or what have you, all the Equal Whatever acts in the world don’t mean a thing. Feminism (and ideally intersectional feminism) seeks to combat the biases that keep them from being ineffective.

      Try harder, Richard.

  • Anonymoustoo on 12.20.2016 at 12:02 pm

    So proud of our students! Don’t be afraid of the F word, it will save you!

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