The genuine.feminine club is a student-run organization at Ave Maria University. They were founded in 2009 as a means to explore “the essence of femininity and the practical implications of being a woman in modern society.” On Saturday, January 17, 2015, the group will host its fifth annual conference; this year, the topic is “Women and Art.”
Above: The 2015 conference organizers, clockwise from top left: Angela Winkels, Audrey Ortiz, Alexis Stypa, Genevieve McNalis, Catie Crnkovich, Elise McMahon, Kristen Liffrig, Emily Swope.
There are eight young women involved in organizing this year’s conference. When asked why she got involved with the club, Angela Winkels, Conference Coordinator and a senior double majoring in Classics and Literature, replied: “I remember being a little opposed to the group at the beginning, afraid that it was only encouraging women to be conventional and to fit gender stereotypes. But I was good friends with all of the founding members, and I remember Eileen Gallagher [the founding Conference Coordinator] sat me down and said: ‘Look at the women that genuine.feminine produces. What do you think of them?’ They were all hardworking, motivated and intelligent individuals; they were exactly the type of woman I wanted to be. That was the most convincing argument.”
“I wanted to get to know the girls running the conference better,” Alexis Stypa joined in. Miss Stypa is a junior majoring in Humanities and minoring in Mathematics. She is applying to graduate school for architecture and is genuine.feminine’s Web Content Manager and Design Coordinator. “I love designing flyers,” Miss Stypa continued. “I spent a lot of Christmas break last year working on the exhibit of ‘Women in Politics,’ and I loved it. I realized I wanted to go into design. The skills that I’ve gained from working on the conference are skills that I’ll need to have as an architect.”
“I had the same kind of reservations as Angela did at first,” offered Emily Swope, who is a junior Music major. “But like Alexis, I was attracted by the fact that the women already in it had their act together. They seemed to be disciplined and involved, but at the same time kind of genuine and…feminine.” She paused, clearly using those two adjectives in earnest. “What I value most about my position as Speaker Coordinator this year is that I get to hear life stories from all of these artists whom I admire and look to as an example. I constantly ask myself questions like: What do I bring as an artist to those around me? Do I have something as a woman that makes me different from a male artist? I think this conference will help me and other women who are artistic and aspiring to be artists.”
Above: Conference organizers past and present: Mary Hardy (‘13), Angela Winkels ('15), and Sophie Pakaluk ('14).
Kristen Liffrig, a junior Humanities major, recalls attending the conference her freshman year at Ave Maria: “I was really impressed, particularly by the young women who organized it. I wanted to be a part of it, and I figured that joining the board would be the best way to do that.” Being involved with genuine.feminine, Miss Liffrig continued, “has allowed me to form stronger relationships with some wonderful ladies and has really challenged me to think about how I can be more authentically feminine.” Miss Liffrig intends to go to law school and then work for the Church.
“The mission,” Miss Swope explained, “is to bring women together, especially those who have not started on their path after college, and to promote discussion about what it is to be a woman and how that’s going to effect every aspect of your life, whether you are career-oriented, or want to be a mom, or both. It’s so helpful to have the community and support to ask questions. And we have great role models to advise us, like Julie Cosden, Erin van de Voorde, Elizabeth Kirk, Mary Curtright, and Dr. Catherine Pakaluk.”
“Genuine.feminine has a lot of examples,” Miss Stypa responded, “of women who have managed to have a career and be a stay-at-home mom. They have given themselves to their family and to their work and not compromised anything. There isn’t really any other formal conference that deals with these sorts of things.”
“I think genuine.feminine is meant to be an outlet or a space in which an open discussion about women can be pursued,” said freshman Catie Crnkovich. “We don’t define ourselves as being conservative or liberal, feminist or anti-feminist, or even Catholic or non-Catholic. We just want to explore the strengths and weaknesses of women in the world and hear what experts in the field have to say. I think genuine.feminine’s mission is to open up a space for that kind of discussion to occur and then to fill it with high-quality information and ideas as a gift to those who are curious about them.”
Above: A genuine.feminine event, Beauty In & Out, in Fall 2014.
“In the end,” Miss Winkels reflected, “I think the mission of genuine.feminine is community. It’s a community of women that has a very strong philosophical and theological basis. It’s a network of resources, people, authors we trust, and of friendship. It puts women into contact with other women who have the same questions, and with advisors that can help them. Its aim is to raise difficult questions and to question assumptions we may have in either direction—for me, it was challenging my feminist assumptions. For others, it may be challenging the assumption that as a stay-at-home mother you can’t do anything else. As a senior, I hope that genuine.feminine is the sort of thing that I can bring to any community I come to.”
To learn more about genuine.feminine and their events, visit: www.genuinefeminine.com