A Critical Analysis of Resource Mobilization Theory

Rachael Sturgis

October 29, 2015


When I was a freshman I knew that the Feminist United on Campus (FUC) Club existed, however I never had a strong sense of their presence on campus. I remember seeing their tables on campus walk and the informational sessions they advertised about issues they were concerned with. In my opinion, it was not until last year that FUC truly made their appearance on campus. In the past year, FUC has created quite a stir at The University of Mary Washington (UMW). After all the controversy and chaos in Spring 2015, FUC ended the school year by filing a Title IX complaint against UMW and its administration (Estes 2015). FUC stated that the university “failed to adequately address harassment and threats against students posted to Yik Yak” (Logue 2015). Along with this complaint and their agenda, FUC practices a great amount of routine collective action, such as rallies and peaceful protests. This reaction paper will not only analyze FUC but will also examine their routine collective action in conjunction with resource mobilization theory (RM).

When looking at the FUC organization as a whole, they display a clear sense of purpose and vision. The description on the Feminist United on Campus (FUC) Orgsync page reads:


The purpose of Feminists United on Campus is to educate people of all sexes and genders as to past and present movements of feminism, provide individuals with information and tools to become active members of the feminist cause to further human rights, and to provide individuals with an open, inviting, discussion-based setting in which a diverse group of people can come together to educate one another as to relevant human rights issues. The purpose of Feminists United on Campus is to also reclaim the term “feminism” in a positive light, to dispel many of the harmful myths that are widely believed to be true about feminism as a political and social movement. Lastly, Feminists United on Campus aims to help make positive change on our campus and in our communities (Feminist United on Campus Description).


Social movements, according to RM theory, emphasize that “collective action flows not from breakdown, but from groups vying for political position and advantage” (Useem 1998). In other words, RM identifies that social movements result in a social solidarity among mutually frustrated people that want political change (Class Notes) (McCarthy and Zald 1977). FUC is a connection of individuals who share common beliefs, values, and goals. Through these attributes, the members of this organization find social cohesion with one another. Thus the social solidarity among FUC’s memebers is essential for mobilizing collective action (Useem 1998). In regards to their Title IX complaint against UMW, FUC’s collective action focused on urging universities to have “better guidelines for dealing with anonymous social media threats” (Estes 2015). Their attempts to change UMW along with other universities’ policies would be defined by an RM theorist as a routine collective action because they lobbied peacefully. FUC performed this routine collective action through the press conference they held over the summer in front of George Washington Hall expressing that their organization would be filing this complaint.

Political changes, according to RM theorists, are put into action through the acquisition of resources that aid in propelling the organization toward its ultimate goal (Useem 1998) (McCarthy and Zald 1977). These resources can come in the form of social networks, supporters, media attention, or money (Class Notes) (McCarthy and Zald 1977). FUC’s lobbying efforts have been successful because of their ability to gain and apply their resources. FUC has formed a relationship with the UMW administration, specifically with President Rick Hurley. While this relationship between FUC and President Hurley has been strained at times, having direct contact with him has given them an advantage to press forward in their organizational efforts. FUC is not afraid to go directly to the administration to tell them about their concerns and to suggest solutions for these issues.

FUC also has a strong connection of networks within the UMW community. FUC has gathered supporters from other social justice clubs that has provided them a variety of participants who contain different skills, knowledge, and creative ideas. FUC gained the support of the Feminist Majority Foundation in their campaign to file a Title IX complaint against the university. By having the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national women’s rights organization, on their side gives FUC a social linkage that connects them to the greater political community. The press conference that FUC held in May gave the organization and its agenda media attention. Receiving a significant amount of media attention promotes FUC’s orgniazation and their political goals. Even if this attention is negative, FUC is making themselves known to the wider community. This could be beneficial on their part because they could be reaching out to people who may want to support them in their lobbying.

An RM theorist would see FUC as successfully acquiring and applying their resources to push their political agenda. Their strong social networks and attention in the media, FUC has established a name for themselves in the community. Due to this, FUC sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education that contained 72 signatures from national and local women’s civil rights groups that advocate for “federal guidelines for dealing with anonymous social media threats on campuses nationwide” (Estes 2015). The Office of Civil Rights accepted the complaint and is investigating these allegations. Through their routine collective action and resource mobilization, FUC has established a foundation for themselves to generate effective social change.

FUC is group of members that unite in their shared goal of fighting for equal human rights and they do so by practicing routine collective action. With the acquisition of resources such as creating strong social networks, gaining media attention, and having alliances with leaders in power, FUC offers a better understanding of resource mobilization theory. It is through their social solidarity, goal orientation, and resources that FUC is able to establish themselves as an organization who has the potential to generate effective and permanent social change within the politics of our society.



Works Cited:

Estes, Lindley. 2015. “Women’s, civil rights groups urge federal guidelines for anonymous social media threats.” The Free Lance Star, October 21.

Logue, Josh. 2015. “Who Should Prevent Social Media Harassment.” Inside Higher Ed, October 22.

McCarthy, John D. and Mayer N. Zald. 1977. “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory.” The American Journal of Sociology  82(6): 1212-1241.

Useem, Bert. 1998. “Breakdown Theories of Collective Action.” Annual Reviews Sociology 24: 215-238.

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