Thursday, October 19, 2006

Safe Spaces

Sometimes I wonder if people at Yale think the Women's Center is irrelevant--a relic from a time when women didn't feel physically safe in the other spaces, the common rooms, the dining halls, and the dorms, at Yale. They needed a place where they could talk with their peers without fearing sexual harassment (though I'm not sure it would have been identified as such), and where they felt like they actually belonged at a male institution. Actually, I think that most undergraduates haven't thought about the Women's Center that much--and please, I would love for someone to convince I'm wrong--but that when they see our small space next to Durfee's, if they even bother to look that way, they just think it is a waste.

The oddthing is that I didn't realize quite how the Women's Center was perceived until I talked to the women, Marissa Brittenham ('07) and Allison Pickens ('07), who founded the Women's Leadership Initiative this year. I respect that they are trying to inspire and encourage more Yale women to be leaders both at Yale and their careers afterwards. However, their reticence to work with the Women's Center--or beyond reticence, their confusion that it would even be relevant to what the Women's Center does-- shocked me. While the WC does have wonderful residence groups working on a whole hodgepodge of political and non-political issues, we are a space that wants to open itself to the needs of all Yale women--and fundamentally, to their desires to be leaders and equal members of the Yale community. In truth, so long as there are men saying that "No means Yes," so long as women are sexually harassed on a daily basis on campus, so long as we remain afraid of identifying our discomfort when a male professor treats us differently, we will be unable to become the types of leaders we want to be. I don't feel hopeless; I just think that by marginalizing the Women's Center, by stigmatizing a safe space, all Yale women who want to be successful ultimately undermine their own goals.

1 comment:

Adda said...

Yes, I think its incredibly sad that the women's center is stigmatized to the extent that people don't even want to help/resources it can offer. That said, I know in my own experience that as much as I ideologically want to LOVE the women's center and spend lots of time there (which I did back when I was a board member a million years ago), it doesn't galvanize the masses. That said, there was a period during freshmen year where a ton of concerts and parties were held there, including a concert featuring Anna Oxygen.

Ok, I have no point, except that its a real tragedy about the WLI and lets hang out more at the center.