On Wednesday, Feb. 12, the Gender Resource Center Task Force met to discuss the implementation of a center solely for issues regarding women and gender identity as related to experiences on campus. Headed by Lily Kong ’16 and Nina Gurak ’16, the task force is seeking to create a space similar to women’s centers at other institutions.
“I see this as potentially an answer to the large portion of male-dominated spaces on campus, such as frats,” Gurak said. “I’m also looking forward to having a space to talk about what it means to be a woman.”
Additionally, the creation of a resource center aims to provide groups with opportunities for coordination. Kong recognized that although many student groups organize around women’s issues, there is currently no central space for groups to meet and work together at the intersection of their interests.
“Growing up I [had] a lot of informational resources about women’s issues,” Kong said. “I see this potential gender resource center as an institutionalized space for us to have meetings. Instead of this one group having this event…our women’s center [will host] this for everybody.”
Attendees of the Task Force meeting represented a variety of other student groups, including the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Students for Consent and Communication, and the Rho Epsilon Pi sorority (Rho Ep).
“I feel there’s a lot of overlap between the kinds of things that Rho Ep and Womanist House and WoCoHo [Women of Color House] plan, both for themselves and for the greater Wesleyan community,” said Rosy Capron ’14. “It’s surprisingly difficult to coordinate those events. I sort of see this as an opportunity to make cosponsoring a lot easier, also to just have more frequent communication.”
Currently, the Task Force is in the process of researching women’s centers at other institutions as well as engaging in community outreach to determine how such a center could be integrated into campus to fit the specific needs of the University community.
“Something we’ve struggled with is [wanting] to include as many perspectives as possible, from different groups on campus that might be interested—making it accessible,” Gurak said. “We did a lot of one-on-one talk with a lot of group leaders. We talked to a lot of trans* folks to talk about how that space would be inclusive to them.”
The Task Force intends to maximize inclusivity by opening the Gender Resource Center to female-identifying, gender-non-conforming, and allied individuals.
“I think with organizing around any social justice issue it is integral to incorporate multiple levels of individual identity,” Gurak wrote in an email to The Argus. “We understand that having a center to just focus on gender is one very specific part of identity that may exclude people who bring perspectives of their experiences with gender intersecting with other facets of their identity. So it is vital that the center reflect the diverse experiences of the people it serves.”
Women’s centers have twice been established at the University, in the 1980s and early 2000s.
“We actually have a lot of cool stuff left over from the old centers, such as a quilt from a quilting bee in the 80s,” Gurak stated. “We also have a whole lot of feminist literature, but it’s dated.”
Gurak attributed the lack of longevity from the two previous women’s centers to their failure to provide adequate social space for their members. At the meeting, the Task Force generated ideas to ensure the creation of a permanent center, including utilizing paid student staff members and interns, reaching out to alumni, and acquiring a designated space for students to organize and meet.
“We would have a schedule that would go up every week,” Kong said. “Groups would email us and tell us that they want to meet. Otherwise, it would be an open space.”
The Task Force is open to students who want to get involved and join its endeavors. Capron noted a lack of opportunities for women of various class years and backgrounds to interact outside of sports teams.
“I think in college cultures, there’s weird relations among women of different class years,” Capron said. “Whether it’s a fresh meat attitude about freshmen or that SWUG—senior washed up girl—thing about seniors…. I’d love events that get more women to meet each other in a non-sexualized context.”
The task force indicated that “Gender Resource Center” is a working title, and encouraged the brainstorming of name proposals. Ideas generated included “Women’s Center,” “Women’s Gender Center,” “Women and Sexuality Center,” and “G-spot.”