Kristen Daskilewicz, senior women’s and gender studies major, described the Women’s Center as “empowering.” Last semester, however, the organization lacked the power and ambition it generated in previous years.
“When (Fall 2007) came, most of our active members had graduated, were student teaching and I myself was abroad for the semester,” Daskilewicz, who now serves as president of the Women’s Center, said. “The people left behind to run the organization didn’t have the time or the experience to keep it active on their own. Unfortunately, the (Women’s Center) ceased to exist by the end of the semester, unbeknownst to myself.”
Since returning this semester, Daskilewicz has been taking steps to revitalize the College’s oldest feminist group. The Women’s Center was created in the 1970s, which sparked the inspiration for a ’70s themed party the organization held on Monday, Jan. 28.
The organization is a non-affiliated group, a fact which, according to Daskilewicz, is important in helping it reach its numerous goals for the semester. Other groups, like Women in Learning and Leadership, already have a nationally-established set of rules and goals. Because it is an independent organization, the Women’s Center can create its own objectives and plan its own events.
“This is important because it means that the members of our organization can make our own vision and essentially do whatever we want,” Daskilewicz said.
Daskilewicz and the rest of the organization’s executive board have already begun planning events for this semester. Take Back the Night, an annual event, is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 9. During the event, several speakers talk to the campus about sexual assault and an open mic is provided for survivors to tell their stories.
“I consider this to be one of the most important events all year, not just for the Women’s Center, but for (the College) as a whole,” Daskilewicz said. “Take Back the Night is an evening that allows sexual assault survivors, their friends, their families and all of their supporters to take back the night, to say that we as a campus are saying ‘no’ to sexual assault, that women and men should be and feel safe on our campus, even after darkness falls.”
The Women’s Center is also planning to do an event in March for Women’s History month. In the past, the group has hosted “Esteem: An Alternative Beauty Pageant” and “Tampaction,” a celebration of menstruation.
According to Daskilewicz, one of the main goals of the organization for the semester is to reach out to men and women who are not currently involved in the group. She said she wants to bring greater diversity and a greater range of issues to the group’s weekly meetings.
“I want different viewpoints at our table,” she said. “That’s how we grow – together. We’re not afraid of the difficult issues. If you have something you want to talk about or need to get off your chest, come to a meeting and share it with us. Chances are, you’ll find a lot of people on your side.”
Natalie Serra, sophomore women’s and gender studies major and one of the publicists for the group, agreed with Daskilewicz’s goal.
“We want to spread word of the club to people who wouldn’t normally join this kind of group,” Serra said. “People automatically judge anything that is associated with feminism. It would be helpful to have a space where everyone could talk about the things that concern them.”
A final change planned for the semester is the implementation of discussion groups during weekly meetings. During every other meeting, those in attendance will have the opportunity to discuss an article concerning the group or a particular topic of interest. The discussions will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 6 with the topic “The ‘F’ Word: Why am I here?”
“I’m hoping that this will open up a discussion on what feminism means to each of us, how we define feminism and ambivalence towards using the word,” Daskilewicz said. “We encourage women who don’t identify as feminist to come and share their views as well.”
The Women’s Center meets every Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the basement of Brower Student Center.