Why does USD have a Women's Center? How does having a Women's Center fit with USD's Catholic identity?
Answered provided by Director of Programming Spenser Leverett
The USD Women's Center provides a safe space for all members of the USD Community to engage in discussions about gender-related issues and issues of oppression and inequality. Through educational programming and events, we provide opportunities for students to increase their awareness of pertinent social issues and to take action to change such realities. We support women in finding their voice and forming their identity, as well as empowering them to become leaders on campus and within the larger community. The center fits with USD's Catholic identity because it is in accordance with the major principles of Catholic Social Thought and social justice teachings of the church.
How can I get involved with the Center?
Answer provided by Volunteer Coordinator Ali Olson
Getting involved with the Women's Center is fun and easy! The main way to get involved is to volunteer with the Center. We offer volunteer orientations each month to help introduce and prepare our volunteers for the events that interest them! These orientations ensure that our volunteers are well equipped for each program/event that they help out with. There are many programs throughout the year that require the help of volunteers and it is a great learning experience to be involved in! As a volunteer with the Center, I was able to attend programs with a higher understanding of the work that was being accomplished and the main idea behind each event. It is also a fun way to get to know fellow students and advocates for change! If you are interested in a long-term volunteer position, our Leadership Council is a great opportunity! There are six positions that are selected for each school year. Check out the link or come by SLP 424 and talk to a staff or council member about getting involved!
Why isn't there a Men's Center? What can men do at the Center?
Answer provided by General Staff James Wykowski
As a Women's Center, we focus on issues directly related to sexism and oppression college-aged women face. This oppression manifests itself in ways we often wouldn't consider, but is still very present in our culture. A common response to questioning our presence on campus is "Shouldn't there be a men's center on-campus too?" Part of understanding women's issues is recognizing and confronting the privileges attached to being a man. Sometimes this can be difficult in a society where women are allowed to vote, work and attend schools in the same way men do, but these "equalities" do not mean that sexism is not still present in our world. Instead, it means that the sexism of today takes on a more veiled quality that makes it more difficult to recognize and confront. That being said, men are more than welcome in the Women's Center. This past semester we hired our first male staff member. Confronting women's issues inherently involves men--sexual assault is just as much a men's issue as it is a women's issue. We ask men to engage in conversation about these types of issues affect them and how they can be agents for change. Additionally, we welcome persons of any gender to consider how the construct of gender affects their life. Visiting a place titled the "Women's Center" can understandably be intimidating for man. However, those willing to make the trek to the SLP 4th floor consistently find themselves welcomed, respected and challenged by their experiences.
What is feminism?
Answer provided by Web Coordinator Georgina Santos
Feminist scholar bell hooks provides a definition of feminism as a movement to end sexism, oppression, and sexist exploitation. The Oxford English dictionary defines feminism as "advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes)." In practice, feminism is a social change movement rooted in love... Feminist work is not limited to women; those who advocate for feminism work to end oppressions stemming from sexism, racism, classism, and heterosexism. Feminists are not only women. Feminist leadership takes place on individual, group, and community levels. It is values based, relational, non-positional, process oriented, focused on empowerment, rooted in love, and seen not as an act, but a way of living. For more information on feminism and social change, seek the many on campus resources. The Women's Center and the United Front Multicultural Center have a race and gender resource library. The Women's and Gender Studies department has a collection of materials.
How does feminism inform the work at the Center?
Answer provided by Office Manager Alyssa Knauer
Feminism is the belief in and advocating of social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. At the Women's Center we strive to create programs that will offer equal opportunity for all students on our campus, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, or other differences. Additionally, we focus on educating our campus community about gender inequalities that exist within our society, and what we can do to combat the issues we face. For example, we celebrate the movements to initiate equal pay, to end violence against women, to encourage leadership, and to bring awareness to several other topics. However, not only does feminism arise through the events we organize, but also in day-to-day conversation at the Center. The Women's Center has created a safe and open environment in which in-depth discussions surrounding feminism emerge. The Center's staff, volunteers, and Leadership Council have created relationships and dialogue centered on the beliefs they are most passionate about. Feminism truly lies at the foundation of our work as we strive toward gender equality in numerous facets of life.
What do you do at the Women's Center?
Answered provided by Programmer Jessica Chapman
I am one of the programmers at the Women's Center. As a programmer I help highlight some of the issues that disproportionately impact women. It is important to note that there is no such thing as women's issues and men's issues. Women's issues are men's issues too, they concern everyone. With this concept in mind some events and programs we have on campus include Domestic/Partner Violence awareness month, V-Day, Sexual Assault Awareness, Women's History Month, Body Image Awareness and Wage Disparity workshops, among many other programs and events put on through out the academic year. Annually we have a Woman of Impact Luncheon in which women on our campus are recognized as an individual who has made an impact on campus and in the community. This event provides a great opportunity to highlight the importance of the work women do on our campus and how this work has a positive effect on our lives. The Women's Center also participates in V-Day. V-day is an international movement to end violence against women and girls both locally, nationally and internationally. This movement raises awareness about the violence experienced by women and girls and raises funds for various groups or individuals helping end violence. The Women's Center held a rose sale in which all of the profits from the sale went to the first ever Safe House for Women in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Additionally the Women's Center brings students to UCSD to see the production of Vagina Monologues. The proceeds from this event go to local, national and international groups. The events and programs put on by the Women's Center are important. We educate the campus and the community, we contribute to the diverse array of opinions and perspectives on our campus and we allow underrepresented voices to be not only heard but understood.
What are "The Vagina Monologues?" How do they fit in with USD's mission?
In support of USD’s core values, the Women’s Center gathers students to discuss and attend a Vagina Monologues performance each year as part of the V-Day Movement. This event invites students to explore sexuality and the impact sexual violence has on both local and global communities by bearing witness to the experiences of women and girls throughout the world.
USD’s core value of Compassionate Service calls us to "embrace the Catholic moral and social tradition by committing to serve with compassion, to foster peace and work for justice. We regard peace as inseparable from justice and advance education, scholarship and service to fashion a more humane world."
We in the Center believe it is through storytelling and experiencing the lived reality of others that we are truly transformed and able to move closer to who we are each called to be as change agents.
For the last 15 years, February has been home to an amazing display of activism called the V-Day movement. The purpose of V-Day is to end violence against women and girls worldwide. The V in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina. This movement seeks to educate people about the global reality of violence against women and girls. Through benefits, films, and live performances (among many other creative ideas) people call attention to issues including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery.
The V-Day movement began with a play called The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, which combines over 200 interviews Eve conducted with women. The play focuses on women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse, inviting everyone to start a new conversation about and with women. Eve used this forum to call people to action to end violence and it took off from there.
Each year V-Day "spotlights" a particular group of women in the world. In 2012, V-Day sponsored women in Haiti and highlighted the increased rates of sexual violence since the devastating earthquake that took place in January 2010.