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 staff member Maria Dimachkie
Becoming involved with the Women’s Center is not only a wonderful way to get to know fellow students, but also an opportunity to become an advocate for change within your community! For those who are interested in getting involved, a great place to start is to attend one of our many events that we put on throughout the year. These events are a great opportunity to get to know us at the Women’s Center, and gain a better understanding of what the work we do is about. Events include discussion groups such as First Year Women Rock, which is a program held to create a space for first year women to build bonds and engage in authentic discussion. For those who would like to take their involvement a step further, we are always grateful for more helping hands to help prepare and set up for our events. Students interested in learning more about volunteering and getting involved are always welcome to drop by the center at SLP 420 to speak with a member of the staff and fill out an interest form. Questions may also be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 staff member Ivette Gil
Feminism as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Feminist scholar bell hooks provides another interpretation as a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Feminism is not one idea, one action people can do. Instead it is a movement that strives toward creating a more just world. People who identify as feminist are not only women, rather anyone who strives to end systems of oppression such as, but not limited to sexism, heterosexism, racism, and classism. We invite those who are interested in learning more about feminism, and feminist leadership to explore the different resources across campus such as the Women’s Center, The United Front Multicultural Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies program, and Ethnic Studies.
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 staff member Kyra Anderson
Here at the Women’s Center we focus on gender identity exploration, advocacy, and leadership development. We work not only to encourage women to empower themselves, but also acknowledge the importance of feminism in order to create a more equitable society here at the University of San Diego and throughout the rest of the world. This wisdom can be obtained at our various events throughout the year such as salary negotiation workshops, campus dialogues, Sexual Assault Awareness week, the Empower Retreat and many more.
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.