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I work at a small liberal arts college in Southeastern Ohio. It's rather conservative and most students are not very worldly because of their upbringing I presume. Anyway, I would really like to start a Women's group and a Women's Resource Center so I had a meeting for all campus women earlier today. There were about 15 of us in attendance. I left feeling very frustrated. The gist of their reaction was that instead of a Women's Resource Center they would like a generic student center to address the needs of all students. That's fine I guess.

They also feel that women and men are pretty much equal and we don't need to be making a big deal about women's issues. If we want equality we shouldn't have separate things like resource centers or a women's studies curriculum because these things will just make matters worse. One woman even said very matter-of-factly that there is no women's history because women have never been allowed to do anything. (First of all there certainly is women's history. Second, if this is true why doesn't it seem to bother you?) Anyway, I do not know what to do to get these women excited and interested in these issues. I tried to explain how things are not equal and we still have a long way to go but they didn't buy it. Is there anything I can do? I will not give up on them but I need some way to approach them.Any input would be great.




Dear Noelle,

I spend the majority of my time traveling to college campuses speaking about feminism and this is a problem not unique to your campus. Actually it manifests itself differently on each campuses -- sometimes is the rejection of feminism in favor of "women"; other times, it's a rejection of "women" in the name of the perception of a more radical feminism. I think that you need to make the case, based on what the students want. Also, students certainly have more leverage on a campus. After all, it's mostly their tuition that keeps it going. Is there a women's group on campus? If not, I would start by going to the RA or the equivalent and interviewing them about their needs. My instinct is that they will have an understanding of what issues are plaguing your campus -- eating disorders, "cutting," suicide attempts, date rape, etc.. Since these issues impact every other campus, I would find it hard to believe if yours was different. These issues make the case that college men and women are dealing with different issues. The point of the center shouldn't be to tackle these tough issues, but to do that and to celebrate the other advances that women have made. Women athletes, ROTC women, etc. should be natural allies. Keep fighting, I'm sure there are others like you -- Good Luck.



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