If you’re like me, all you’re doing right now is waiting for spring break — and perhaps already dreading your return to the hectic schedule that the second half of a semester brings. However, instead of starting to feel sad about coming back to Swat, get excited because Women’s History Month is happening in March right after break! Going to the preparations meeting alone got me super psyched about the cool events coming our way.
When I walked to the Women’s Resource Center on Wednesday night for the Women’s History Month planning meeting, I will admit I was feeling slightly nervous. I did not think I would know anyone there and was worried I would intrude. But when I walked in, my apprehension melted away. I was instantly greeted with the warm atmosphere of the house, a tray of cookies, and friendly faces. Irene Kwon ’17, a WRC Associate leading the meeting, invited me to sit down on the cozy couches and chairs loosely arranged in a circle as ten people trickled in for the planning.
The meeting started off with a discussion on the purpose of Women’s History Month: why women? The WRC’s intention is to challenge the everyday discrimination of women and other marginalized genders.
“We don’t have a men’s history month because that’s every history textbook ever,” Kwon pointed out.
However, it was very important to the WRC and everyone at the meeting that “women” included more than just white, cisgendered women. This intention is reflected in the theme this year: “creating and celebrating intersectional leadership for gender equity.” Kwon emphasized that this year’s Month will be different from previous years because of its specific focus on intersectionality — something she admitted the WRC has had difficulty incorporating in the past.
“We too, as a center, take issue with carving a space just for women. There’s a lot of baggage there about other genders, like non-cis women, being excluded from spaces like this and events like this. We wanted to challenge that,” Kwon explained.
For this theme of intersectionality, collaboration with other student organizations is one of the WRC’s goal for the month. Many of the people who came to the meeting came as representatives of other student groups, from Swarthmore Asian Organization to Swarthmore Queer Union to Student Government Organization. Indeed, most of the events are in collaboration with other student groups. Events to look forward to include:
Thank-a-Woman Campaign: Write a note to any woman who you want to appreciate!
Intersectional Feminist Politics: A facilitated community discussion around the question, “What does intersectionality mean?”
WRC x SAMs x Pride : Gender Dynamics in the Classroom: A panel discussion with Swarthmore professors and students.
WRC x WOCKA : Feminista Jones: A guest speaker identifying as “a postmodern, sex-positive, Black feminist woman.”
WRC x CIL : Women’s Leadership Retreat: Features workshops and alumni speakers.
Lecture: Professor Gayle Salamon: A Princeton Professor of English and Gender and Sexuality Studies who works in works in queer and trans theory, feminist philosophy, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and disability studies.
Pubnite Takeover!: A “de-bro’ed” Pubnite with only all gender-positive music.
Hidden Figures Movie Screening: A possible collaboration with Movie Committee.
While excitedly planning what these events would look like, many at the meeting worried about making it clear that everyone is invited to Women’s History Month (WHM) events.
On one hand, some thought there may be Swatties who wouldn’t come to WHM events because they would be worried about intruding.
“There’s also a whole crew of people who may not be showing up to this type of event because they’re like, I’m not a woman, and I don’t want to invade a safe space,” said Margaret Hughes ’17 from SQU, reflecting on her own experience hearing from people about why they don’t attend queer events.
On the other hand, being respectful at these events, especially if you do not identify as a woman, is key.
“When you’re in a space to learn, it’s okay to just show up and listen. But it is good to show up,” Elizabeth Tolley ’17 expressed. “We want you to be here,” Hughes echoed.
Indeed, showing up is the whole point. “Come to events!” Kwon encouraged. “The only way we can achieve intersectional events and dialogue is if people show up for the convo.”
So whoever you are, don’t be afraid to just go and show up. Women’s History Month is going to be celebratory, intersectional, and open to all genders — so come through and join the conversation.