Purpose of Women’s Center misunderstood by many


Ethan Uslabar

womens center flow chart

Women’s Centers are a common component to many college campuses, UW Oshkosh included, that offer promotion and education on gender equity.

The Women’s Center is a campus resource that all students should be aware of during their time at UWO.

However, students know very little or nothing at all about the center.

UWO senior Allison Hansen said she only knows about what they have done with other organizations on campus.

“Well, they work with a lot of different organizations on campus, I know that,” Hansen said. “I don’t know a whole lot about it actually, to be honest.”

UWO freshman Sylvia Peterson also said she knows very little about the center.

“I know that it’s a place for women to go to get help doing things, I think,” Peterson said.
UWO fifth-year student Shannon Gaffney said she learned about the center freshman year but doesn’t know a lot about it.

“I know it’s a resource for kids on campus, but that’s about it,” Gaffney said.
Although students have little to no knowledge about the Women’s Center, they do want to learn more about it.

Peterson said she would like to know when they have their events.

“How often are events hosted by the Women’s Center? Because I know there are some, but I don’t know when or where or which ones are sanctioned by them,” Peterson said.

Gaffney said she would like to know more about what the center offers to all students.
“What are the resources that they have for kids on campus, both freshmen through fifth-year seniors like me?” Gaffney said.

Director of the Women’s Center, Alicia Johnson, said the center focuses on being open as much as they can.

“We are a physical space,” Johnson said. “We try to be open to be a space for people to come and hang out, to come study.”

The center provides a lot to students, including computers, a TV and PS4, menstrual hygiene products and safer-sex products.

The center also hosts many discussion series including Masculinity Mondays which promotes healthy masculinity and Woke Ally Wednesday that focuses on learning to be a better ally to women of color.

Johnson said the Masculinity Mondays range anywhere from six people attending to 15 or 20 people.
“So they’re smaller discussion groups, which is kind of great because there’s more opportunity for people to share their perspectives,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that along with hosting discussions, the center provides crafts and a relaxation room.

“We have a lot of self-care activities,” Johnson said. “We like to be an area of comfort, and people need it because we know student life is stressful.”

One annual event that the center hosts is Voices of Titan Men, which was held Monday night.
Johnson said Kyle Tran Myhre, a poet, advocate and educator, performed several pieces, which were then discussed.

For example, one of Myhre’s poems is about handshakes and how strongly men are expected to shake hands.

The group then discussed how other things also exemplify toxic notions of men having to be dominant.

Although the place is called the Women’s Center, Johnson said men often come in and are welcome.
“I would say that we have a fair number of men, or people who identify as men, come to this space and see it as a space for them even though we’re called the Women’s Center,” Johnson said. “It’s a space for them to ask questions about how they can be a better ally to women, how they can work to reduce and prevent sexism and also to be their authentic selves.”

Johnson said that although we have a Women’s Center, it doesn’t mean we should be opposed to a safe space for men.

“I think our initiative such as Masculinity Mondays and Voices of Titan Men demonstrates our commitment to create those spaces,” Johnson said. “We support additional spaces being created for men to be their authentic selves, to seek help if they need it.”

Overall, Johnson said she wants students to know that the center is open to everyone no matter their race, gender or sexuality.

“I would say we take the approach of promoting gender equity,” Johnson said. “We come from the philosophy that we can’t dismantle sexism without everyone on board.”

Johnson said they look at systems of oppression and how they are connected to explore how we view the world and what our place is in it.

“We also recognize that systems of oppression are interconnected, so we look at how sexism intersects with racism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism,” Johnson said. “Our ultimate goal is just to promote equity, and we start from that place of promoting gender equity.”
These services that the center provides are beneficial but seem to lack the awareness.
Johnson said the center continually uses different tactics, like posters, email and social media, to try to promote the Women’s Center.

“We’re there and we’re visible,” Johnson said. “But we know we’re not reaching everyone.”
Johnson said they work with faculty to get the message out even more to the students using syllabi.

Although students don’t know a lot about the center, it isn’t due to a lack of promotion from the Women’s Center or the University.

Students are provided with information constantly about the Women’s Center and what it provides.
As a whole, students should take initiative to learn more, take that extra step to use the many different forms of information and learn about the center’s services and philosophy.

Although the center is called the Women’s Center, it is important to know and understand that it is a center for all students.”