After reading The Daily Princetonian’s editorial article, “ Yes All Women’s Center”, it became clear to me that this was yet another attempt by socially conservative individuals to hide the experiences of the oppressed under the guise of “inclusivity”. Through their use of irrelevant evidence and disregard for facts, the only thing that the Editorial Board revealed in this article was their dire need for an explanation of the role of the Women’s Center and other group-specific spaces on campus, and to develop sensitivity towards the personal experiences of women.
One critique made by The Board about the Women’s Center was its need to be more inclusive to other genders and to women with differing political views. This misguided statement ignores the fact that not all spaces are meant for all people. The purpose of the Women’s Center is not only to provide unique employment and leadership opportunities for women, but also to guarantee a safe space for those who need a place to heal and recuperate from the sexism that can occur on Princeton’s campus. This is not a place for men, and the Center should not be managed with that in mind.
This is not to say that men are not allowed in the Women’s Center , or any other place where its events are being held. But the role of men in these discussions and meetings is to listen, remain quiet in a women dominated space, and make an attempt to understand the experiences of the victims of a system that they benefit from. And I would have to disagree with the Editorial Board’s suggestion that the Women’s Center is not inclusive. The fact that a center like this exists adds to the overall inclusivity of the Princeton campus. Without spaces like the Women’s Center and the Carl A. Fields Center, it would be difficult for minorities and other marginalized groups to comfortably speak out about their experiences without being discouraged and accused of divisiveness.
The article’s blatant motivation to suppress the sexualities of women on campus was yet another tragedy. The Board took issue with certain programming like “Developing a Self-Pleasure Practice” and “Yoga for Better Sex”, referring to them as “crass publicity [that] crosses beyond provocativeness in a manner that may be off-putting to many students”. What a fancy way of slutshaming women who are actually interested in learning about how to make sex more pleasurable. It is not the responsibility of the Women’s Center to coddle closed-minded individuals who find it icky to think that women might actually enjoy sex. In a culture where women are taught that it’s wrong and shameful for them to own their sexuality, programming like this is necessary.
Sexual education events are not the only services that the Women’s Center provides to students no matter how much The Board may want to frame it that way. They are not even the majority if the events. If you visit the Women’s Center website, you will see in the top right hand corner the option to click on “events”. Once you do that (and I’m assuming no one on The Board thought this was a useful place for research), you will see that out of the 22 events that occurred in the fall and are coming up in the next two months, only three of them are related to sex. So if a Princeton woman is uncomfortable with these events, the Center offers plenty of other programming that will fit what she is looking for.
The last problem I have with this article is this notion that things like #BlackLivesMatter and destigmatizing abortion are seen as “politically charged and overwhelmingly liberal”. It’s very disconcerting that The Board equates concepts meant to preserve the lives and well being of the historically oppressed to a certain political standing. The purpose of The Women’s Center is not to promote or push a specific political agenda and to think otherwise is simply ridiculous. Additionally, that certain topics such as access to reproductive healthcare, affirmative action, and anti police brutality are categorized as “liberal” versus “conservative” says more about what each side represents than it does about the Women’s Center itself. The plights of women are all the same no matter the political party, and the Women’s Center promotes this idea through the conscientious planning of events that are specific to the woman herself and not her political beliefs. In fact, these “overwhelmingly liberal” events, especially those related to #BlackLivesMatter, serve to represent women of all races and socioeconomic statuses.
I also understand that white Princeton students may be uncomfortable attending events discussing racial injustice, because they feel an overloading sense of guilt and that they are being attacked. Understand that your discomfort is natural and expected. Sometimes, the most important issues make us the most uncomfortable. Challenging societal norms and how you benefit from oppressive social structures takes a lot of emotional strength and reflection. And you are welcome to events discussing racial injustice as this is a conversation that affects all Americans, regardless of race. Understand your role. It is not a place for you to share your experiences, because it is not about you. Be prepared to listen and keep an open heart so that you can learn what it’s like to live with these injustices as a constant burden.
While I genuinely disagree with the overall sentiment of this article and believe that this kind of dialogue only serves to oppress Princeton women even more, I genuinely hope that, for the sake of The Daily Princetonian’s reputation, The Editorial Board take great care with the “facts” they include to support their arguments. Seriously, some of the evidence they used to support their statements could easily be proven incorrect with a simple glance over The Women’s Center website.