By Aria Walfrand
The 2010-2011 school year marks the 40th anniversary of co-education at Union. It is now more important than ever to recognize the progress, celebrate the achievements, and accept that there is still work to be done for women on this campus. Many groups on campus share this goal. One of these groups is the Women’s Union.
The Women’s Union is a group of young women and men who recognize that the lack of passion in defending women’s rights in this day and age is a problem. Helena-Jasmine Sowah ‘13, the interim president of Women’s Union while current president Rachel Feingold ‘12 is abroad, is very excited to have such an active role in the group and believes that it is very important for a group like this to exist here at Union. She states: “I learned about Women’s Union while I participated in the Vagina Monologues last February. However, I never fully understood what Women’s Union was truly about until this year.”
According to rumor, Women’s Union was a prominent voice on campus about ten to fifteen years ago, with a separate, independent house where passionate women came to present programs and raise awareness of women’s issues on Union’s co-educational campus. Sowah plans to bring the group back into the limelight this year. One of the more famous events sponsored by Women’s Union is the Vagina Monologues, a huge event on Union’s campus as well as around the world.
The Vagina Monologues is a series of stories about different women’s experiences, mainly revolving around their sexuality, that aims to raise money and awareness regarding violence against women. Each year at Union, thousands of dollars are raised and 100% of that money is donated to the Vagina Monologues’ annual spotlight campaign and a battered women’s shelter in Schenectady.
But that’s not all that the Women’s Union has in store for the campus this academic year. Some upcoming events include a self-defense class taught by Campus Safety’s Lisa Simmons in October and a series on films made by women that revolve around gender issues. In addition, the group is also trying to bring Pamela Des Barres to speak to Union students about her experiences as a rock groupie, aiming to change the perception of women as rock groupies.
Sowah states: “It is essential to sustain Women’s Union on campus because, although it is a new era, there are still many issues that women face today on campus and in the general public.” Sowah believes that the issues faced by women on this campus and abroad are not trivial ones. Many of them have to do with ancient, incorrect perceptions of what it means to be a woman; sadly, many of those unrealistic perceptions come from women themselves. The rest of those perceptions come from men who impose them upon society. That is why Women’s Union has a new goal to add to their list: to increase male involvement in the club.
Women’s Union is not gender exclusive, so everyone should come take a seat in the Unity Lounge on Thursdays at 2 p.m. and discuss what it means to be a male or female on this campus. In the end, it is never really about the visible differences between genders but the perceptions each gender takes on in trying to make sense of humanity; Women’s Union invites all to join them on their journey of reflection and self-discovery.