Last week was Swarthmore Women’s Week, a collaboration between the Dean’s Office and twelve Swarthmore student groups including the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) that focused attention on women’s issues from a broad range of perspectives. By pulling together a variety of student groups that don’t all necessarily center on women’s issues, the week generated an impressive list of events across and even off campus.
WRC Board Member and Housesitter Sabrina Singh ‘15 said that the week, which fell during Women’s “Herstory” Month, March, lived up to its promise to be a “diverse celebration of women-identifying people at Swarthmore and beyond.”
“We’re not just paying lip service to women’s issues,” Singh said, explaining that the organizers wanted “to have a really inclusive and interactive dialogue.” Singh said, “Women’s issues don’t just pertain to WRC, they also pertain to OASIS, to Hillel, to i20.”
The week’s events included multiple spoken word workshops with women brought to campus by OASIS, an i20 professor-led panel discussion about transnational women in media, and a movie screening and conversation about the movie Real Women Have Curves organized by ENLACE.
In addition, the Swarthmore Democrats and Republicans hosted a tea party to discuss the role of women in politics and the Middle East Cultural Society set up a space for women to give testimonials about their gender experiences. Swarthmore Hillel conversed about women’s rituals involving water and the Global Health Forum led a discussion entitled “Food Insecurity and Poor Health in Female-Headed Households.”
Other events included a women’s luncheon at the WRC, a thank-you card-making party for female alumnae, and a workshop on alternatives to sanitary pads and tampons.
Matthew Goldman ’15, who attended two events, said, “This week you could tell that there was something special, that so many people were behind it. […] The events I went to and the conversations I had were really cool.”
Women’s Resource Center Board Member Kassandra Sparks ‘15 said, “I’ve been really surprised by how many students were interested in getting engaged. There’s been a lot of campus support.”
The WRC, with the help of Assistant Dean and Gender Education Advisor Karen Henry, spearheaded the Week’s planning and served as the umbrella under which the events were organized.
“Our purpose was starting really comprehensive dialogue and bringing lots of groups together on an issue that’s really important,” Sparks said.
Administrative Assistant for Multicultural Affairs and Gender Education Elizabeth Durning, who helped coordinate Women’s Week, said a goal of the week was “to put the WRC more in the spotlight, [and to show] that they’re out there.” Durning said, “The past couple years they’ve been getting more active, getting more notoriety. They are letting people know that [the WRC] is a safe space, a dry space.”
Singh, Sparks, and Durning all expressed their optimism about holding another Swarthmore Women’s Week in the future.
“I’m fairly sure the event will happen next year,” Durning said, “It was a really nice week and we’ve only heard good things about it. Everyone was really happy to see it happening.”
Sparks called Women’s Week a successful “pilot program” in collaboration between multiple student groups. She also expressed her hope that other groups would pursue organizing similar events in the model of the Swarthmore Women’s Week.
“There are so many different awesome groups at Swarthmore. If we collaborate together, the potential is just huge,” Sparks said.
Featured image courtesy of Iris Fang ’15.