The Women’s Resource Center at the University of Colorado at Denver is about a year old, but going strong. Women’s resource centers are foundations of support and empowerment to students of all genders around the country! At a time when women’s rights are in jeopardy and women are at greater risk of violence because of it, women’s resource centers like the one in Denver are beacons for all of us living under patriarchy.
This is a written interview with Carisa Weaver, Coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center at University of Colorado at Denver. Communicating by email, I sent her a list of questions and she answered them and sent them back. Her answers offer a glimpse into the support centers like UC Denver’s can offer as well as how feminism can be a motivating source of empowerment. Enjoy the read, check out their blog, and visit them or a women’s resource center near you!
*Tell me a little about the Women’s Resource Center at UC Denver.
The Women’s Resource Center has been around for a little under a year and is founded on three pillars of action. Educating faculty and staff, providing programming for the entire community, and one on one intervention. We practice a model of radical inclusion and student leadership development.
*How do women who use the Resource Center see other students’ perceptions of the Center?
I think our center is too new to have a group perception that is applied to the people who use it. I know the perception of our actual center is that we connect people to resources when they are having trouble meeting their financial demands, and people have fairly large rates of success with that.
*How do you think the presence of the Women’s Resource Center helps the school and the larger Denver community?
I think the WRC’s presence is great for the UCD campus because it provides a safe place for students—of any gender, ethnicity, orientation, whatever—to get help for any kind of problem. We provide resources for a variety of issues, from healthcare to housing to discrimination and more, but maybe more importantly we provide a place for students to come when they need support. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to; sometimes you need more. Either way, we’re here.
*Do you believe there are women who use or might go to the Women’s Resource Center but would not call themselves feminists?
Sure. Lots of women believe in gender equality but still neglect to call themselves feminists because of its widespread negative connotation. I don’t think someone has to identify as a feminist to use our resources—of course not! However, I would like to hope that spending time in the WRC would lead them to reevaluate their opinion of the word “feminist.”
*What are some ways feminism has helped you?
How has feminism NOT helped me? Feminism is such a part of who I am that I can hardly begin to answer this question. Feminism has led me to my best friends, my favorite music and my intended career path. If I didn’t believe in the struggle for women’s rights—and human rights in general—I don’t know who I would be or what I would care about.
*Does examining the system we live under as a patriarchal system help you? How? In what ways?
Thinking about the patriarchal system reminds me on a daily basis to blame the system, not the perpetrator. Calling out individuals isn’t the most effective way of instigating social change—we need to understand the greater system in which this behavior is taught, condoned and encouraged. By analyzing the patriarchal system as the big picture, I am reminded that patriarchy is SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED. That gives me hope because we can inspire social change!
*Do you believe the more women’s rights are taken away, the more violence against women there will be?
I think there are very strong correlations between societies in which women’s rights are limited and rates of violence against women. Anthropological research has found that societies in which gender roles are most fluid have the lowest rates of violence. Michael Kimmel’s book The Gendered Societyis a really great read that touches on this subject—I highly recommend it.
*In this political climate, what do you think your role is as a woman?
I’ve been following access to birth control issues in the news quite closely lately. It’s scary that women are, once again, having to fight for their right to affordable contraceptives. So it’s important for women to stand together on issues like these—so called “women’s issues”—that are being ignored or overlooked by male-centric political system. Letting your representatives know that you support pro-women policies is something that all women should be doing; we can’t expect to have our interests represented in politics if we don’t first make them known!
*How can women support women?
Women can support other women in infinite ways. Most importantly, I would say: don’t hate on other women! Society really sets us up to be our own worst enemies, but we have the power to stop it. Jealous of the new girl in town because she’s super cute? Don’t be! Tell her you like her look and befriend her. Keeping women from standing together is one of the most powerful tools patriarchy has for keeping the status quo. Don’t fall for it! (On this topic, I would invite readers to look into the issue of slut-shaming—particularly this awesome video made by a 13-year old girl who knows what’s up: http://youtu.be/SXH2K7OC37s)
Thank you Carisa and everyone at the University of Colorado at Denver’s Women’s Resource Center! You all are where it’s at! Keep going strong and happy anniversary coming up on October 15th!