F.A.Q.

“Why does the U of A need a Women’s Centre?”
As much as we try to celebrate our society as being egalitarian in its treatment of men and women, the reality is that this does not often happen. Women are still forced to deal with a myriad of different pressures, even on campus here at the University of Alberta. From sexual harassment to offensive advertising, women’s needs are not met nor are their interests served.

A Women’s Centre needs to be set up to allow women in our society space to explore, in a friendly environment, what it means to be a woman right now, what it meant to be a woman at different times in history, and just space to be.

“Is the Women’s Centre only for feminists?”
The centre was founded and is run on explicitly women-positive principles, but we welcome people of all ideological stripes. But really, feminism’s not such a dirty word… (See below.)

“What do you mean by ‘feminist’?”
Because feminism is as varied as the people who practice it, it is nearly impossible to define. It can roughly be broken down into two general beliefs:
1. Women as a social group experience some form of systemic injustice.
2. Organizing that incorporates gender analysis is necessary to create a more just world.

The Women’s Centre doesn’t seek to place one version of feminism above another, but rather seeks to promote dialogue, debate and understanding among various understandings of the world.

Although we are a women-oriented organization, we also realize that issues of social justice and freedom are both broader and more particular than the category of ‘woman’ describes. We see ourselves as part of a large and diverse movement of people who are actively working in their communities to create a more just world. We know that different women face different struggles, and we feel that we can’t fight injustices against women without fighting parallel injustices like racism, homophobia, classism and ableism.

“Are men allowed in the Women’s Centre?”
Men are more than welcome to use our lending library, attend our events, and use our referral service, as well as volunteer in a number of our projects. Come talk to us if you’re interested in getting involved.

“Doesn’t a Women’s Centre discriminate against men?”
Setting up a Centre that allows women to gather and initiate change in our society is essential for eliminating sexism. Most often, upper and middle class white men create the rules that govern men, women, and children. Is this not sexist, even classist? If we, as a society, are to have equality, we need to challenge accepted patriarchal understandings of how ‘things need to work’.

Yes, men did have discriminatory men-only clubs in the past. Today, there are many spaces in society that are men-only, not by design, but by default. A women-only space is not the same. Since men dominate so many spheres of society, women’s concerns are often pushed to the side in favour of ‘better’ solutions. Why can’t women have a space of our own? We would not be a ‘secret society’. We just need a space to effect meaningful changes in our lives.

“Where’s the men’s centre?”
Having a men-only room and a women-only room are not the same thing. One day, when everyone is truly treated equally in our society it won’t be necessary to have either. Just like it won’t be necessary to have Women’s Studies classes because women will be represented equally in literature, history and science classes. Until such time we need to make up for imbalances.

“Why are you barricading yourself away, if you’re working towards equality? Why not be totally all-inclusive?”
This is a wonderful goal, but we need to start somewhere. We are not barricading ourselves away so much as providing a base of operations. We are providing an environment in which to explore, learn, share, and plan.

“Why is your core organizing group all women?”
Why wouldn’t a Women’s Centre be run by women? We don’t expect the Aboriginal students association to be run by non-Aboriginals. You wouldn’t expect non-Muslims running the Muslim students association. In addition to providing a rare opportunity for organizing in an all-women environment, we ensure that our services are always appropriately women-centered. Who knows better the range of experiences of being a woman in our society than women?

“We already have a Sexual Assault Centre – won’t a Women’s Centre serve the same purpose?”
The Sexual Assault Centre is a place for both men and women to go for help when they have been sexually abused or need help coping with a friend, family member etc. who has been sexually abused. Sexual assault is not the only issue that concerns women nor is it an issue that concerns exclusively women.

A Women’s Centre is not intended as a crisis service. The centre’s goal is to do more than address the immediate needs of people affected by gender oppression or violence. We want to provide a space that offers women the opportunity to create a world where gender inequality doesn’t exist. In other words, we aim not only to be re-active in the face of oppression, but pro-active in the creation of new options and spaces.

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