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Letters to the Editor

Letter: W Week activities are aimed at all students

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To the Editor:

As a WPC, I was delighted by the publicity W Week received from last Friday’s article (“Pledge to respect one’s body kicks off annual women’s week,” Oct. 23). However, that article made the inaccurate assumption that W Week means Women’s Week, a week for women. W Week is not a week for women to learn about women’s issues: It’s a week of events organized by the WPCs to promote awareness of issues that affect everyone, regardless of gender. (W Week included a women-only self-defense workshop, but this requirement doesn’t represents the ethos of W Week; it was a requirement of the instructor.)

I don’t know why the article replaced “W” with “Women’s.” I think this shows that the role of the WPCs is unclear to many at Brown. The job of the Women Peer Counselors is to advise first-year students of all genders about topics that are often written off as “women’s issues.” We have a tremendously difficult battle to fight when our community (or our student newspaper) categorizes body image, sexism, contraception, safer sex, healthy relationships and sexual harassment and assault as women’s issues. The “women’s issue” label is destructive. Defining these topics as pertaining exclusively to women not only puts the burden of the issues on women alone, but it undermines men who care about them. If we ignore half the people who live with, contribute to and fight to improve these so-called “women’s issues,” we impair any movement toward progress at Brown.

Last night in my dorm I heard a male resident say to a female resident, “You should go to W Week because you’re a woman.” I was disheartened to hear that anyone would think gender has anything to do with who is welcome at W Week, or with who can or should attend WPC-led events. Just as the WPCs are emphatically not counselors designated for women (we’re for everyone), neither are our programs. I anxiously await the day when the best descriptor for the subjects about which I counsel isn’t “women’s issues.” I do everything in my power to bring forward the moment when non-female Brown students feel as much drive to attend W Week — which is Everyone’s Week — as they think their female counterparts should. I encourage every individual at Brown to work toward the same.

Zoe Stephenson ’12
Oct. 26

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