Community editor Allyssia Alleyne profiles Ryerson’s oldest equity group to see how ladies are doing it for themselves
One of the school’s oldest groups is among its most progressive. The Women’s Centre, located in the Student Campus Centre, is decorated with images endorsing freedom of choice and women’s rights. A wall of windows lights up a display of female condoms and Deva Cups. Back issues of Curve, a lesbian magazine, and Bust, a magazine written from a feminist perspective, are scattered across the tables. HBO’s True Blood is discussed.
“It’s a relaxed and welcoming vibe,” Kirthan Aujilay, the centre’s events coordinator, says.
Ryerson’s women’s centre was started in the mid-70s. The goal was simple: to give women a space to hang out and meet other women who can relate to their experiences as women on campus.
The centre also aims to improve the conditions that self-identified women face on campus through both education and action.
It was this prospect of activism that drew Aujlay to the Women’s Centre.
Before being hired in September 2009, Aujlay had never stepped foot in the centre, though she proudly identifies as a feminist.
“To me, [a feminist] is just someone who wants to be treated equally,” she says.
She applied to work at the Women’s Centre after she grew tired of not doing anything to further her feminist beliefs.
Though students and administration have embraced the group, Aujlay still runs into people who do not take them seriously.
“Some people will ask me, ‘Where’s the men’s centre?’” Aujlay says. “I say ‘Go into the rest of the world.’”
There are also people who assume that the Women’s Centre is a haven for manhaters and militant feminists, which Aujlay insists is not true.
“All women are welcome, even if they don’t consider themselves feminists.”
But the centre’s biggest obstacle isn’t negativity. It’s a lack of student involvement. They only have about five regular volunteers, but the centre’s coordinators are trying to focus more on volunteer recruitment this year.
The coordinators are looking to stay away from reviving past events and develop new ideas to serve the everchanging needs and interests of women on campus.
Along with the usual movie nights and workshops, they will also be offering other social events, like their ‘Porn in Perspective’ panel discussion on Thursday, a feminist social next week and a dirty bingo night with RyePride later this month. They will also be getting involved with community initiatives, like yesterday’s Sisters in Spirit vigil.
Next semester, they’re looking to focus on campaigns and events that encourage women to appreciate and celebrate their bodies as they are.
“It’s all part of the feminist revolution.”
Photo: Chelsea Pottage