RANSOM: A Women’s Center for all women

The Yale Women’s Center is failing in its mission.

The Center says it seeks to be a “safe space” for all the women of Yale University, but it has been pigeonholed by its own members and board into a space simply for women who fit a certain definition: anti-frat, anti-hookup culture — at least as it currently exists at Yale — and pro-choice. How can women who don’t fit this description feel that the Women’s Center is a “safe space” for them, given the obvious contempt the Center has for those who don’t agree with its values?

Whether or not it means to, the Women’s Center has alienated many women. When it reacted to the DKE incident I felt the response was blown out of proportion, but I didn’t really mind — perhaps there were women who were truly offended. When it condemned Yale’s sexual culture, I wondered why women shouldn’t have the freedom to treat sex as flippantly (or seriously) as they wish. But when it rejected pro-life ideas as anti-feminist and anti-women, I knew that the Yale Women’s Center was rejecting me and hundreds of other women on this campus who don’t fit into its desired cookie cutter.

As an atheist pro-life woman (didn’t think you would ever hear that, did you?), I have a lot of trouble understanding why feminists are supposed to be pro-choice. First of all, there are many women out there who do not want to get an abortion, for whatever reason, and those women should be supported in that decision. Really, they need just as much — if not more — support as those who choose abortion, as they deal with the stigma of pregnancy at our age as well as the day-to-day medical tasks that come with pregnancy.

Secondly, one could easily argue that abortion is anti-women. Abortion just continues the trend of blaming women for unwanted pregnancies and asking them to change their hormone levels and mutilate their bodies, while men are not asked to do anything other than simply enjoy the main side effect — women’s imposed infertility. As anyone who has used hormonal birth control knows, a lot of things change — sometimes good (anyone else have to buy new bras?), sometimes bad (I have cried at every movie or TV show I’ve seen for the last six months. Every single one.) And Plan B at best creates abnormal mood swings and horrible cramps — and at worst violent vomiting.

Abortion, of course, can do even worse things to a woman’s body, not to mention the emotional side effects. I’m not saying that birth control is bad. I’m just saying that it seems a bit anti-women to me that women are the only ones who are ever asked to actively participate in changing their own bodies for that purpose (with the exception of vasectomies — and those are more permanent and therefore rarer).

My personal objections to abortion have more to do with other moral issues than with this specific aspect, but the question remains: Why is it anti-feminist to be pro-life? Similarly, why is it anti-feminist to party? To hook up with a guy you don’t know? Isn’t that increasing women’s freedom? And doesn’t hookup culture diminish the stigma of promiscuity, at least to some extent?

Not only should the Women’s Center be open to women with different ideas, it should also be open to different kinds of feminism. The campus group Women’s Leadership Initiative has gone a lot further toward helping Yale women understand issues that they will confront in the workplace and in life — bringing in female alumnae to discuss the realities of workplace harassment and the glass ceiling, as well as the difficulties of balancing work and family life — than the Women’s Center has. Why don’t we see more helpful functions like this through the Women’s Center? It is too focused on the sexual culture of a college — a place where we only spend four years — that many don’t feel threatened by.

I would ask the Yale Women’s Center to be the bigger woman and accept these different views — accept women who fit into different definitions, accept women who have different beliefs. Try to help women at Yale discuss all sorts of issues that they face now or may face in the future. Only then can they truly be a center for ALL women at Yale University.

Elise Ransom is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact her at elise.ransom@yale.edu.

Comments

  • grumpyalum

    “First of all, there are many women out there who do not want to get an abortion, for whatever reason, and those women should be supported in that decision. Really, they need just as much — if not more — support as those who choose abortion, as they deal with the stigma of pregnancy at our age as well as the day-to-day medical tasks that come with pregnancy.”

    Someone hasn’t been to the Women’s Center. They provide information discussing what support they offer and support services that exist for individuals in college who want to have the baby.

    They offer a choice. You don’t want to.

  • T

    Pro-choice is just that. If a pro-choicer won’t support a woman our age who decides to keep a pregnancy, they aren’t a pro-choicer. I don’t know what the Women’s Center in particular does, but it is certainly not anti-feminist to be /personally/ pro-life (or to hook up). It’s only anti-feminist to assume that our choices must be the correct choices for all women.

  • AlexH

    *First of all, there are many women out there who do not want to get an abortion, for whatever reason, and those women should be supported in that decision.*

    I think you’re confusing pro-choice with what people often mistakenly assume pro-choice means, which is pro-abortion. What you said about supporting women who don’t want to get abortions is supported under the concept of *choice*. The difference between pro-life and pro-choice is that pro-life doesn’t allow women to have an abortion and thereby denies them a choice in deciding what to do with their own bodies. You do say that the WC should “*try to help women at Yale discuss all sorts of issues that they face now or may face in the future.”* Isn’t unwanted pregnancy and the potential need for an abortion part of that?

    As for only women being asked to change something about themselves, I don’t really see what that has to do with the WC. It is, unfortunately or not depending on how you look at it, a consequence of the fact that we as women bear children. Also, I believe that men are asked to do things…like use condoms. They are also in the midst of creating a birth control for men. But again, I don’t see what that has to do with the WC or feminism. I mean, some of the same side effects you note as a result of taking the Pill are some of the same that come with being pregnant.

    Furthermore, I feel that you are conflating the WC’s concern about a negative hook-up culture with feminism in a way that they do not support. The WC wouldn’t give out condoms and dental dams in abundance if they didn’t acknowledge that Yalies are engaged in the sexual culture. But I do not think that trying to get *women and men* to be careful, safe, and to think about the ways in which they are interacting with each other is unimportant or undermining feminism. The fact that they do not put the onus entirely on women to be safe and to consider the different aspects of a relationship dynamic on partners is considerate of all feminists, or simply of women in general, who may have a different relationship dynamic (with what ever sex their partner is).

  • eli1

    Thank you for writing this. Its about time that the WC gets exposed as the fraud it is. I honestly think it is unbelievable that the university pays undergraduates to run a Women’s Center which holds views opposed by the rationally thinking majority of female undergraduates. Additionally, with such an emphasis on Title IX, where is the Men’s Center again?

  • River_Tam

    > As an atheist pro-life woman (didn’t think you would ever hear that, did you?), I have a lot of trouble understanding why feminists are supposed to be pro-choice.

    Right on. I wouldn’t call myself an atheist, but I’m certainly not religious. I am, however, zealously pro-life. Count me as an alum who resented the YWC for purporting to speak for me, for claiming a monopoly on the “feminist” label, and for monopolizing gendered discourse at Yale.

  • River_Tam

    > Someone hasn’t been to the Women’s Center. They provide information discussing what support they offer and support services that exist for individuals in college who want to have the baby.

    I went into the Yale Women’s Center and asked if they had any information on when a fetus’s heart started beating. They didn’t. I then asked them if they knew (or had information on) when a fetus could feel pain. Still nothing. I asked them for a pamphlet on adoption. They didn’t have any, and they expressed confusion as to why they should have such materials on hand.

    Someone hasn’t been to the Women’s Center.

    • T

      They’re not a medical establishment, why should they have information on fetal development? As for adoption, they have one pamphlet that I saw on pregnancy. It lists all three choices without judgment, and actually discusses what to do if you want to keep the pregnancy BEFORE it discusses abortion resources.

  • PhysicsAlum

    This article made me go aaaaaaaaagh. (Unless it is satire / an artful troll, in which case…good job?)

    “Similarly, why is it anti-feminist to party? To hook up with a guy you don’t know? Isn’t that increasing women’s freedom? And doesn’t hookup culture diminish the stigma of promiscuity, at least to some extent?”

    Er. It sounds like you have never actually talked to someone from the Yale Women’s Center. A huge part of modern feminism (see Slut Walks, pretty much every mainstream feminist blog, etc.) focuses on women’s sexual freedom and being able to party without being called a slut/blamed for rape. I’ll agree that I think there’s way too much focus on sex, but that’s college life for you.

    “Abortion just continues the trend of blaming women for unwanted pregnancies and asking them to change their hormone levels and mutilate their bodies, while men are not asked to do anything other than simply enjoy the main side effect — women’s imposed infertility.”

    You know what also changes hormone levels and can mulilate bodies? Cause mood swings, and lead to depression? PREGANCY.

    You’re allowed to be a feminist and not want to have an abortion. Just don’t try to pass laws not letting other women choose. Why is this so hard to get??

  • roflairplane

    People oppose abortion because it ends innocent human life. The so-called “pro-choice” advocate allowing innocent human life to be destroyed, while opponents of abortion seek to stop innocent human life from being destroyed. If the Women’s Center only welcomes women who advocate allowing innocent human life to be destroyed, it cannot cannot purport to be an open place for all Yale women.

  • penny_lane

    You know, there were plenty of women way back when who maintained that they didn’t want to vote. In the end, though, I’m glad we didn’t listen to them. Also…

    *…there are many women out there who do not want to get an abortion, for whatever reason, and those women should be supported in that decision.*

    No. They should be encouraged, nay, forced to have an abortion. Abortion is the new irresponsible hookup. It proves that you’re a liberated woman.

  • alum00

    Jesus Christ, is this some kind of joke? It’s the Women’s Center, not the health center, a pregnancy counseling center, or a “getting harassed by dudes like River Tam” center. Give me a break.

    To the columnist — The Women’s Center provides a valuable, necessary space on campus, quite different from most of the rest of Yale in terms of its mission and culture. Just as not everybody with black skin wants to hang out at the Af-Am Cultural Center, not every woman at Yale is going to want to hang out at the Women’s Center. That’s fine. That’s just as it has always been. Just because you happen to disagree with the general mission of the Women’s Center doesn’t mean you have to try to remake them in your image. If you don’t like them, don’t go.

  • River_Tam

    > “getting harassed by dudes like River Tam”

    The “Yale Women’s Center”, if it is going to be named as such, should represent all Yale Women, or else rename itself.

    It does not represent me. It should not call itself the Yale Women’s Center unless it makes some attempt to represent something other than the Third Wave Feminist party line.

  • LtwLimulus90

    This is awesome. The women’s center DOES NOT tolerate pro-life opinions or the views of pro-life students. Sure, they acknowledge that you don’t have to get an abortion if you don’t want to, but they silence opposition to the legality of abortion. There is a very powerful voice in America and at Yale that believes a fetus as separate from its mother’s body, and that a woman’s right to control her own body does not extend to control over the life of her child. The Women’s Center rejects them and refuses their voice to even be heard in its forum for sexual and women’s issues discussions, as evidenced by its rejection of CLAY as a member or affiliate organization last year. No one cared then and no one criticizing Miss Ransom’s arguments will acknowledge this fact, which renders this op-ed completely legitimate and valid. “Pro-Choice” was slightly misused, but the idea behind this piece is one hundred percent true and one hundred percent lamentable.

  • etm212

    To LtwLimulus90,

    I agree that there should be a place for debate on abortion, but it should not be the Women’s Center. Because the Center seeks to create a safe space for women, they cannot include an anti-abortion rights viewpoint. If they did, that space would no longer be safe for all women, namely those who have gotten or are considering getting an abortion. Furthermore, it is not the Women’s Center’s job to serve as a forum for a debate over the legality of a law that has been in place for nearly forty years. While that discussion is worthwhile, it should be conducted somewhere else.