As the Women’s Center plans for the new semester, the group has added a paid men’s outreach organizer to its staff — and the position is filled by a male undergraduate.
Travis Gidado ’12 was recently appointed to the role after expressing interest in increasing his involvement with the organization, said Melanie Boyd ’90, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and special advisor on gender issues for the Dean’s Office. The new men’s outreach organizer is a staff position, Boyd said, and staffers work closely with the Women’s Center board on individual projects. While Women’s Center Public Relations Coordinator Sally Walstrom ’12 said it is still unclear what Gidado’s new role will entail, both he and the Center are hoping to create a men’s feminist resident group at the Center.
Gidado said the Women’s Center intends for the new group to promote gender equality on campus, and he said it has already garnered a positive response from male Yalies.
“We’ve received an extremely positive response from a number of males in the Yale community who believe that feminism is important and who are committed to deconstructing the harmful impacts of gender norms,” Gidado said in an e-mail Tuesday.
After the Delta Kappa Epsilon incident this October — in which pledges chanted inflammatory remarks during an initiation ritual on Old Campus — several men including Gidado approached the Women’s Center to help the group in its efforts to improve Yale’s sexual climate, Walstrom said. Gidado said he collaborated with the Women’s Center in a more limited capacity last semester, facilitating discussions at a forum two days after the DKE incident and at the “Do You Want to Have Sex?” forum hosted in conjunction with Sigma Epsilon fraternity and Pi Beta Phi sorority.
When Gidado asked to take on a larger role, Boyd said the Center saw an opportunity to support feminist men and male allies, given the “rich, productive” conversation on sexual culture started by the Yale community last semester.
While it is not yet clear whether the Men’s Outreach Organizer will be a permanent position, she added that men have previously collaborated with the Center in many capacities, including through a now-defunct men’s feminist group that used to be a resident group at the Center.
Two female students interviewed who are involved with the Center said the new men’s outreach organizer position was a positive step and a great idea moving forward.
Emily Villano ’13, who attended several Women’s Center events last semester, said the DKE incident revealed some male misunderstanding of womens’ issues. It will be a “great accomplishment” if Gidado’s new post succeeds in bringing more men to the Center, she added.
“The Women’s Center is a place for everyone on campus,” said Claire Smilow ’13, a staffer at the Center. “I think [the new position] will be helpful in including other members of the Yale community who might not normally feel comfortable.”
The Center has also added a new member to its board, Alexsis Johnson ’12, to replace the current outreach coordinator.