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 firstname.lastname@example.org.