Cannot get enough feminist discussion in class? Try WOMEN, Mills’ first official club for discussing women’s issues in society, says club co-founder Lynnette Arnold.
Developed in Fall of 2006 by Mills juniors Arnold and Olga Khaykin, Women’s Open-Minded Empowerment Network (WOMEN) began when the two Women’s Studies majors searched for feminist clubs on campus and could not find one.
Sophomore Megan Sloane, the Secretarial Logistics Coordinator, said that when she joined the club, her first thought was: “Why didn’t [Mills] have this club before?”
Every other week, Mills women kick back in the loveseats and armchairs in the Mary Atkins Glass Lounge, eating free snacks and discussing women’s issues.
Arnold outlined the club’s purpose in its constitution: providing “a safe space where Mills women are able to share our diverse experiences and perspectives in a respectful, supportive and confidential environment.”
One way members say they provide a supportive environment is by requiring that everyone at a meeting sign confidentiality slips that limit the amount of information members can discuss outside the meetings.
“[Discussing] content is fine, but we want to protect identity,” Arnold said. “We don’t want people saying, ‘Well, Lynnette said this and this.'”
She added that by keeping identities secret, she hopes other women feel safe relating personal stories and opinions without the fear that the information may be misconstrued or used against them later on.
Arnold describes the club as nonhierarchical, lacking a president and vice president. Despite officer positions with specific jobs, members say that everyone in the club decides on rules together and that duties are equally distributed.
“It’s not one person saying you do this, this and this,” said sophomore Asha Loupy, one of the Financial Logistics Coordinator. “Anyone can go to the Board of Trustees meeting, not just the president.”
At least half of the club members must vote in favor of any club business for it to pass. This business includes meeting times, discussion topics and officer appointments.
WOMEN officials consist of facilitators and three logistics coordinators.
According to the club constitution, the Liaison Logistics Coordinator acts as the contact person for students or faculty interested in club issues. The Secretarial Logistics Coordinator keeps documents and the confidentiality forms, and the Financial Logistics Coordinator acts as the club treasurer.
Facilitators, any club member who volunteered to preside over a particular meeting, moderate discussions based on the themes members vote on at the beginning of each semester. Each facilitator is also responsible for any supplemental items that may aid in discussion.
For instance, Loupy facilitated a meeting on gender and friendship. She created a blank pie chart and had members fill in the average amount of time they spent with friends, lovers and family to see their relationship priorities.
Using their charts as a starting point, members talked about why their time with others was divided as it was and whether or not gender expectations played into which people held priority over other relationships. Some members say sex alters all group dynamics.
The club is currently all women, but some members say that men are welcome if they are dedicated to discussing women’s issues and do not hit on the girls.
“If they want to talk about women, great, but not men who are like WOMEN – Hey, baby,” said Sloane.
Other members say that experience in classes have shown them that men in the club might throw the safe dynamic in the club and prevent women from speaking up.
“For 18 or 19-year-olds just going to college, women are going to be dominated by male discussion,” senior Noel Fagezhaugh said. “Even with female teachers, men are [taught] to be more aggressive and get called on.”
Some students say that having a women’s club on campus is redundant since Mills is already a feminist organization.
“You can’t throw a stone without hitting feminist discussion,” junior Andrea Howie said. “A feminist club isn’t necessary, but far be it from me to say it shouldn’t exist.”
Mills women interested in the club can contact members at firstname.lastname@example.org.