The Women’s Resource Center strives to create an environment of openness and care as they encourage UNC students to discuss sensitive topics during their Consciousness-Raising sessions. On Oct. 4, this care began with sandwich fixings open to those hungry during the dinner hour event, hosted every other Wednesday.
These Consciousness-Raising Sessions are an open discussion of feminist topics and gender issues that students may encounter in life and on campus. Courtney Caston, a graduate assistant at the Women’s Resource Center, elaborated on the atmosphere of the session.
“It’s basically a free space for students to come in and engage about issues that they want to talk about,” Caston said. “There is no structure to it at all. It’s not like we come up with a planned discussion or presentation.”
At the Oct 4 meeting, Caston reminded the group of the center’s drum, which is free to beat when frustration or passion arises. According to Caston, the use of a drum started as a joke, but the center grew fond of it.
This particular session, directed by those who attended, lead to a focus on current events, including the mass shooting in Las Vegas, to the NFL kneeling during the anthem and the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.
Attendees discussed the impacts gender and race had on the reactions of these events. With support of others to express their interpretations of these events, the group analyzed and reflected on how they reacted to what has happened in the news and how they noticed society has reacted.
The group also discussed the influence of the individuals involved in these events being Caucasian versus being a person of color, as well as being a cisgender, or non-transgender, male. ‘Cisgender’ is a term used to describe a person that identifies as the gender he or she was assigned to at birth; ‘transgender’ describes a person who doesn’t identify as the gender or she was assigned to at birth.
The attendees questioned who gets labelled a terrorist and why, and addressed the impact on the association of those with mental health issues and violence. The group connected this event to why members of the NFL chose to kneel instead of stand during the national anthem and whether the original focus of the cause has changed or not. They challenged why the people of Florida and Texas who were hit by a hurricane received a greater amount of support and awareness compared to Puerto Rico.
The discussion of these events soon led to a general conversation about discrimination. This involved talk of police discrimination, how the United States voted in the United Nations’ ban on the death penalty for homosexuality and the 20-week abortion ban and its effect.
As well as discussing these events, the session focused on the negative impact of following these events too closely without considering its effect on oneself. The Women’s Resource Center aims to balance self-care and activism through these Consciousness-Raising Session. The center determinedly advocates for one to work on limiting his or her social media usage or abstaining from reading the news until he or she feels comfortable again.
The conversation took a turn towards a more positive note of friendships and relationships among and between people of color and Caucasians. While doing so, the center’s staff were quick to mediate these conversations, checking in with every member’s comfort level and making sure the conversation didn’t tokenize certain groups of people.
“I’ve had, like, a lot of people pour tough love into me, so I want you all to know that’s kind of like the reason that I pose that question, too,” Allie Berger, a graduate assistant at the center, said. Berger explained to the group exactly why she asked them to reflect on their privilege during these discussions.
“I think it’s important to constantly be challenging the things we are perceiving. I think that’s a form of caring and growth,” Berger said.
One of the center’s goals is to work towards establishing the importance of self-care. Thus, the group session ended with a discussion of how each member will actively work towards helping themselves, whether it is through some therapeutic thrift-store shopping or dedicating time to catch up with old friends.
The Women’s Resource Center will be hosting the Annual Conference on Gender Justice and Feminism from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 8 in the UC Ballrooms. Registration closes on October 20. Registration information can be found on the Women’s Resource Center’s website.
UNC’s Women’s Resource Center