By Rachel Cannon |Copy Editor|
As a self-described feminist and active advocate of women’s rights, it’s always tough to call out organizations that are working to advance women in any way.
That said, I’m sorry to say I have a slight beef with the SMSU Women’s Resource Center (WRC) regarding its promotional methods for certain events.
This past year, the WRC has sponsored a number of events at CSUSB. Each of these events are described to provide both men and women on the campus and the community with valuable information regarding women’s issues.
The WRC has hosted talks on important issues ranging from self-mutilation to self-defense. The center has also hosted great events such as “The Vagina Monologues” and the upcoming Sandra Cisneros lecture.
I think the WRC does a great job of working hard to make CSUSB a welcoming and empowering environment for women.
My issue is with the way the WRC has advertised and promoted these events. I feel that the advertising has been overtly sexual, which I think leads to over sexualizing the environment on campus.
The two most vivid examples of this sexual advertising have been the promotions for “The Vagina Monologues” and I Love Female Orgasm events that took place last February.
To promote “The Vagina Monologues,” a play described by news.csusb.edu as covering “the broad range of emotions and topics women face on a subject often seen as taboo,” the WRC sold vagina shaped pops.
These candies, which came in three flavors of chocolate as well as caramel creme latte, were shaped like fairly large renderings of vulvae. Similarly, to raise awareness for the I Love Female Orgasm event, the WRC sold promotional black t-shirts with the name of the event in bold letters across the chest.
Students could be seen walking around campus with t-shirts that had the phrase “I love female orgasm” emblazoned across the front.
As a woman, I love both the idea and the goal of these products. I agree that it is necessary to have events like these on our campus.
It is natural for me to support efforts to raise awareness of women’s emotional and physical health issues, and I completely back both of the events themselves.
This is my issue: by distributing these promotional materials on campus, those who may feel uncomfortable by the sexual environment these materials foster will find it next to impossible to avoid runnint into these sexual products.
For example, I am really “icked out” by the possibility of entering an elevator on campus with a man sucking on a “vagina pop.”
Finding myself in a situation like that would certainly make me uncomfortable. While I recognize that this is not the idea or motivation behind the WRC’s campaign, this is a completely possible scenario that the campaign has created.
I’m certain that if I found myself in a situation like this at work, I would have grounds to file a complaint of sexual harassment.
So why is the same thing happening at CSUSB any less serious? I have a similar reaction to the “I Love Female Orgasm” shirts.
I realize that it’s impossible to completely de-sexualize a college campus, which is not what I’m saying should happen. I do believe that these products are an unnecessary contribution and, call me a prude, but it does make me feel uncomfortable.
I am certain that these events can be promoted in a way that would not make students or staff members feel uncomfortable.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if either of these things make people uncomfortable,” said Janet Honn-Alex, Women’s Resource Center Coordinator. “Both the pops and the shirts did a good job of promoting these events. Both helped create awareness of these issues that effect both women and men.”
I agree that drawing attention to women’s issues is noble and invaluable, and I think the WRC is right in doing so. I just don’t think it has to be accomplished at the expense of those of us who want to attend school without these explicit sexual products on display in such a way that they are impossible to avoid.