In today’s society, feminists are criticized for living in the past and fighting a lost cause. Sufragettes originally fought for equality and voting, and now that those battles have been won, feminism no longer has meaning. The opening of the Women’s Resource Centre at the University of Calgary has garnered attention from critics–who need to know why it’s needed–and supporters, who feel they don’t need to answer.
The main misunderstanding critics have about feminism stems from their own pre-judgement of what being a feminist entails. Feminism is complex and multi-faceted, but in the most general sense, it is about equality for groups marginalized not only for their gender but religion, sexual preference, age, disabilities and so on. This is not, despite common belief, an ideal that women are victim to men and society, although their main focus is with women.
Another reason feminists still fight to regain equality is due to figures. Statistically, women are still paid less than men for the same positions, are more likely to be abused by their heterosexual partner, and are more likely to be raped–or at least are more likely to be targeted for sexual harassment. This is not to say that these things do not happen to men, and places like the WRC strive to provide resources for both men and women regarding these issues.
Inequalities are not only a disadvantage to women. Men, for example, are stereotypically disinclined to show emotion or ask for help. Males are not really taught what menstruation involves, although in reality they should know so they can further protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies. Females, despite knowing the facts, are still shamed into thinking that periods are inconvenient, dirty and the culprit behind mood swings, even though men are also subject to mood swings due to hormones.
The WRC primarily serves women, but it isn’t restricted to women. In fact, men are allowed to go there during off-peak times which are designated by staff and volunteers as open to all, and some of the programs offered in fall 2007 will be open to both men and women. The WRC is there to educate–not to attack or to judge. We need it in order to teach women to detect situations which, statistically, have caused the need for preventative measures to be in place.
By having a safe place for victims of such circumstances, more women can be helped and more of these incidences can be prevented. Perhaps that in itself is a good enough reason to give women a safe haven on campus.