Friday, 12:30 PM, Shain Library. The room is abuzz, the television screen is flashing updates of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. This is the second time since I began college that female personhood has come under threat. Judge Kavanaugh and President Trump differ from previous Republican Politicians, as they both have active allegations of sexual assault on their record. Trump and Kavanaugh success in politics singles to women that their experiences of harassment are not relevant, and diminishes women’s agency over their own body and mind.
These threats are especially apparent to women in Colleges and Universities as one in 5 women will be assaulted while receiving their education. However, the culture at Connecticut College combats the threats that the election of President Trump and the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh present. The day of hearing the school sent out this message:
“ I write to let you know that the Womxn’s Center will offer space today from 1-3pm for anyone who wishes to be in community and solidarity with those who stand against sexual violence and misconduct at Connecticut College and everywhere. Staff from the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion will be present to offer support.”
However, it is not the administration that allows women to feel safe on this campus, it is the students. Many organizations exist on campus promoting women’s rights, however, one organization has grown since the 2016 election: The Women’s Empowerment Initiative. WE is an annual performance that collects original monologues from female and non-binary students, these monologues are performed in a new performance each year. Since the 2016 election, WE has grown into the largest organization on campus and donates all proceeds to a domestic violence shelter in New London. Other colleges perform similar shows, RISE, at Bowdoin College also collects stories from women performs them on a stage. Whereas the University of Santa Barbara puts on an annual showing of the Vagina Monologues. College women all over the country are actively reacting to these pivotal movements by using their voices and the stage. These shows represent a bravery, but also demonstrate how instances of transparency can campus culture.
The Women’s Empowerment Initiative has given female students a collective agency, and they have utilized it to change college culture. As political events affected Connecticut College, their membership grew, providing them with more power. The popularity of these groups is rising in colleges throughout the country, indicating that women are responding to attacks on their personhood by uniting with one another and inciting empathy through works of performance. As political events continue to unfold, the Women’s Empowerment initiative and other organizations similar to it, are faced with more responsibility, how will they handle their newfound power? These organizations will hopefully shape not just their school’s culture but will continue to be a force when they graduate into the real world.