Esme Prowse is a Political Science and Gender Studies student at the University of Windsor. If you’ve been to the Womyn’s Centre on campus, you may have seen her volunteering there. We sat down with Esme to find out more about what made her get involved with the Womyn’s Centre, and why feminism and sisterhood is so important to her.
How did you find out about the Womyn’s Centre, and what made you want to get involved?
I heard about the Womyn’s Centre before I had started university, and I joined the first day I started in my first semester as a volunteer. It mostly came from just ending a violent relationship the previous year and starting an emotionally- abusive relationship in that time as well. The centre was explained to me as a place where I could feel safe and seek emotional support without judgement based on my specific female experiences.
Why do you think feminism is relevant and important?
I think feminism is a relevant and growing movement for our generation to seek personal growth through self- reflection and awareness. We need to embrace the idea that feminism is more about subjective feminisms.
What kinds of services does the Womyn’s Centre offer?
As a service, the Centre acts as a first point of contact for any student who may have experienced sexual assault on or off campus. We have community contact/info for a variety of local resources like women’s shelters, addiction centres. The centre provides sexual health resources – tampons/pads, condoms – free with no questions asked, as well as any sexual health information any students might be after. We are a safe space that is open to all students. The Centre also holds a variety of events throughout the school year including a remembrance ceremony for Ecole Polytechnique and Internatonal Women’s Day. For those who are interested the centre also has volunteer and work study opportunities.
Why is the Womyn’s Centre spelled with a “Y”?
Womyn with a “Y” is important for a few reasons. It gives students on campus the ability to find a space in which they can explore their personal gender identities without the judgement of binary social codes. It also refers to linguistics, because in English “woman” refers to “of man”, which implies a woman’s identity is developed based on some reliance of a man. It may not be the case anymore, but it does cause people to think about the terms they use and possibly think about the way in which society is formed. With this spelling, the Centre allows for the recognition of diverse and changing identities which are not defined by relationships to men, or even to masculinity. This is not to say that men and masculinities are not welcomed in the Centre, as the term “womyn” does not prevent anyone of any gender or sex identity to apply it to themselves; in fact, it encourages everyone to develop a sense of introspective gender awareness.
What are you studying at the school, and why?
I‘m currently attending the University of Windsor for an undergrad in Political Science and Gender Studies because I like to ask a lot of ‘why’ questions. I wanted to learn about the systems of government and power on a large scale as well as on a smaller and interpersonal level. I like seeing how policies are affected by gender and culture.
You get to sit down and have dinner with any woman, living or dead. Who do you choose and why?
I was reading about Machig Labdrön the other day… she was the mother of my favourite practice of meditation from Tibetan teachings. I’d want to get dinner with her. She was a really interesting 11th century yogini that embodied what I would call a perfect balance of masculine and feminine energies. I’d want to learn from her so I could apply some of that to my degree because I find it hard to find a balance in the values I learn about at times.
You can visit the Womyn’s Centre on the second floor of the CAW next to the Student Counselling Centre.