- Body Image
- Eating Disorders
- Global Feminism
- Healthy Relationships
- Other Women's Centers
- Positive Sexuality
- Sexual Assault
- Women's Health
- Women's History
Why a Women's Center?
Why Women's Center?
Our name is a little misleading. While we are the Women's Center, that does not mean that we exclusively serve women. The Women's Center is open to all students, faculty, and staff who want to contemplate and discuss the removal of social, political, and economic barriers to have women's full participation in society. The Women's Center advocates positive personal and societal changes to promote healthier lifestyles for all people.
Why not a Men's Center?
As a group, men have not been systematically denied access, faced gender oppression, or had to fight for equal rights based on gender or because of their status as men. However, this does not mean that men have not suffered because of our gender system or that individual men have not experienced cruelty and violence as a result of cultural issues related to misogyny, masculinity and gender expression. Women on the other hand, have historically experienced, and in many cases continue to experience, discrimination in areas such as representation, employment and salary equity. Men as part of other disenfranchised identity groups have had to fight for some of these rights, but not because they are men: in these cases, the fight has been about race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status and a variety of other issues.
Why do we need a Women's Center?
A woman’s experience is in arguably shaped by her gender and the way it intersects with her other identities, such as her race, class, sexuality, ability, etc. Therefore, being a woman means having experiences—and disadvantages—that are fundamentally different from men’s.
Economically speaking, women worldwide are paid less than men, and in most countries earn 25% to 40% less than men do. Women are more likely to work for hourly wages, to work in the informal sector, or to do unpaid work within the home. In the United States, women own 36.3% of privately-held businesses, and 89.5% of these women-owned firms have no employees apart from the owner. On average, women start these businesses with half as much capital available to them as men do. Women are only 14.6% of executive officers and 4.6% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Likewise, women are severely underrepresented in politics. In the United States, only 104 women serve in Congress, a body of 535 people; that makes them 19.4% of its members. Out of the nation’s 50 state governors, in 2016, only six are women, and 22 states have never had a female governor. Illinois is one of them. Out of the mayors of America’s largest cities, only 12% are women, and on average, 2 men are appointed to state-level cabinets for every woman. It’s easy to become desensitized to the fact that the U.S. has had 44 presidents over more than two centuries, but not one has been a woman.
Women are subject to physical and sexual violence worldwide at appalling rates. According to RAINN, 1 out of 6 American women has experienced rape or attempted rape in her lifetime—17.7 million American women in total. 90% of rape victims are female, and 98% of their rapists will never be incarcerated. Young women enrolled in college are 3 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than the general population. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. The most common victims of domestic abuse are women aged 18-24. 1 in 5 women have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner. 94% of victims in murder-suicides involving an intimate partner are female. For women, the leading cause of death from workplace injuries is simply being murdered.
Although women have made incredible advances in social status and overcome many disadvantages, our society is not an equal one—yet. University women’s centers, like ours, exist as a resource in addressing the specific challenges university women face. We are also a resource for the continuing, intersectional fight against oppression in all its forms. We educate the Northwestern community by bringing awareness to issues important to people of all genders and by amplifying the voices of those speaking up about them. We are a hub for social progress and promote furthering equality. We know disadvantage experienced by even one woman affects everyone. We are here to level the playing field, both for Northwestern women and women everywhere.
What is a Women's Center?
Historically, Women's Centers began emerging on college campuses around the 1970s and continue to be added to campuses to this day. (Tufts University Women's Center was founded in 1972) When Women's Centers were developed 70s, they served as a safe space for women on campuses during a time when women were both a minority in numbers and a marginalized group on college campuses. Despite the fact that many universities and colleges are now home to plus or minus 50% enrolled females, women are still institutionally marginalized as a group within society and still face gender discrimination, sexual harassment and violence on campus; therefore, a safe space (see our Statement of Respect) to explore issues of women and gender is still needed. It also important that we have administrative positions charged with advocating for gender inclusion and equality on campus.
Today, women continue to be underrepresented in positions of power on campus including student government, tenured faculty positions, and high-powered careers. (These numbers often become even grimmer when we consider the race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status of women who are in high levels of power) Women still disproportionately experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of gender discrimination despite advancements in gender equality, gender education, and legal protections.Check out UND's Women Center History!