Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review

You don’t have to be a feminist to attend this year’s Feminist Connection. In fact, you don’t even have to be female. Students of all genders and gender identities are encouraged to attend this informative event, which aims to show students that issues faced by women are issues that affect everyone.

Feminist Connection is the AS Women’s Center’s annual kick-off event. Women’s Center Coordinator Lizzie Lamb said the event acts like an info fair and a meet and greet for students interested in discovering more about women’s issues. The event will be held Oct. 13 from 8 to 10 p.m. in VU room 565.

Representatives from Women’s Empowerment and Education, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, Crime and Sexual Assault Support Services and Western Men Against Violence will be given an opportunity to speak briefly about their organizations and what kinds of resources and services they offer.

Western clubs, such as Women in the Woods, and community groups such as the Womencare Shelter will also be available to provide students with information on more specific female identity issues.

Even offices that don’t specifically deal with feminist issues, such as the AS Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance, the AS Sexual Awareness Center, and clubs from the AS Ethnic Student Center will be present.

“We want to shed light on the oppression that all groups face,” Lamb said. “Issues that women face are faced by more people than just women.”

Lamb said that a common misconception about feminism that this year’s Connection is trying to address is that feminism is only concerned with women’s rights and issues. While these things may be the backbone of feminism, Lamb said that the idea of resisting oppression is universal, whether you’re a female-identified person or not.

“Being a woman is very self-defined,” Lamb said. “There are cultural connotations that are sometimes very oppressive.”

For this year’s Connection, Lamb is making a special effort to reach out to those groups of people who may not fit into the gender binary, or those who chose not to classify themselves into a gender at all. Lamb said there can be a lot of ambiguity about queer and transgendered people and how they fit in to a larger feminine identity.

“We’re really trying to carve out places in feminism for trans and queer identified students this year,” Lamb said. “We want trans and queer people to know we’re working with them too. This is about all of us.”

Lamb also wants to break the silence surrounding violence against men. Men are often less likely than women to report incidents of abuse against them, Lamb said, and there are very few safe spaces for men to go to talk about domestic violence. Lamb said there is a huge stigma about violence against men, and one of the goals of Feminist Connection and the Women’s Center in general is to encourage discussion about this issue. She hopes that students who are survivors of assault attend the event to learn more about the resources available to them, as well as to meet other students who have had similar experiences.

Tanesha Tekola, Women’s Center assistant coordinator, said that the event will feature an impromptu art exhibit as well. Plaster body cast molds left over from the 2009 Vagina Memoirs monologue series will be decorated and displayed by Feminist Connection attendees.  The molds were taken from Western students who participated in the monologue event last year. The casts are from women of all different shapes and sizes, and Lamb hopes that they remind people to celebrate and embrace different body types. Lamb said body image issues can be especially sensitive for female-bodied individuals, but can affect people of any gender identity.

Feminist Connection is only the start of what the Women’s Center has planned for fall quarter. On Oct. 27, the Women’s Center will host a Survivor Speak Out at 7 p.m. in AIC 303. The panel will feature Western students who are survivors of sexual assault. The panelists will share their experiences with the audience, and audience members are encouraged to do the same. Lamb said the goal of the event is to provide a safe space to talk about sexual assault-related issues.

On Nov. 16 and 17, the Women’s Center will host auditions for the Vagina Memoirs monologue series. The series allows students to speak about their experiences being a female-identified individual. Lamb said the monologues can be about positive or negative aspects of being female identified, and in the past topics have ranged from sexual assault experiences to body image issues.

Anyone interested in learning more about feminine identity issues or getting involved with the Women’s Center can call (360) 650-6114 or visit VU 514 for more information.