If you took concepts like race, gender, sexuality, spirituality and stereotypes, and mixed them together in a pot on a stove, you would invariably cause a kitchen fire. The pressure of the combined issues inside that pot would explode its heat-resistant walls, sending zillions of smoldering pieces flying off throughout the room. Individually, any one of these topics sparks lively and provocative debate, but throw them together and what you get is simply explosive. Such is the volatile power of the chemistry between these social constructs and issues. To delight and fancy your interest in diving head on into this bubbling cauldron, the Women’s Center and the Alliance for Minority Women for Action, Rebuilding and Empowerment have teamed up to offer discussion groups on alternating Tuesdays, that explore various topics related to these themes. Every week you have an opportunity to discuss and learn, to listen and speak, about issues like pornography, representation of minority women in the media, abortion, spirituality, lesbian marriage, competition, relationships, language and more, in a discussion hosted by either the Women’s Center or AWARE.

“We want to empower and unite all minority women, and women in general,” said Alex Clark, Vice President of AWARE. “We want to empower ourselves and empower others. We want to meet and have really good discussions.” With these goals in mind, the stage is set for provocative, eye opening and educational dialogue. “It’s definitely interesting to hear other people’s ideas on something you have an opinion on,” said Ashley Hollingshead, who is coordinating the Women’s Center’s portion of the discussion groups. “People should come to expand their knowledge, hear other people’s point of view, and have a good discussion.”
Having a weekly discussion group series is a new foray for both AWARE and the Women’s Center. “We’re trying it out this quarter,” said Hollingshead, “and so far it’s been successful.
Attendance hasn’t been particularly high, but that gives everyone a chance to really talk.” The intimacy of small discussions has paid off by giving each person the ability to fully articulate their opinions.

Clark voiced that the AWARE discussion group went so well that one student with a class ending at 4:15 ran all the way across campus just to catch part of the discussion before it ended at 5. “It is great to see how much interest is going into AWARE,” she said. “We had a really strong showing- it’s really nice to see how it’s taken off.”

The lineup of discussions for the rest of this quarter holds some fascinating topics. The Women’s Center will be hosting discussions on Lesbian Marriage on February 7, and Gender and Language on February 21. AWARE’s discussions will be on January 31, February 2, 14 and 28. Topics to be explored include how stereotypes and sexual identity in the media affect minority women and romantic relationships, interracial dating, abortion among minority women, and perception of transgender among minority women, to name a few. “We set up the discussion and it goes where it goes,” said Clark. The format of the discussion groups allows AWARE to get the ball rolling on these important topics, but the trajectory the ball takes depends on who is there and what issues arise through the conversation.

Both Clark and Hollingshead commented on the importance of having an out-of-class forum to discuss these kinds of social issues. “In the classroom, you definitely have intellectual conversations, but there are social issues that need to be addressed and aren’t always brought up,” said Clark. “[With the discussion groups] we come, hang out, have a really good time and really good conversation. It’s a really good place to voice your opinion. The hope is to go beyond knowing each other as acquaintances and build some real friendships and alliances, and hopefully to see some real change on this campus. This is a safe space where we all come and talk about things that pertain to minority women.” Hollingshead commented, “it’s cool that it’s an out-of-class setting. It’s great that people are still interested, because these are things you might talk about with friends, but not with people you don’t know.”

The discussion groups are open to everyone, and part of the goal is to bridge connections between people who might not otherwise connect with each other. “Everybody has different ideas,” said Clark. “This is a good space to share that. It is an open place and everyone is welcome.”

The discussions are every Tuesday from 4-5 pm, alternating between the Women’s Center and AWARE. Women’s Center discussions meet in VU 567, and AWARE discussions meet in the VU Activities Room. For more information about AWARE, you can email awareasclub@yahoo.com, and for the Women’s Center, email as.rop.women@wwu.edu.