Women’s Centre serves more than just pancakes, it serves our community

By Negin Alavi

The Women’s Centre has, unfortunately, not been able to pay for ads about our centre due to our budget cuts in 2009/10. However, that hasn’t stopped the Women’s Centre from stepping up for all students, regardless of gender. In fact, on the topic of our budget, it’s important that we clear up the gross misrepresentation in the “Girl’s Club” article, published by The Peak two weeks ago. The SFSS budget puts our staff wages and Centre budget in one line, so while the budget shows a higher number, the actual annual working budget for the centre has been carved down closer to $8,000, less than 50 per cent of our 2008/9 budget. We’ve had to ask and work for every dime. We’re relieved to say that our most recent budget increase was from an actual referendum process. However, $667 a month, before this past May 1 seems fiendishly low, considering our high number of volunteers, event planning, and a library that is available for all genders.

We are active in Forum and Advocacy: an under-funded and under-reported committee of the SFSS. The Women’s Centre and our sibling space, Out on Campus, were part of the fight for every student in a multi-student society campaign that headed out to Victoria on the issue of student debt. Our volunteers were also part of the successful March to Defend Public Education that was held downtown on April 1. Furthermore, we play an integral part in referring students of all genders to the campus Food Bank. MBC’s room 1349 exists not as a “kindness,” but as a necessity for student survival.

While women may have equal access to university and student debt, that doesn’t mean equal access to debt payment, not with women still earning 30 cents less on the dollar than men. Forget the myth that “more women in school” means “women making more money.” That even head-hunted women hit the glass ceiling at entry level shows that feminism isn’t quite passe, unless, of course, you choose to be content with a foot in the door and a brake on advancement.

If you think our mandate is antiquated, ask what it is first. In a few words: pro-feminist, pro-choice, anti-racist, sex-positive, and trans-inclusive. All of these are current and relevant to the diverse body of students’s lives. The Advocacy Committee, Out On Campus, the SFSS Legal clinic, and the Women’s Centre, organizations that help all students graduate, have been ravaged by SFSS cuts over the past four years.

These cuts have also reduced the Women’s Centre’s ability to combat attempts to make reproductive choice illegal, stop racist attacks in action and rhetoric, and fight for queer and trans rights; all topics debated regularly in legislatures throughout the world. Feminists of all genders are not done yet. It is regrettable that our Pro-Choice Days received little coverage, with our amazing male allies countering anti-choicers on campus last November. Nor was there coverage on the March 2012 event with national activists speaking on choice, a serious topic currently under national discussion. But with events like these, we’re proving that if it’s still happening, it’s not history, and that the SFU Women’s Centre is happening for international students, graduate students, students across disciplines, as well as their non-SFU loved ones. Still need more proof of our relevance? Volunteer applications never stop coming in.

This Centre is clear in our support of women, men, and non-conformists being feminists, without apology. Feminism, in its diverse manifestations, is indeed the affirmation of women, not an implicit rejection of men. That is why we work in a collective process with many different voices, sharing important principles, and contributing to progress for real equity and ethical power sharing in an unbalanced, binary-gendered world. In and around our little space, we’re okay with calling it feminism; just remember that it directs the community building work that we’ve been doing on behalf of all SFU students.