“Women’s Only”: why does it matter?

(This blog is modified/extended from a Facebook post; formatting changes include full names of acroynms/abbreviations at bottom of page)

It was the summer of 2014. (Let’s start realllllly corny!)

I was twenty-one years old, and far from truly appreciating the value of my membership in a women’s organization. Exactly five years ago, I boarded a plane and embarked on my first solo flight to Indianapolis for UIFI*. It wasn’t there that I realized I’d probably give my whole life to sorority, but it is where I realized why I thought I would.

Since 2014, I’ve flown solo at least 25 more times (mostly for things related to sorority), graduated from uOttawa with a degree I honestly don’t get enough use out of, and volunteered thousands of hours to a community I care deeply for (and if you know me, you know there are others).

I’m so grateful to be returning to Indy for the second time this year, because I’ve experienced tremendous growth in this place. This time I’ll be wearing my Panhellenic hat as I head to NPC* Area Advisor training this weekend. I have the pleasure of serving alongside women whose affiliations span 26 member organizations, whose “why” might be a little different than mine, but whose “when” is always right now.

Women’s groups have come a long way since the late 1800’s college groups that many of us campus dwellers call home. These groups created space where there was none, and made it possible to envision an academic environment where women could also learn, innovate, and build for themselves.

It’s been a rough year for the movement, as we’ve seen institutions like Harvard refuse to hear the voices of members who dedicate much of their time to their sisterhood, but also to their campus and community. It’s appalling to imagine that it could have been so easy to silence the voices of women who are paying that institution for their co-existence on campus.

If anything is clear today, it’s that we need each other. More than debating shirt colours, glitter, confetti, balloons, or drone videos. More than judicial board hearings. More than social media one-ups.

If you are asking yourself, why does it matter? Whether or not you identify as a woman, your right to spaces where you can be yourself freely, without judgment, are under threat of destruction every time an institution decides what rights you can and can’t have.

If you’re asking yourself, why does it matter? Social fraternities were once exclusive to white, Christian men in college. Today, because so many people before us fought for their right to exist, we have brothers and sisters in the fraternal movement who reflect many genders, races, sexual orientations, religions, professions, and socioeconomic statuses. Today, we have women’s professional sports leagues.

We’re all we’ve got, and need to start acting like it. Don’t take for granted the privilege we have to exist as we do.

* UIFI: Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute
* NPC: National Panhellenic Conference

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