Women's Groups Proliferate

But Efforts to Stir Debate and Combat All-Male Clubs Fall Short

The limited status of women on the campus social and political scenes has been challenged by the formation of several new groups this year.

But how successful the organizers of these efforts have been at combating the social hegemony of all-male final clubs and the apolitical stagnation of the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) remains a matter of question.

One group, Women Appealing for Change (WAC), launched a boycott of the nine all-male final clubs to protest the clubs' single-sex policies. Some women have formed final clubs of their own.

Still others sought to start new, more active feminist groups after RUS leaders declared the organization largely apolitical.

Each of these fledgling groups shares a desire to see the face of feminism on campus altered. But their efforts appear to have made little difference.

Breaking the Barriers

For the activists in WAC, forcing open the all-male final clubs meant gaining access for women to one of the last off-limits areas at the College.

A group of women, many of whom frequent final clubs, last fall launched a boycott of the single-sex social clubs to pressure them into going co-ed. With high-profile advertisements and orchestrated appeals to the press, WAC solicited the signatures of hundreds of women during the academic year who agreed to join the protest.

Nevertheless, WAC's demands didn't go far enough to suit some campus feminists, who have denounced final clubs as elitist as well as sexist.

The final clubs, with which the College severed all official ties in 1984 because of their exclusion of women, admit Harvard male undergraduates by nomination and election by club members.

Although the WAC boycott was only scheduled to run through the end of this academic year, a May 22 "WAC Newsletter" says "WAC is here to stay"

The newsletter, which was written by organizer Francie Walton '94, suggests that the group might try to set its sights a bit lower next year.

"Let us know your ideas for next year--perhaps just an officially sponsored boycott for the punching events in the fall to get a larger number of women involved?" Walton asks women members.

Walton's scaled-back ambitions may result from a lack of success in forcing change this year. The newsletter cites "financial struggles," women deserting the boycott effort and an inability to unite the female undergraduate community as problems.

"It is funny that the movement in many ways became an issue of women vs. Women and this I think is sad, not only because it weakened our voice, but because it was a real opportunity for many of us to unite and show our support for each other," Walton writes.