To the editors:
In her op-ed of Nov. 8 (“Knitting a Revolution”), Juliet S. Samuel offers an insightful understanding of sexism, but mistakenly uses it to critique the Harvard College Women’s Center as an institution. While Samuel is correct when she writes that current Women’s Center activities are not sufficient to eradicate sexism on campus, she has clearly misunderstood our ultimate purpose.
It is not our mission to dictate student norms and values; rather, we are taking Samuel at her word when she says that “the only people who can change student behavior are students themselves.” Our goal is to provide the framework within which student groups can battle sexism and homophobia. We offer grants to this end, and programs and space to strengthen the women’s community. We centralize resources relating to women’s and gender issues, and conduct our own programming to engage students in dialogue on these issues.
Samuel writes that “creating a ‘safe space’ for dialogue does not create dialogue.” Of course. But having a space and the resources to conduct a dialogue are necessary prerequisites. Rather than attacking us for not “launching an energetic and pervasive campaign pointing out the hundreds of concessions women and men make to match gender expectations,” Samuel would do well to join with her fellow students in launching such a campaign. We will help, support, provide the space, the connections with administrators and faculty, and whatever other resources she and you all need. We look forward to joining in and supporting students and student groups in such campaigns.
SHAUNA L. SHAMES ’01
Nov. 10, 2006
The writer is a graduate student in American government and an intern at the Harvard College Women’s Center.