Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Monday, December 18, 2017

Women’s Initiative aims to increase diversity and inclusion

Organization hopes to create space for everyone this school year

Women’s Initiative aims to increase diversity and inclusion

This year, Women’s Initiative will not host two annual events, “I Love the Female Orgasm,” and the “Vagina Monologues,” in an effort to include all genders, binary and nonbinary, in the organization’s programming, according to Women’s Initiative Director Kendall Baron.

Women’s Initiative has received criticism from students in the past for hosting events that are not inclusive to trans and nonbinary individuals, Baron said. On Oct. 3, Baron posted on the WI Facebook page about its current push to seek greater diversity and inclusion within the group.

The message included information on what the group is doing to create diversity and inclusion this school year, including reformatting and removing exclusionary events, such as the “Vagina Monologues” and creating new open events, like the “Breaking Ground Monologues.”

“I thought it was important to publicly say that these are our goals and this is what we’re changing,” Baron said. “This is what we hope for and as a community hold us to those standards and we hope we can give them to you.”

The group will host the “Breaking Ground Monologues” for the first time this school year, with the date to be determined. The “Vagina Monologues” and the “Breaking Ground Monologues” are similar in format, but the “Breaking Ground Monologues” will allow everyone to create a monologue about their body, regardless of gender. While the “Vagina Monologues” are exclusive to cisgender binary women, the “Breaking Ground Monologues” are open to everyone.

“We have a much better understanding of gender and sexuality and… how they all interact,” Baron said. “... [Vagina Monologues] either doesn’t include trans people or it does very minimally and it doesn’t include non-binary individuals at all.”

According to LGBTQ Event Co-Manager Anying Guo, the “Vagina Monologues” were imperative when they were first implemented at AU in 1996 because it provided a platform for “a wildly divergent gathering of female voices.” The play itself, written by Eve Ensler, has been translated into over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries, commonly on college campuses.

But now it’s time to change the dialogue to be more inclusive, according to Guo.

“I think it’s important to know that the “Vagina Monologues” was crucial whenever it was first originated because it was very specific for that time period,” Guo said. “But we’ve evolved a lot as a society [and] also as a campus community so obviously our events have to do that as well. That’s why I think “Breaking Ground” is such a crucial part of how we develop.”

With WI restructuring its events, they hope to open the door for everyone, according to Baron. LGBTQ Event Co-Manager Stella Janecek agreed, honing in on the importance of including everyone in WI.

“We’re really making an effort to recognize [that] women’s issues and feminist issues don’t only affect people that identify as women,” Janecek said. “Just because you’re a trans person or non-binary person doesn’t mean that the issues we discuss in our events and the topics that we discuss don’t apply to you.”

mcarrasco@theeagleonline.com


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