I can still remember the first time I noticed the Ohio University Women’s Center. Walking out of my Women’s and Gender Studies 101 class in the spring of 2009, entertaining concepts that were once foreign to me. I thought — “feminism, me?” Prior to taking Women’s Studies classes I hadn’t known the center even existed, but now, it mystified me.
My mind had been captivated by concepts of patriarchal rule and the thought’s backlash thrilled me much more than any revolution I’d ever been exposed to. Even when learning at the most basic level, I knew that my liberation was also tied up somewhere in the web of gendered oppression.
Women’s and Gender Studies by no means taught me everything. I still found myself sitting casually on the fourth floor of Baker in between the center and the Baker Ballroom, turning my head towards the door every five seconds, hoping that someone would spot my Women, Culture, and Society reader and invite me in. Being at such an young stage in my feminist studies I still carried with me a number of standard presumptions and misunderstandings: “Will they let me in there if I’m a man? I just wanna go in there and look at the books.” Or “What if this is one of those women only spaces?…we read about those…” And of course, I was also wrestling with the imminent threat of masculine gender policing.
Eventually I walked in, carrying my Women’s and Gender Studies Textbook awkwardly so that the title would remain in plain sight and began to sit and read.
“I have no idea what I was so afraid of.” Everyone smiled at me, asked me how I liked my classes and told me it was nice to see a new face.
I proceeded to drop in every once in a while when I needed a quiet place to study. Every time I immersed myself deeper in my studies I would come into the center and I could find something new that spoke to me. The posters of Audre Lorde, the copy of The Dialectic of Sex with the yellowed pages from the 70’s, the Crimethinc posters, domestic violence resources. Everything seemed so fitting for me. Even though I was a man I still felt as though many of the things in this center were made for people like me—I grew very attached to this space.
I started volunteering here informally last fall. I had no set hours or responsibilities, but I was happy enough just to be here. I knew that simply being there would inevitably lead to better things, and I was right.
The Walk A Mile in Her Shoes March was the first chance I got to actually dig in. I realized we were short on shoes and took it upon myself to throw a fundraiser to collect donations and buy some. My event was a success and so was the march. From that day on, being in the company of other men whose passion for equality extended into the Women’s Rights atmosphere brought me a sense of camaraderie I had never had before—it was then that I decided to do more male outreach.
I submitted a mix of ideas to Dr. Dietzel for different events we could do through the center to get the men on campus more involved. I wasn’t at all expecting my status as volunteer to change, but much to my surprise Dr. Dietzel revealed to me that she had long dreamed of having a Male Outreach Coordinator. I consider it a great privilege to be able to take on more responsibilities around the center and work more closely with our incredible staff and volunteers.
I hope to see you all soon! Please come by and say hi, pick up a pen, a postcard, a poster, take a look around the library, come chat, escape the foot traffic and have a cup of tea and I’ll make sure to keep you updated on male outreach events coming up on campus!
For more information, contact Kavin at firstname.lastname@example.org