The use of lowercase lettering in regards to the posters and associated statements of the Women*s Center throughout this articleare intentional, as it is a part of the organization's recent rebranding publicity campaign.
You may have noticed the "feminist*" shirts sported by many students on campus recently, or perhaps you saw the posters with assorted critiques of the lack of female leadership especially in certain student groups, including some criticizing The Daily Princetonian for its pattern of male editors-in-chief and others describing the Undergraduate Student Government as an organization "where men are presidents and women are secretaries.” The latter became a topical discussion during the recent USG presidential election. If you've noticed these promotions, you've witnessed the fruits of the Women*s Center redesign, which began last spring in an attempt to revitalize the center and reinspire interest.
“A lot of people at Princeton don't know that there is a women's center: They don't know where it is, they don't know what it does and they don't know why they would need a women's center in their lives," member Kat Mayhew ’15 said. "We wanted to let people know that we're here and that we're here for whatever you need us for."
Mayhew is a former staff copy editor for The Daily Princetonian.
This rebranding process began with focus groups consisting of administrative and student members of the Women*s Center and its subsidiaries discussing their experiences with gender on campus. One aspect of these focus groups was a discussion of personal experiences and their place on campus. The members were given disposable cameras to photograph their personal Princeton experiences. The resulting juxtaposition between the beautiful images, some of which can be seen on the Women*s Center website, and the raw stories shared in the groups inspired the new style of the center, including the addition of the asterisk. In the focus groups, a theme began to emerge — the stories were about more than just women and more than just politics.
"It [the asterisk] represents the 'not just' aspect of our mission," Director of the Women*s Center Amada Sandoval explained. The mission statement was revised from a longer, more in-depth statementinto a more streamlined and succinct statement: "to recognize & redress historic & persistent gender inequality at princeton & beyond." The posters, printed with bold pink, purple and white graphics, were a first step in getting the mission and the Women*s Center into campus discussions.
"We wanted to spark conversation and maybe even some controversy," Mayhew said. Following the popularity of the posters, the 'Prince' reported on gender representation in USG and found 44 percent of major leadership positions were held by females. The following week, USG discussed strategies for increasing female representation in the weekly Sunday senate meeting.
"The whole intention behind [the poster campaign] is to think about how to bring more people into the conversation," Carolyn Yang ’15, who is co-president of the Women’s Mentorship Program,said. "I hope the conversation is deeper, like what causes these structural things to happen or these traditions to exist."
By moving forward with provoking posters with captions like, "bicker: where women line up by weight," the campaign aimed to reestablish the Women*s Center at the heart of topical debates and in line with more contemporary issues on campus.
"The center was started in the ’70s when women were just coming to Princeton, and there was a very specific need for a center,” Mayhew said. “It's maybe not so obvious anymore [what that need is]. We just wanted to reflect a changing role for the center.”
The Women*s Center has implemented new “action groups,” which meet to discuss specific issues pertaining to women, gender and the Princeton community and have focused on topics including dismantling the idea of effortless perfection that permeates campus and problems of systemic violence. The goal of these conversation starters is to allow those who may not attend the center's other programming to join the debate.
"Little conversations and little dialogues bring in people who wouldn't self-select into these types of events," Yang said.
Looking forward, Mayhew expressed her hope that people would feel like they could be a part of the Women*s Center through programming and events and also view the center as a regular study space complete with coffee and comfortable couches. Yang expressed her hope that more people would feel comfortable coming to the center as a safe space.
"It's about rolling out accessible programming and events, but it's also about championing women on this campus," Yang said.