This year the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) created a new programming initiative, the Womxn of Color Network (WCON). The mission of the WCON series is to create space for dialogue, support, and empowerment among students, faculty, and staff at University of Iowa. Through the co-creation of a supportive community of womxn, individuals will have the ability to explore their racial, ethnic, and cultural identities, share lived experiences, and discuss what it means to be womxn of color in our campus community. WCON programs were offered monthly beginning in the fall semester, for a total of seven programs focusing on different aspects of womxn of color’s lives, including leadership, self-care, exercise, identity, and more.
According to Jessica Padilla, WRAC’s NEW Leadership coordinator and founder of the WCON program, “It can be difficult to find each other on this campus, and it takes time for people to make connections with each other and with our own community. I thought it would be a great opportunity to create a place for all women to connect, network, and make community. I think this is very important because to survive anything without a community to support you can be very difficult.” WCON presentations are designed to build community, provide support, and create a much needed space for womxm of color in the campus and community.
What we’re doing here I hope is just the beginning of the community-building, sisterhood-building that we want to have here at the University of Iowa.”
The Womxn of Color Network series started with a Fall Kick-Off Mixer featuring UI Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers. At the mixer, VP Shivers told the crowd, “It can sometimes be challenging to find a space to be exactly who we are. But this program is a space where things happen. This is a space where you can come and be. You can come and get support and encouragement…This program is an indication of what we need on our campus in order to build our community. What we’re doing here I hope is just the beginning of the community-building, sisterhood-building that we want to have here at the University of Iowa.” The Kick-Off attracted a capacity crowd at the Bowman House, made up of students, staff, faculty, and community members who engaged in community building exercises, enjoyed food, and shared their experiences of being womxn of color on campus. Other WCON events moved around campus partner spaces, including a presentation in the Iowa Memorial Union by Dr. Melissa Shivers and a Zumba and WERQ class in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. Other campus partners involved in the monthly events included the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) and University Counseling Service (UCS).
In the coming year Padilla says the WCON program will continue to grow and build on the foundation laid by previous WRAC programs including Women Against Racism and The Sister Connection, providing a space for dialogue, support, and empowerment among students, staff, and faculty at the university. Programs will be held monthly in the fall and spring semesters, and Padilla hopes to present a nationally-known speaker to campus as part of the program.
Why the "x"?
"Womxn removes the sequences of m-a-n and/or m-e-n from the term “woman/en” that sheds light on the prejudice, discrimination, and institutional barriers womxn have faced, but to also show that womxn are not a sub-category of men, while providing active resistance to transphobia to include transwomen, trans*femme, and other gender non-confirming womxn."
Steinmetz, S. (1995). Womyn: The evidence, American speech. Vol. 70, No. 4, pp. 429–43. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Merbruja, L. (2005). 3 common feminist phrases that (unintentionally marginalize trans women. Everyday Feminism: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/feminist-phrases-marginalize-trans-women/