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Goddess Gatherings are getting going

| News Editor

The f-word is being thrown around in the supposedly peaceful campus co-op. No, not that f-word. Feminism. Tucked away in the Washington University Cooperative is a group that hosts Goddess Gatherings to discuss issues of femininity and women’s rights.

Held every new moon, Goddess Gatherings are “safe spaces” for women to talk about what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Many colleges host such gatherings, and Washington University established its own group just this year.

The gatherings typically consist of seven to 15 women. With candlelight and songs setting the ambiance, the women share personal stories in addition to contemplating where they stand in Western culture.

“I think that ultimately the biggest thing against women in this culture are the messages coming through the media’s effects on our self confidence and our perceptions of ourselves,” said senior Jennifer Swanson, one of the co-founders of the group.

Swanson and her roommate, Katie Anderson, decided to start the group when they learned that women used to live according to the moon’s cycle, which corresponds to their menstrual cycles. They also heard about Goddess Gatherings at other universities.

The establishment of the group offers women their own space to share what it is to be a woman, Swanson said.

“Goddess Gatherings are just an open space for women to talk about what it’s like to be a woman in our society,” Swanson said. “It’s a celebration of womanhood.”

In their discussions, attendants of Goddess Gatherings have established a deep respect and understanding for their gender.

“I think women have an innate ability to connect with people and to really make an act from the heart,” Swanson said.

Sometimes men are brought along to Goddess Gatherings at other universities. But at Wash. U., Goddess Gatherings inspired a separate men’s auxiliary group.

The auxiliary group was specifically designed to be secondary to the Goddess Gatherings to let the women’s group stand on its own, according to junior Jacob Stern, one of the founders of the group.

The purpose of the auxiliary group is to provide men  with a space to talk both about women’s issues and gender liberation.

“We wanted to form a place [that’s] not necessarily a men’s space, because we believe that the neutral space in society is a men’s space, but a more conscious space where men could think about their interactions with women or among themselves,” Stern said.

The men also talk about gender identities and sexuality issues. Though only seven to 10 men attend, Stern attributes the attendance to the small number of men in the co-op.

Still, he thinks the group is effective at what it does.

“It’s explicitly formed to acknowledge directly that gender oppression exists, and [I] think that’s something that’s different from mainstream society,” Stern said.

Swanson said, “For there to be gender equality, there also needs to be understanding of their differences.”

Goddess Gatherings take place at the co-op during every new moon. To find out more about Goddess Gatherings, students can go to the co-op on Monday nights for live music and on Thursdays for potlucks. Those involved  in Goddess Gatherings will be in attendance.

  • “We see you are in the news a lot. Nine bands? Is it safe?”

    Come on, WashU, here is your chance to shine. Please remember our very own motto, per veritatem vis, “strength through truth,” and the Google motto, “Don’t be evil.”

    Don’t use “safety” as a pretext for censorship and political repression, as you did with the Young Americans For Liberty “Gulag.” Don’t try that with us. Don’t be evil.

    You can have very good PR, or very bad PR. It is up to you.

  • PS to note above: The KSDK Channel 5 news story was the second professional press story about the WashU Coop, but it was the first professional story about the WashU Coop Library and Cervantes Free University. There was to have been a Post-Dispatch story in Autumn 07, complete with a photograph. The story did not run, and a week or so later the Post-Dispatch published their endorsement of Chancellor Wrighton as Man of the Year, dismissing WashU encroachment on our neighborhoods as a minor problem, and stressing his leniency towards the 2005 SWA Living Wage Sit-In participants and participant-observers. Cervantes Free University had been the subject of a Student Life news story in Spring 07, and a laudatory op-ed early in Autumn 07. Shortly thereafter our website, and related Wikis, including one for the Student Worker Alliance and another for faculty labor solidarity, were jammed offine. Service will soon be restored, and secure office space in Cervantes Co-op House will once again be available to progressive groups, especially labor advocates. Our courses will always be free to the unemployed.

  • Here is a very positive television report about the WashU Co-op and Co-op Library, on KSDK Channel 5 News, featuring interviews with Jacob Stern and Jen Swanson. Student Life has done many stories about us in the last seven years, but to my knowledge there has been only one other professional press story, an interview with Co-op Co-Founders Dan Koff and Chloe Byruck on KDHX radio, the “Earthworms” show, Autumn 2006, plugging Bob Hansman’s drawing class’s art show, “Salon des Refuse”. That interview may be archived somewhere, though I cannot find it.

    We now have full use of a second apartment building, and are recruiting new members, especially more males for gender balance. We are all about saving our planet with a kind heart and a sense of humor. Why don’t you join us?

  • By the way, Ian, perhaps our Social Consciousness and Healthy Living Committee might sponsor “Here Comes the Sun,” or something like it. It’s worth a try.

    “Gravity” and “Levity” are two of our Pillars, extra ones resulting from Pillar Inflation.

  • Thanks, Ian, for your comment. We have always been all about initiative and personal responsibility. We don’t ask permission when we take the initiative. Often sparks fly, and sometimes catch a fire. When they do, that is a beautiful thing. As long as the house doesn’t burn down.

    As you may have guessed, we have had this discussion, and others like it, many times in the last seven years. Let the dialogue continue!

  • Sorry, but that men’s group has no pretense of being parallel to these, er, “goddess gatherings.” What Wash U needs is a male-only club — call it, I don’t know, “Here Comes the Sun,” a nice solar sobriquet to set it off from this, er, lunacy — where we can smoke cigars, drink whiskey and discuss ways to resuscitate America’s senescent patriarchy.

    I am so glad that Wash U is imparting a wonderful education, so that people can learn things like “women used to live according to the moon’s cycle.” Yes, and then Julius Caesar invented civilization.

  • Thank you for the wonderful and positive story about our students’ initiative. The WashU Coop is all about initiative, diversity, and inclusion.

    When we were first getting organized, the headline of Student Life’s very first story about us proclaimed, “Students starting Kibbutz-like group on campus.” One of our [Jewish] founding members, with the support of our core group, took the initiative to send a letter of clarification to Student Life, pointing out that we are not a Jewish group. We are a secular co-op, with no shared spiritual path, as such.

    One need not have a neo-pagan style of spirituality to be welcome at the Goddess Gatherings, or to be welcome at the WashU Coop. We encourage ecumenical dialogue.

    Jerome Bauer
    Co-op Co-Founder, 2003–