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.

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