Last week, the Student Women’s Association (SWA), hosted its annual Beautiful Week, a week dedicated to promoting self-love on campus.
The SWA is a nonpartisan, feminist, pro-choice student organization at the University of Maine. Members of SWA are male and female activists who are committed to educating and engaging the community on issues surrounding feminism and gender equality.
“It is a really positive and supportive group of people to be around, and I am very proud to be part of this organization,” a first-year student Olivia Pennington shared.
On Monday, messages of positivity and kindness were spread around UMaine on sticky notes. On Tuesday, students shared what beauty means to them, and saw their definition projected on their shirts. On Wednesday, SWA members gave out homemade beauty products such as coffee face scrub and brown sugar honey lip exfoliator to students passing in the Union; later that day, students had a chance to come to the Body Positivi-Tea Party. On Thursday, SWA educated the community on reasons why our campus needs a Women’s Resource Center (WRC), and on Friday there was a showing of “Miss Representation,” a 2011 documentary that shines light on the issue of underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in the United States.
Also on Friday, SWA organized UMaine’s fourth annual SlutWalk, a worldwide movement where participants protest stereotypical blaming of sexual assault victims based on their provocative or “slutty” appearance. More than 25 people, some intentionally wearing provocative clothes, joined SWA in their march across the Mall.
“There’s a lot of high energy, people were very invested in it,” Amber Hathaway, a member of SWA shared. “Walking around campus, [you] definitely get different responses, one of them is curiosity.”
“It’s been a week we’ve put a lot of work [into],” Pennington shared. “We were tabling every day this week and had a good time getting together to make beauty products. Coming up with ideas was so cool and energizing.”
Secretary of SWA, Lori Loftin, shared that the group tried to create events that would involve the whole community.
“We know some people aren’t comfortable with approaching you at tabling, then maybe watching a movie works for them. We tried to get as many people involved as possible,” Loftin said.
Loftin added that papering the school with positive sticky notes is one of SWA’s most successful events. Last Monday was Accepted Students Day, so future Black Bears and their parents also got to read the uplifting messages on the walls.
“There’s a lot of mixed messages projected from many different sources, such as companies, news, movies and TV shows,” Loftin shared. “I think it is important for people to also hear positive messages from real people they interact with on the day-to-day basis. It’s one thing to hear it from someone you don’t know and another thing to hear it from your community, friends and classmates. It can have a big impact on someone’s life.”
After 23 years of providing support to women and girls in the community, the WRC, which used to be located in Fernald Hall, was defunded and shut down last year.
The center used to provide support on issues of career development, pay equity, reproductive rights and violence prevention.
One of the main goals of SWA over the next couple of years is to bring WRC back. Loftin shared that someone proposed to SWA that they combine the WRC with the Rainbow Resource Center, which provides support to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by promoting inclusiveness and equality in our community.
“We didn’t think that was fair. There are very unique demands between the two, and the main goal is to have safe space for both. While there is a lot of overlap on what we fight for, there is still a lot of differences and we do not want anybody to feel like we are invading on their safe space.” Loftin said. “One thing we want that is absent anywhere on campus is to not have a mandated reporter. A place where sexual assault victims can talk and don’t feel like everything they say will be reported.”
SWA also hopes to open up a female hygiene bank where people can donate and take tampons, menstrual pads and cups, which are not covered by federal aid programs.
If you want to join the Student Women’s Association you can contact Lori Loftin on FirstClass. SWA meetings are held on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the multipurpose room in the Union.