Womxn of color support group forms on campus

Jaycee Kalama, News Reporter

Counseling and Psychological Services and AYA, a resource group for women of color, are co-facilitating a new student support group called Womxn of Color. This bi-weekly drop-in group strives to provide a supportive space for students who identify as womxn of color.

The Oregon State University support group provides a community aiming to create conversation around adversities womxn of color may be experiencing, not only on the OSU campus, but in everyday situations. Potential topics of discussion during the meetings include intersectionality around student identities, oppression, racism and microaggressions. 

Nicole Oh, a fourth-year sociology major and AYA student success peer facilitator, said the group means a lot to her, being a woman of color herself. 

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“This group is important to me because it is a step toward providing the necessary resources to students who need some form of a support system,” Oh said via email. “Personally, as a student of color, I appreciate the existence of this support group because they provide me with a sense of solidarity and understanding from others.”

The origin of womxn of color being spelt with an x started during the ‘70s when women’s organizations sought to create a linguistic marker of women’s independence from men by changing the spelling from women to womyn. They insisted, however, upon a biologically essentialist understanding of femininity and refused to acknowledge transwomen as “real” women. The x in womxn reflects the Womxn of Color group’s recognition that gender identity is non-binary and independent of assigned sex at birth. 

The goal of this support group is to allow womxn of color to feel nurtured and supported in order to thrive while at OSU and beyond the university. The group helps support and provide resources for womxn of color and the greater OSU community. 

“As a womxn of color, it’s really important to have a space where womxn of color can gather and talk about concerns that are specific to their intersectional identities. We seek support and provide support to other womxn of color, as they are attending Oregon State University, a predominantly white institution,” Shaznin Daruwalla, the group’s creator, said. 

Oh said it is difficult for students of color to find others who understand what they are going through. This group helps students to find community and support from not only fellow womxn of color on campus, but from CAPS as well.

For the remainder of spring term, meetings will be held at the Hattie Redmond Women & Gender Center on Tuesdays from 5-6:30 p.m. of weeks four, six, eight and 10. 

As a result of the student-led action, #ITooAmOSU back in 2014, and response to incidents targeted toward women and people of color at OSU, student organizers of the effort pushed for institutional support for a intergenerational womxn of color group. 

“A community space such as this is really important to build resilience, to offer support and to break the silence and invisibility of womxn of color,” Daruwalla said.

The AYA website explains that over the next two years, organizers used surveys and visioning workshops to invite womxn of color to share their stories, hopes, and needs. This effort led to the creation of AYA, the student organization Sisters of Color Coalition and the campus wide initiative and support network.

“This group is important as a space for cultivating community and support for Womxn of Color within our predominantly white institution,” Whitney Archer, director of the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center, which is home to the AYA Womxn of Color initiative, said.

The Hattie Redmond Women & Gender Center is open to all students and community members who want to be connected and find resources. 

“If you identify as a womxn of color and are feeling isolated and feeling like the only womxn of color in your group, if you are a student who recognizes that your world view is not shared in class discussions or that you are often times the recipient of microaggressions, it would be helpful to join the support group to build a sense of community,” Daruwalla said.

The AYA social media provides information and updates about the Womxn of Color support group and other Diversity and Cultural Engagement events going on campus.  

“The AYA – Womxn of Color Facebook page and Instagram account (@aya_osu) is the best way to find out about the meetings. The AYA listserv also provides information and updates about not only the support group but other Diversity and Cultural Engagement events going on on campus,” Oh said.