This post is a brief reflection on the Women’s Center retreat that took place this past weekend. The retreat gave the student and senior staff a chance to come together and explore our beliefs, values, and personal goals about connecting feminism to the world around us.
One of the most effective parts of the Women’s Center retreat involved personal and group reflection on our core values. We were prompted to write down and rank them in order of importance.
Interdependence. Objective analysis. Spirituality. Concern for others. Achievement. Belonging.
Each of these values could be employed by an individual to make heartfelt, thoughtful and methodical decisions on a number of issues. All are important, but we had to seriously think about what we prioritized. After ranking our values, we collectively discussed why we saw the things we prioritized as most important.
We were then instructed to identify how these same values could serve as oppressive forces. We had never thought about how things that we value, such as “concern for others” and “achievement” could oppress people. Just as easily as we had identified the constructive effects of each core value, we each found ways to acknowledge the negative effects they could also have. It was good to take a step back and just see that being concerned about others could lead to patronizing or arrogant behavior, or that being so focused on achievement can lead to unnecessary competitiveness and aggression.
Looking at our personal values through the lens of the Women’s Center gave us a new perspective. This exercise served as an excellent opportunity to understand the importance of promoting open-mindedness towards even the values that we adhere to in life. Making sure to stick to our values is important, but it is also necessary to see how those values can play out in real life and adversely affect those around us. We were challenged by the question: How can these core values play a part in the oppressor group? And to be honest, we still don’t have the answers. We embrace the challenge to ensure that behaviors influenced by our values will not be oppressive to those around us. We will live this challenge in our academics, our personal lives, and our work at the Women’s Center.
Will you take on this challenge too?