Women's Group Stages Val Sit
Issue   |   Tue, 10/25/2016 - 23:41

Amherst’s Women’s Group staged a “Val Sit” on Thursday, Oct. 20, in which women students occupied part of the back room of Valentine Hall to spread awareness and start discussion about male-dominated spaces on campus.

Along with sitting at tables in Val’s back room, which are typically used by sports teams, the group displayed posters with questions prompting students to respond.

Some of the questions included “What does it mean to be a woman in a male’s space?”, “Where do you feel unsafe on campus?” and “What spaces belong to men on campus?” Some women who participated wrote that they felt “invisible,” “ignored” and “constantly watched.”

The idea for the “Val Sit” “was born out of discussions we had had in prior meetings, in which women discussed how women and men take up space differently on campus,” said Esther Isaac ’18, one of the leaders of Women’s Group. “One of the physical places that represented that disparity was the back space of Val.”

The goal of the group is to “help empower Amherst women and, as we advocate for intersectional feminism, help to advocate for other marginalized groups on campus and thus transform what Amherst really is,” said Isaac.

Originally, the women’s group planned to just sit in the back room of Val as they ate, but the event evolved into a more interactive activity. “It became less about the act of sitting and more about inviting women to take up the space and express their thoughts,” said Isaac. “There was a really enthusiastic response from all of the women who came through and read and participated.”

“We wanted to hear women’s voices and we wanted the males that normally sit there to see the thoughts that women have,” said the group’s founder Yeva Berkovich ’18.

After sending out a school-wide survey during the spring semester last year, Berkovich found a large interest in the student body for the addition of a group for women. She started the group at the beginning of the school year.

“We have all these affinity groups for all kinds of identities … but there weren’t any groups for women,” Berkovich said, adding that she was surprised at the prevalent assumption that women “didn’t need a group.”