The mission of the Harvard College Women’s Center is to promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues, developing women’s leadership, and celebrating women who challenge, motivate, and inspire. In alignment with these goals, we centralize resources and offer student-focused programming to strengthen individuals and student organizations. The Women’s Center is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students that encourages dialogue and promotes an intersectional approach to equity work.
At the Women's Center, we envision a College-wide recognition that gender equity benefits everyone and is fundamental to promoting inclusive excellence in education. This would be demonstrated in a Harvard College where all students, staff, and faculty actively engage in gender equity work with an understanding that intersectional identities impact individual experiences within the institution.
We are committed to work with students to provide a physical and nonphysical space where all facets of an individual’s identity are validated; allowing honesty, vulnerability, and openness to dialogue.
We embrace the differences among people and continue to reflect on the complexities of our multiple and intersecting identities and how these identities impact our work.
Our work is based on the fundamental respect of others, including a high regard and empathy for the wishes, rights, and traditions of the students, staff, faculty, and community members we work with.
We create and implement high-impact programming where students can challenge preconceived notions and continue to build capacities to enhance their knowledge on and perspectives surrounding gender and women's issues.
We aim to make our programming and space accessible to everyone by intentionally centering, amplifying and uplifting marginalized voices and needs. All Harvard community members are invited to shape our work towards gender equity on campus and beyond, through individual participation and group collaboration.
Through our programming and physical space, we seek to foster collective warmth and care where we see, recognize, and value our community as more than students, staff, and faculty, but as people. Whether your ‘joy language’ is food, laughter, or hugs, we aim for people to leave our space feeling better than when they came.
What's with the "e" in Women's Center?
There are a few naming variations, so why do we call ourselves the "Women's Center"? The short answer is that language can be limited and limiting.
At the Harvard College Women’s Center, we emphatically welcome people of all genders and no gender into our space and invite you as collaborators in our work towards gender equity. With that being said, we also understand that our name can be confusing in signaling as to whom we do our work for and with.
In recent years, staff, interns, and stakeholders have considered what it would mean for us to start using “womxn” instead of “woman” or “women”, as well as the impact it would have on our community. Would a spelling change signal that all gender minoritized people have a place in our space? Could we be doing more in our hiring practices and programmatic efforts around trans* and non-binary issues? (That answer is always “Yes!”) While this conversation is ongoing, we invite you to engage in this critical reflection with us and to learn more about the history and impact of language in our work.
The spelling of woman as a signifier of who is or is not included in womanhood has been the subject of historical debate. In 1975, the term “womyn” was popularized by the Women’s Liberation Front because the members did not want to be considered a subset of men, due to the spelling of “women” having “men” in it. This term was created by upper-class, cisgendered, white feminists with the intention of excluding trans* women and without taking into consideration how feminism violently excludes women of color. During 1976-1979, the term “womxn” first appeared in writing during the second wave of the feminist movement. This term was purposely created to include women of color and trans* women. Within the past decade, Trans* Exclusionary Radical Feminists (or TERFS) have co-opted this term to once again exclude trans* women.
The Harvard College Women’s Center acknowledges the history of the iterations of spelling “women” and wrestles with the present day context. In our Gender 101 workshop, we acknowledge that language is both limited and limiting. Although the initial intention in creating the term “womxn” is in alignment with our mission and praxis, the current co-opting is not. Therefore, we continue to make sure that our work lives out our values of community, intersectionality, respect, creating brave spaces, inclusion, and joy.
If you would like to learn more about the term “womxn” and read a few perspectives from trans* women and/or women of color, please see the resources below.
Why womxn is considered inclusive (over women, womyn):
- Read: Why We Should Use The Word Womxn And Not Women (or Womyn)
- Watch: From (Wo)man to Womxn | Bongeka Masango, Nwabisa Mda & Thembekile Mahlaba | TEDxCapeTownWomen
- Also see: Enbyphobic definition
Why womxn is considered anti-trans*:
- Read: What You Need To Know About The Intersectional Term ‘Womxn’
- Read: Stop using the phrase 'womxn' to be trans*-inclusive. It can be offensive to trans* women and non-binary people.
- Watch: Twitch's trans*gender Womxn vs Womyn vs Women Controversy
Why we make social justice commitments. All of our work is mission-oriented and we measure our efforts by establishing SMARTI goals in advance - Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely, and Intersectional. In order to ensure we are taking an active and intersectional approach to gender equity, we have made the following commitments to broader social justice aims.
Our Commitments to Social Justice
Locating Women's Centers Over Time
Give to the Women's Center
Your gift empowers us to meet our commitment to raising awareness of women's and gender issues at Harvard and helps us provide an inviting space to have these meaningful conversations with students.