From: Tess Benser
Date: November 11, 2022
Subject: Center for Women & Gender Equity November 2022 Newsletter

Center for Women & Gender Equity in purple and gold text.

Yellow graphic with scattered light and autumn leaves.

[Yellow graphic with scattered light and autumn leaves. ]

November 2022 Newsletter

Happy November, Golden Rams!

We hope the semester has been kind to you, and that you are taking good care as the days grow shorter!

This edition of our newsletter comes to you just as we are about to head into the period of late fall and early winter filled with many holidays. This time of year can be really joyful, and it also presents many challenges. November brings to us the Thanksgiving holiday, and with it, the legacy of the displacement and harm of Native and Indigenous communities in North America. 

The Thanksgiving holiday is also a time that is full of narratives about family and togetherness, which can be painful for folks who come from unsupportive families of origin. It also can be difficult for folks without the means or ability to be with their loved ones. There is the economic pressure of the holiday season, with expectations of abundant food and gift giving, particularly with rising inflation and cost of living. There are challenges for folks who don't celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas this time of year - everything from navigating school and office closures to frustration about the lack of acknowledgement of other important holidays. 

And all of this is happening in the context of yet another year in which the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring challenges. These challenges can be particularly difficult for those with chronic illness and compromised immune systems who may want to gather with family and friends but be hindered by concerns for their health, and the ever growing public opinion that the pandemic has ended despite evidence to the contrary. There is also the incredible emotional toll that nearly three years managing an ongoing pandemic brings. 

We also know many of you have been watching the election returns anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Midterm elections for the United States Senate and House of Representatives. The staff at the Center for Women & Gender Equity has been watching along with you! We know it can be stressful to wait to learn what the political landscape of the next two years will look like, so we encourage you to do what you need to manage this uncertainty. Unplug, unwind, connect with your people, or enjoy the unseasonably warm weather being predicted for Saturday - whatever caring for yourself looks like right now, we invite you to do it. 

While it can be challenging to navigate the unknowns about the election outcomes, we want to pause and congratulate everyone who participated in this election. Voting is complex and often challenging, particularly for folks who have been disenfranchised on the basis of their race, gender, or class. But voting is not the only means to participate in the democratic process, and we want to pause and offer our thanks to everyone who has engaged in some way throughout this election cycle. Your energy and labor is acknowledged, appreciated, and honored. If you're seeking support or ideas about how to stay engaged after the election, please check out this guide from our friends at the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy.

The final outcome of this election cycle is still being determined, but there are a few outcomes that we can uplift and celebrate today. 

In every state where abortion rights were on the ballot, voters chose to protect them. In Vermont, California, and Michigan, ballot measures to incorporate reproductive freedom in state constitutions passed. In Kentucky, voters rejected a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state’s constitution, while Montana voters rejected a measure that would have required medical workers to provide care to infants born prematurely or in rare instances of surviving an attempted abortion or face penalties. 

In addition to reproductive rights, a record number of LGBTQ candidates running in the 2022 midterms have won their races. This defeats the previous record of 336 elected LGBTQ officials in 2020. This year also marked a historic number of trans and queer candidates for public office: at least 1,065 out LGBTQ people ran for office this year. 

Other landmark wins for represenation in goverment included Summer Lee being the first Black woman elected to congress from Pennsylvania.  Dr. Arvin Venkat is the first Indian-American elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Austin Davis has been elected the first Black man to serve as Lieutenant Governor in Pennsylvania, and reproductive rights advocate La'Tasha D. Mayes became the first out lesbian in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the first woman to represent House District 24. 

In terms of human rights, Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont all voted to ban slavery or indentured servitude as punishment for a crime. While Louisiana also had an anti-slavery measure on their ballot, it failed. However, prison reformers were opposed to this measure as it would not have have banned slavery as punishment for a crime, but instead would have replaced existing langauge with language saying that the state constitution's ban on slavery and involuntary servitude "does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice." Several cities have approved measures that would increase government spending on affordable housing. 

Of course, there are still many challenges that this election cycle has brought. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, both of whom have supported legislation restricting LGBTQIA+ rights and have supported extremely restrictive abortion laws. 

We can both be proud of the progress being made and hold space for the very real sadness and anger at the continued challenges to bodily autonomy and human rights. There will always be more work to do in the name of justice and liberation. To do the work of liberation, we need to take care of ourselves and each other. 

We hope this edition of the newsletter offers some tools to help you to navigate this time of year, and that you are able to do whatever brings the most peace, safety, and joy as we head into the end of the semester. 

Best wishes! 

Mx. Tess Benser
Assistant Director of Outreach & Engagement
Center for Women & Gender Equity 

Teal upcoming events graphic with a golden sunburst in the center

[Teal upcoming events graphic with a golden sunburst in the center]


Kente Graduation Celebration! CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS!

Wednesday, November 2 at 1:00pm
to Sunday, November 20 at 11:55pm
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Kente Graduation Celebration!
Celebration Date: Friday, December 16
Sign up by November 20
Must attend one volunteer meeting time below
Sign up at:
Monday, December 12 | 4pm-4:45pm (Virtual)
Wednesday, December 14 | 1pm-1:45pm (Virtual)
Wednesday, December 14 | 2pm-2:45pm (In-Person)

Sign up at:
Wednesday, December 14 | 10am-10:45am (Virtual)
Wednesday, December 14 | 3pm-3:45pm (Virtual)
Thursday, December 15 | 10am-10:45am (In-person)

Questions? Email



Healthy Minds Study

Monday, November 7 at 8:00am
to Friday, November 25 at 9:00am
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Help WCU learn about the mental health and service utilization of West Chester University through completion of this national survey.



Become a Sex-pert

Monday, November 14
2:30pm - 4:00pm
Sykes Food Court, 110 W Rosedale Ave, West Chester, PA 19383, United States
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Come stop by the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy and the Office for Wellness Promotion’s first collaborative tabling event! We will have an interactive activity on sexual health, giveaways, and great vibes!



Study Nights, Coffee and Tea

Monday, November 14
4:00pm - 7:00pm
Sykes 255, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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The Dowdy Multicultural Center
Peer Mentoring Program
Study Night, Coffee & Tea
Join us for study nights
and for a chance to win prizes!
All are welcome! No need to be part of the program.
Come at any time.



Fall Flavors Cooking Demo: Lenape Edition

Tuesday, November 15
5:00pm - 6:00pm
SECC, Room 201, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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Join the DMC for Native American Heritage Month in making a delicious meal using traditional Lenape ingredients!



ASA + SAGA Karaoke Night

Tuesday, November 15
6:00pm - 7:00pm
Anderson 211, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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A collab between the Asian Student Association and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. Sing!



Undocumented Students & Allies Scholarships Workshop

Tuesday, November 15
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual- Must register to view the link, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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Undocumented students and allies can join us to learn more about scholarships, on campus resources, and how to write for scholarships.
You must register to view the link.



Student Health and Well-Being Expo

Wednesday, November 16
1:00pm - 3:00pm
SECC Building , Commonwealth Hall, Ground Floor, West Chester, Penn 19383, United States
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Join the Department of Health, College of Health Sciences, and the Office of Wellness Promotion to learn about your health and well-being.



Trans Joy

Wednesday, November 16
2:00pm - 3:00pm
Private Location (register to display)
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A space for trans students to celebrate and promote positive discussion of trans identities.



Tight Knit

Wednesday, November 16
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Private Location (register to display)
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Whether you knit, crochet, or consider yourself bi-stitch-ual, come join us for our queer crafting group! Tight Knit will be meeting Wednesdays from 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm in Sykes Room 250. Bring your current knitting, crochet, embroidery, or other craft project to work on and connect with others who share your interest! All skill levels welcome.



Native American Heritage Month Social Justice Education Conversation Series

Thursday, November 17
12:30pm - 1:30pm
11/3 & 11/17-DMC- Sykes 003 | 11/10- virtual:, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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he Dowdy Multicultural Center presents...
Native American Heritage Month
Social Justice Education Conversation Series
Join us in celebrating Native American Heritage Month by discussing the following topics:
Protecting natural resources: Land Rights, Water Rights, and Environmental Protections
Thursday, November 3 | 12:30pm-1:30pm | Sykes 003 (DMC)
Native American Representation in Educational Systems
Thursday, November 10 | 12:30pm-1:30pm | Virtual:
Thanksgiving: National Day of Mourning
Thursday, November 17 | 12:30pm-1:30pm | Sykes 003 (DMC)
Food and Prizes will be provided
Questions? Contact



Reclaiming "Fat": Critiquing Diet Culture and Adopting Radical Self-Acceptance

Thursday, November 17
1:00pm - 2:00pm
Sykes 254, 110 W Rosedale Ave, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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We hope that you will join our very own graduate assistant Kimmy Herman on Thursday, November 17th from 1-2 pm in Sykes 254 as they present "Reclaiming 'Fat': Critiquing Diet Culture and Adopting Radical Self-Acceptance". This lecture will examine how diet culture has come to be while debunking some of the major misconceptions that fuel fatphobia. Audience members will be encouraged to adopt radical self-acceptance to live a more free and fulfilling life.



Art As Solidarity

By Hannah Zartman (they/she)

Content Warning: This article discusses police brutality, murder, sexism, and various harms 

Starting on September 16, 2022, thousands of people began protesting in Iran as a response to the death of Mahsa Zhina Amini while in the custody of the Iranian “morality police”. Amini was taken to a detention center after being arrested for “improperly” wearing her hijab, though many Kurdish and Iranian people are rejecting this as a legitimate cause for arrest. Following Amini’s death, Iranian and Kurdish people, mainly women, trans, and non-binary people flocked to the streets to protest the Iranian government and its oppressive laws that have controlled women, non-binary, transmasculine, and Kurdish folks for decades. Actions by protestors include cutting their hair and burning their head coverings in retaliation; in addition to these things, artists from the region and the Iranian diaspora are using their mediums and platforms to activate and organize within their communities. Continuing our discussion of art’s use in spaces outside of galleries and museums, it is critical to recognize the ways artwork is used to stand in solidarity with demonstrators and how art can be a crucial part of demonstrations themselves. 

Due to the internet blackouts orchestrated by the Iranian government that have occurred for the past several weeks, it’s difficult to know the full extent of what actions artists are taking. Although, there is some information getting to art news sources such as Hyperallergic and ArtNet, which are both US-run websites that report on what is happening within the artistic sphere all over the world. Hyperallergic recently released an article highlighting Iranian artists who have contributed to the protests and are using their artwork to support the goals of Iranian organizers. Some of these artists include Nafas, Zehra Do─ƒan, Forouzan Safari, and more. I am interested in highlighting the work and words of Nafas, due to their identity-based positionality around the Iranian protests. 

Over the last few months, media, imagery, and reports are solely focused on the “Iranian women” fighting for their rights, although, we must recognize the swaths of Kurdish, non-binary, genderqueer, and trans people, specifically transmasculine, that are being erased from the demonstrations even though they are also leading the fight. Nafas, a genderless, autistic artist, highlights this erasure in their artwork and calls others to recognize the ways the Iranian government’s mandates impact those who do not identify as women but were assigned female at birth and/or who are Kurdish and are under Iranian power. In a September speech given at a Berlin rally against “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists” or “TERFs”, Nafas shares their thoughts and feelings regarding the ways other world leaders have responded, or haven’t responded, to the oppression occurring in Iran. 

They are frustrated by the complacency of western countries and leaders, saying “Right now, protesters are being shot dead on the streets of Iran and the governments of the world are watching. Proving once again that people's lives don't interest them, especially if they're not white”. In this quote, they also comment on the dismissiveness with which many white feminists are reacting to the oppression and police brutality happening in Iran, which mirrors much of white feminists' responses to other social justice issues that don’t oppress white, cis, middle-class women. Nafas is calling attention to the deafening silence of the rest of the world and its leaders, which are also patriarchal governments that are based on the oppression of nonmen. At the end of their speech, Nafas reminds the crowd that oppression does not occur in a vacuum, and neither can the protests in Iran nor the aid that is provided. We must recognize the multifacetedness of the situation and be creative in actions that will create real change.  

In addition to their words and organizing abilities, Nafas has used their art to amplify, raise awareness, and monetarily support the Iranian efforts on the ground. For example, one of their works, which was dedicated to Mahsa Zhina Amini, is a direct reflection of how Nafas has used their art to create change and spread the message of Iranian protestors. In the image, there is a collaged portion on the right side that creates a mountainous shape and is made from a photo of a demonstration protesting the compulsory hijab laws from 42 years ago. Throughout the piece, we are met with various aspects of protest and retaliation that tell the story of those organizing against the oppressive Iranian government; some of these aspects include the phrase “ACAB”, meaning “All Cops Are Bastards” to call attention to the police brutality that is occurring, as well as the words “All power to the people” and “Resistance will find a way”, both signaling the strength of the movement and the belief that change will come. Through artwork such as this, social justice causes and their goals can spread rapidly across the globe, which raises awareness and can generate monetary support if artworks are purchased or if fundraising sites are created. On Nafas’ Instagram page, folks can either buy their work or donate directly using the link in their bio. By utilizing these tools for tangible support, organizers are sure to have the resources they need to continue doing the necessary, yet taxing, work on the ground. 

To conclude, Nafas and other artists have been using their artistic abilities to amplify and spread the voices of Iranian and Kurdish people protesting the death of Amini and the oppression and brutality that has been occurring for far too long. Recognizing and bolstering the voices of non-binary, genderqueer, and trans folks who are on the front lines of these demonstrations is also necessary when supporting this cause due to the immense erasure that these groups have faced since they don’t fit into the “Iranian woman” fighting for “her” rights. This is not a women’s issue but rather a global issue around the ways that our governments and institutions have been built on patriarchy, classism, sexism, ableism, and more. To say that this is just a women’s issue is to grossly misunderstand the magnitude of what is happening in Iran and the change that is being demanded.


Helpful links about other artists doing this work 



Yellow graphic with maroon text that reads, "November 2022. National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. Featuring a drive for North Star of Chester County!"

National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

By Jocelyn Brown (she/her)


Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week occurs every November, the week prior to Thanksgiving (this year, 11/12-11/20). According to the Awareness Week’s website, the first event was held nearby at Villanova University in 1975. Now, more than 700 schools or other activist groups nationally observe Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to raise awareness about issues of food insecurity and homelessness in their communities. 

    Last year, for HON 311: Stewardship and Civic Engagement, each group of students was paired with a local non-profit to help them write a grant to submit to the Chester County Community Foundation. My group worked with North Star of Chester County, an organization that helps single parents with dependent children at risk of homelessness find financial stability and independence. North Star wanted to expand their office’s resource pantry, so we researched food and resource insecurity in Chester County. Because I am not from the area, I had internalized how expensive it was compared to my county, but most of our findings still shocked me.

    At the end of this article, I will discuss a donation drive we’re hosting for North Star’s resource pantry!


Food Insecurity in Chester County

    Chester County Food Bank’s annual reports provide a wealth of information about food insecurity in Chester County. Because the definition of food insecurity varies from source to source, the Food Bank defines food insecurity as “a household that is without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food at any given time.” This is the most inclusive definition I found in my research. As almost every college student already knows, food here is not affordable. Overall, Chester County is the most expensive county in Pennsylvania. The average cost of a meal is .84 cents more in Chester County than in Pennsylvania as a whole. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic causing supply chain issues has dramatically increased the cost of food. In 2020 alone, Chester County Food Bank saw a 30% increase in the need for food insecurity interventions. 

Affordable food is often not the most nutritional food. Nutritional food includes the daily consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Since fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than processed snack foods or instant meals, families typically choose cheaper options. While being more expensive, perishable foods are also just more difficult for families with busy or unpredictable schedules. 

Identity compounds issues of food insecurity. According to Well Being in the Nation Network, almost 40% of Chester County residents have low access to grocery stores, which they define as the percentage of residents that live farther than one mile in urban areas and ten miles in rural areas from the nearest grocery store. This is called a food desert. Because they lack access to basic grocery stores, these residents likely also lack access to culturally appropriate specialty stores. Of course, food deserts are often low-income areas, and identity largely decides where people can afford to or feel safe living. The USDA states single mothers with children have the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic is also not over. Elderly people, immuno-compromised people, or really anyone still masking potentially faces hostility every time they step into a grocery store.     Special shopping hours for these customers have mostly gone away. 

Finally, Feeding America points out that food insecure families are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Perhaps money is tight only at the end of the month or certain times of the year, but these households still deserve help when they need it. Additionally, food insecure families have significantly less money to use on other needs, such as basic hygiene products. Feeding America writes of “a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.” It is understandable that food comes last when other burdens, such as rent and medical bills, have a due date. Food insecurity, and poverty as a whole, is a vicious cycle. 


Housing Insecurity in Chester County

    Many people assume that poverty could not exist here, as Chester is the 35th wealthiest county in the nation, but there are municipalities that experience poverty rates of over 15%. These areas are called “pockets of poverty” because high median incomes in the rest of the county hide their existence on a statewide map. While many food insecure residents in Chester County make a salary above the poverty line, it is still not enough to eat healthy because of the high cost of living. The same thing can be said for living comfortably because of the lack of affordable housing. Housing insecurity can look very different for everyone, but it can generally be defined as “a continuum of experiences that include frequently relocating, being unable to consistently pay rent or mortgage, living in an overcrowded household, and/or staying in a car or abandoned building due to economic hardship.” 

People lack housing security in Chester County because of the housing market. According to the Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness, in the state of Pennsylvania, there are only 39 affordable and available units per 100 low-income households. Fair market rent is a statistic that calculates how much a renter should be paying for the property, depending on its standard of living. The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Chester County is $1,211. Even with a full-time job and multiple roommates, many people can barely pay their rent each month. This leaves little room for savings, so any emergency can get a formerly housed person evicted in the blink of an eye. Again, poverty is a cycle. Due to the pandemic, buying a house has also become 10 to 12% more expensive in the Philadelphia suburbs in the last year. The pandemic also means that people have less safe options to turn to; some shelters have been operating at 50% capacity to ensure social distancing. 

    Student populations in college towns also make the market much worse. College campuses usually only provide housing for 20% of their student population, leaving 80% to live off campus. And student populations are growing fast. Around 70% of high school graduates now attend college, but the growth of on-campus housing has not met the demand, leaving less room for people from that area. Just this year, WCU accepted too many incoming first-years and were scrambling for last-minute housing, including making RAs room together. The lack of privacy and agency in a dorm (an overcrowded household) is another reason students choose to move to off-campus housing. However, neither option is particularly affordable. In neighboring New Jersey, a review of their college towns found that the presence of a college brings a 10% increase in rent/home prices. Landlords will also increase rent prices or break contracts with students because they know that they can get away with it.

In Chester County, in 2017, as many as 570 residents did not have a place to stay on any given night. By 2022, that number was down to 402. Issues of identity also complicate housing insecurity. Around 49% of these people identified as Black, Asian, Latine, or mixed race, and 35% identified as femme. People with a disability and single parents are also disproportionately represented in the homeless or extremely low-income renter population. Many of us rely on friends and partners to split the cost of rent, and when these relationships turn abusive, those who have experienced harm in their household face a difficult choice. Should they endure the harm, or should they become homeless? The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that 93% of respondents experiencing intimate partner violence ranked housing as their highest need. These patterns are reflected both in Chester County and nationwide. While I could not find specific statistics for Pennsylvania, around 7% of youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ+, but they make up 40% of the youth population currently experiencing homelessness. Some of the factors include rejection by family, aging out of foster care, poverty, and intimate partner violence again. According to a national report by the Williams Institute, 17% of LGBTQ+ adults reported experiences of homelessness, while only 6% of all adults reported the same. Black LGBTQ+ adults reported the most homeless experiences overall. Of course, these numbers may be even higher if some people are in situations where they feel they cannot disclose their identity. 

Food insecurity and housing insecurity are closely intertwined. A 2021 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found them to be bidirectional and predictors of each other. However, most programs are not equipped to address both problems at the same time. Our research for North Star mostly focused on Chester County residents that are left behind. According to the Chester County Food Bank, the average four-person family in Chester County needs to make $78k to meet their basic needs, but families will not qualify for government aid unless they make below $41k. The average income in West Chester specifically is $45k: too much for aid, but not enough to live comfortably. The Food Bank estimates that at least 56% of food insecure Chester County residents do not qualify for SNAP benefits. 

I reconnected with Don Neimetz, the Executive Director of North Star, for this article, because we were attempting to address both issues with our grant. Don was able to show me their office’s new resource pantry, where families can fill a bag or two during their monthly case management visits. Even for residents who do qualify for SNAP, the program is not comprehensive: especially important for North Star’s families is the necessary personal hygiene and lifestyle products that they cannot buy with SNAP benefits, such as laundry detergent. These are the purchases that, if we are lucky enough, we never have to think about, but we would definitely notice their absence. 


How You Can Take Action

    First, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of other people. If anyone is experiencing resource insecurity, WCU’s Resource Pantry is open from Monday to Friday between 10 AM and 4 PM. Their page also links other local resources. Similarly, the Center for Civic Engagement and Social Impact’s Benefits Hub is a new on-campus resource this year. Located on the ground floor of Commonwealth Hall, the Benefits Hub will help students apply for programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, FAFSA, etc. If anyone in Chester County needs shelter, they can call 211 or text their zip code to 898-211 for free help from a resource navigator. This information comes from Safe Harbor, an organization that provides food and beds, located within walking distance from campus. You may have heard their name before, as a lot of clubs on campus fundraise for them. 

    If you want to join clubs that are passionate about food insecurity, sustainability, or food waste, Veg Out holds different events on Thursdays, and their information is available on RamConnect. Students Against Food Insecurity is a group dedicated to fighting food insecurity and advocating for more inclusive dining options, such as vegan, halal, and kosher foods, on college campuses. They traveled to Harrisburg last semester to advocate for the Hunger Free Campus Bill. One of the bill’s aims is starting a Swipe Out Hunger program on college campuses, where leftover meal swipes can be donated to students in need. Because of the group’s efforts, the first ever Meal Swipe Drive at West Chester will take place the week before Thanksgiving. If you are interested in getting involved with Students Against Food Insecurity, you can email Joshua Filer at

    The Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness is hosting a panel discussion on campus titled “How We Live: Home, Opportunity & Our Wellbeing.” This panel will touch on how housing specifically effects college students’ success. Come out to the Sykes Theater, 3-4:30 PM, on Tuesday, November 15th to see it! You can find the panelists and more information here.

    Finally, CWGE is hosting a donation drive for North Star! The drive runs from now until the end of the semester. During our normal office hours (Monday-Friday, 9 AM-4 PM), you can drop off your donations of nonperishable goods and personal care products in our office, Lawrence 214, which is located on the second floor of the Lawrence Center. Outside of these hours, you can still leave your donations in a box outside of our office under our table with free condoms/other barriers. If you would like to confirm that your donation made it or have any other questions, please email our office at If you don’t know what to donate, Don Neimeitz, the Executive Director of North Star, provided me with a list of their preferred items. 



  • Cereal 

  • Raisins; small boxes for children's lunches

  • Granola bars

  • Peanut butter

  • Jelly

  • Ketchup

  • Mustard

  • Vegetable oil for cooking

  • Olive oil

  • Pasta, all kinds

  • Spaghetti sauce

  • Mac and cheese

  • Canned fruit, all kinds

  • Canned tuna

  • Canned Beefaroni, Spaghetti O's, Ravioli

  • Soups, all kinds

  • Canned veggies, all kinds

  • Gift Card to Giant, Aldi or Acme


Personal Items

  • Diapers, sizes infant and #1

  • Baby wipes

  • Toilet paper

  • Paper towels

  • Ziploc bags, sandwich size and 1 quart

  • Aluminum foil

  • Plastic wrap

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Lysol spray or wipes

  • Bleach

  • General purpose cleaning spray  

  • Shampoo and conditioner

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste

  • Garbage bags - for kitchens 13 gallons

  • Dish soap

  • Laundry detergent 

  • Menstrual products (pads and tampons)


CWGE and North Star thank you in advance for any contribution you can make! If you can’t make a donation at this time, please share our drive with your communities and spread the word!

[A rainbow queerness and gender graphic in rainbow colors]

My Experience of the Complex Relationship Between Queerness and Gender

Aubrey Eason

     Something that I’ve thought a lot about over the years as a queer woman is my gender identity. I’ve gone through periods of intense gender questioning. I know this experience isn't unique to myself, but it’s one that I don’t hear talked about a lot, especially by cisgender individuals. When I’ve brought this issue to other queer people, I’ve heard my experiences echoed in their own. I believe that sometimes through questioning your sexuality, your gender identity also gets examined. For me, it was an inherent part of discovering my sexuality.
     I’ve always been a more masculine person. Not that I lacked femininity, but aspects of myself set me apart from the other women. I never felt like I “fit in” in spaces meant for women. Even when I made an effort to belong, there was always a feeling of otherness. Years later, I find myself reflecting on these experiences and how they’ve shaped my identity. I have come to the realization that so much of our societal understanding of gender is framed in comparison to sexuality. Humans are placed in a binary; what makes someone a woman is that she is not a man, and what makes someone a man is that he is not a woman. The only way this binary can exist is by establishing a clear cut difference between the two, which is partially done through attraction. Under the binary definition, what separates men and women is the heteronormative understanding that they are attracted to the “opposite sex”. I was taught growing up that so much of being a woman revolved around an attraction to men. As a young girl, boys were always the most popular topic of conversation. Boys in our classes, celebrities, fictional characters, etc. And when I didn’t relate to all the other “boy crazy” young girls, it conflicted with my perception of my own gender. Gender is a construct that we, as humans, created to help us understand and relate to others around us. Therefore, gender is a relative experience. When I found myself surrounded by young women who were nothing like me, I questioned if I was even a woman at all.
     Even when womanhood wasn’t centered around attraction to men, it was centered around being nothing like men. Being dainty, weak, and interested in distinctly feminine things. These gendered expectations included arbitrary and shifting ideals that only a few individuals are able to uphold. While this is obviously not an exhaustive example, as these expectations can change depending on culture, ethnicity, ability, etc., they were the expectations that I struggled with the most. I was one of the individuals who just didn’t fit the mold. Nothing about me was gentle, or quiet. I was always masculine in a way that was hard to remedy with my identity as a woman. It wasn’t just that I was interested in hobbies that are seen as masculine, like karate or video games, but I myself was perceived as masculine. I was loud and assertive, I was too outspoken. Being these things made me masculine in the eyes of others, and so I questioned whether or not these pieces of myself meant that I was not a woman. 
     The question that we as a society keep coming back to, again and again, is this: What makes someone a woman? My answer is deceptively simple, although it took years for me to fully understand. Womanhood is whatever we define it as. It is an individual identifier that lends itself to a larger experience and community. Because there is such variety within the identity, it’s impossible to say definitively that any one thing defines what a woman is. Beyond biological disparities, all women are individuals with different interests and opinions. As for my definition of womanhood, I found my answer in redefining femininity. To me, femininity is about righteous anger and empathy. It is not only about nurturing, but also protecting. There is strength in the vulnerability that comes with the feminine.  
     But you don’t have to be feminine to identify as a woman. Even after redefining femininity, there were still pieces of myself that I would describe as masculine. To decide for others what womanhood is takes away the benefit of labels. While labels can be used against people, to restrain them or reduce them, they can also be used to help us relate to one another. As humans, we require connection and understanding. We are not alone in our experience of this world, nor will we ever be. Labels help us find others who have shared our experiences. This does not mean that we have lived the same lives but rather that we believe there are things that connect us more intimately than our humanity. Labels do not define us; they are merely another language with which we understand our existence. 

A cream color and green fiber arts graphic


[A cream color and green fiber arts graphic]

Fiber Arts In Sum
By Lee Irvine (they/them)

Trigger warning: mention of domestic and racial violence 

The fiber arts are entangled in femme history, offering community, mobilization, and resources to historically marginalized folks. But like most history, the history surrounding fiber arts is divided along racial lines. White history is the story most often told regarding the fiber arts. However, the story is riddled with racism and fails to recognize the purpose that fiber arts served to Black women throughout American history. Knowing the history of fiber arts is not essential to begin your craft journey; however, it will help you appreciate where the art came from and may inspire you to take your journey a step further. 

Up until 1846, the fiber arts served a practical purpose to white women in American society. Women who were able to knit, crochet, or create anything from textile, could provide for their families by creating clothing and blankets. This changed in 1846 with Mademoiselle Riego de Blanchardier’s book Irish Lace Crochet, challenged the idea that fiber arts had to focus on utility (Loon, 2021). Irish lace crochet was accessible to upper-class white woman in America, since it built on skills that they already possessed. The final product was ornate, beautiful, and impractical. Therefore, rich white women reengaged with the fiber arts, as a means of creating art. On its surface, this all seems frivolous, however upper-class white women were using craft circles as a guise for political mobilization.  

Since gathering to chat was objectionable, being a white woman in early American society was generally very lonely (Cruea, 2005). By creating the appearance of getting work done, white women created a space where they could discuss scorned topics, like politics and their husbands (Loon, 2021). In these craft circles, women discussed how alcohol seemed to link to increased violence from their husbands, leading to a push for temperance. Additionally, white women organized the suffrage movement in these knitting circles. Yet, these white craft circles have always been entwined with racism. Like most feminist spaces around 1920, white knitting and craft circles excluded Black women. Knitting became integral to white women’s identity, almost every white woman knew how to knit. During the World Wars, white women met in weekly meetings to knit for active soldiers (Knitting Trends, 2014). In every knitting pattern I have looked at during my research, white women are pictured wearing the final product.  Racism continued into the 1960’s and 70’s, especially in the knitting community, as white women coined the phrase, “Black women cannot knit,” to exclude Black women from social groups built around knitting (Terry, 2019). As second wave feminism swept the nation, white women rejected the fiber arts as a symbol of domestic oppression. While second wave feminists turned to a contemporary definition of liberation, they left behind crafting and coined it as antiquated and unnecessary. 

Unlike white women, Black women used the fiber arts for means beyond utility. The fiber arts served as a means of survival. In their pursuit of liberating Black slaves, Black women running the Underground Railroad often used quilt work to create hidden maps, designed to help Black people navigate their way to the north to escape slavery (Terry, 2019). In 1864, Sojourner Truth taught Black women fleeing North how to knit and sew, as a means of empowering Black women with the ability to support their families after escaping slavery (Segal, 2017). After emancipation and into the present, the fiber arts serve Black women in political mobilization as well as mitigating minority stress. Minority stress as defined by the American Sociological Association, is stress experienced by minorities related to being a part of a socially disadvantaged group (Williams, 2017). During the Civil Rights Movement, crocheted articles of clothing signaled allyship with the Black Panthers; this rise in crocheting among Black women was a direct response to exclusion from white knitting circles. Additionally, members of the Black Panthers dedicated themselves to community aid through crocheting clothing and blankets for Black community members (Terry, 2019). Regarding minority stress, engaging in the fiber arts releases serotonin and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, within the blood (Houtman, 2017). Aside from physiological benefits of the fiber arts, the presence of craft circles allowed for Black women to commiserate about shared experiences of racism and sexism, while simultaneously creating a space for Black joy (Segal, 2017).  

Presently, groups like The Yarn Mission set out to give Black femmes a voice, while also establishing community aid. The Yarn Mission was established in 2014 by a young woman named Taylor Payne who was living just a mile away from where Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, was killed by a police officer. Michael Brown’s murder led to five days of peaceful protest throughout Ferguson, Missouri which were met with further police violence. Through The Yarn Mission, Payne sought to give her community a voice to discuss the trauma attached to being Black in America, using the fiber arts as their medium. Since its establishment, The Yarn Mission has grown beyond a craft circle, and flourished into a community aid effort to benefit people of color living in St. Louis, Missouri (Segal, 2017). Evidently, the fiber arts are woven into Black history and continue to play a role in Black liberation. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic first started in January of 2020, crafts like crocheting and knitting have begun to rise in popularity. Fiber arts regaining prevalence is accredited to the free time gained during the various lockdowns, as well as the aforementioned stress reduction benefits (Loon, 2021). Due to the nature of the pandemic, people are enjoying the fiber arts on their own, and craft circles are no longer as prevalent as they once were. 

Given your level of comfort with COVID-19, there are a few crafting circles present on West Chester University’s campus. The Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy offers a craft circle from 3pm-4pm on Wednesdays called Tight Knit. If that time or space does not serve you, the Stitched Together club meets at 5:30pm on most Mondays. If you don’t know any skills related to the fiber arts, both groups offer a space for newcomers to learn. You can see both groups listed on RamConnect with further details. However, if meeting in person is daunting for any number of reasons, you could always make your own virtual crafts circle with friends, to celebrate and learn the arts while maintain meaningful connections. While I believe the fiber arts and the communities can be enjoyed by anyone, I implore white allies to consider what kinds of circle they may be joining. First, predominately white spaces must consider the racist history tied to white knitting circles. Second, white allies seeking to join communities must honors circles that are closed to Black people and people of color. I will leave you with this: picking up a craft or learning a fiber arts skill can help you find peace, connect you with others, and will ultimately leave you with a final product that you made. 


Cherry. (2014, September 25). Knitting trends of the 1940s. Chronica. 

Cruea, S. M. (2005, September). Changing Ideals of Womanhood During the Nineteenth-Century Woman Movement. Bowling Green State University.  

Loon, C. (2022, October 19). Commentary: Crochet's evolving relationship to femininity. The California Aggie. Retrieved from mentary-crochets-evolving-relationship-to-femininity/ 

Houtman, B. (2022, October 11). How Crochet and Knitting Help the Brain. Anxiety Resource Center.,learning%20new%20skills%20and%20movements. 

Segal, C. (2017, April 23). Stitch by stitch, a brief history of knitting and activism. PBS.2022, from  

Terry, R. (2019, September 25). Black People Were the Original "Craftivists." ZORA. Retrieved from  

Williams, D. R. (n.d.). Stress and the Mental Health of Populations of Color: Advancing OurUnderstanding of Race-related Stressors. American Sociological Association. 

[Teal Gender Justice Conference graphic with light purple text and illustration of people of a diverse array of race, gender, and physical ability carrying protest signs and gathering in solidarity.]

Call for Committee Members: 
Third Annual Gender Justice Conference

The Center for Women & Gender Equity would like to invite you to partner in the planning of our Third Annual Gender Justice Conference (tentatively scheduled to be held on March 29th, 2023). 

We intentionally plan to host this conference at the end of Women’s History Month and just before the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the hopes of unifying our office’s goals of addressing gender-based oppression and centering joy and liberation for all. In 2021, the First Annual Gender Justice Conference was thematically organized around the groundbreaking research published in Sexual Citizens by Dr. Jennifer S. Hirsch and Dr. Shamus Khan, which examined the ways that identity and power influenced the sexual lives and vulnerabilities to harm of college students. In 2022, the Second Annual Gender Justice Conference was crafted around concepts of self-authorship and narrative building as social change work and featured a talk from New York Times Bestselling Author Chloe Gong and a keynote from Ericka Hart (pronouns: she/they), a black queer femme activist, writer, highly acclaimed speaker, and award-winning sexuality educator on the concept of radical sex positivity. 

This year we would like to build on the learning we embarked on with our previous two conferences and imagine what it means to engage in social change work while continuing to manage the consequences of COVID-19, mounting systemic inequities, and legislative challenges to bodily autonomy. Our hope for the 2023 conference is to continue to examine the ways that all oppressions are intrinsically linked and work to co-create an environment where transformative justice is possible, where everyone’s safety is secured, and where everyone finds a space of connection and belonging.  

We are seeking engaged campus partners to serve on our planning committee for the Third Annual Gender Justice Conference to help craft a specific vision for our conference’s themes utilizing critical and intersectional frameworks and to make decisions on the operational and logistical elements of hosting a conference in these ambiguous times. If you are interested in joining our committee, please contact Mx. Tess Benser (they/them/theirs), Assistant Director of Outreach & Engagement of the Center for Women & Gender Equity at Thanks! 


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