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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Get Interested: Women’s Awareness House

<g House, a gray-brown, boxy building located next to Dacie Moses, may not seem like the most inviting house on the block. But, like a Tootsie pop or Sean Connery’s reclusive character in Finding Forrester, one need only brave its hard exterior to discover the warmth within.

Berg serves as the home of Women’s Awareness (WA) House, an interest residence with connections to the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) and the department of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST). It is based around women’s issues and community building on the Carleton campus.

According to College Archivist Eric Hillemann and the Carletonian archives, WA under its current name has been around since at least 1984, with other, now defunct, women-centered interest houses dating back to 1975 and earlier. Current residents include House Manager Allie Schwartz ’10 and five other women with majors ranging from CAMS, to Women’s and Gender Studies, to Geology.

One of the only requirements for living at WA, which selects its residents via application, is “hav[ing] an interest in women’s issues and [specifically] women’s issues on campus,” Schwartz said.

The other is being female. “Presently we’re limited to self-identified women,” she said. The reason for this is a need for a “safe space on campus” for Carleton women.

Junior Kat Ward likens it to the “All-Women’s Floor” in the dorms, currently located on 4th Nourse, saying that some women just feel more comfortable in such surroundings.

But she and other house residents agree that WA is much more than just an “All-Women’s” area. It is also about building community, both within and beyond the house, and between both men and women.

Much of this community building takes place through a Collective for Women’s Issues (CWI), which meets on Thursdays at 9:30 pm. The first half, open to anyone, consists of a discussion of “topics that we feel are relevant and interesting,” says Schwartz.

Recent topics have included pornography and virginity. The second half of the event, referred to as a “check-in,” is open to self-identified women. WA residents describe it as an “open time” where one can share anything.

“It’s an opportunity to express something that’s been on your mind with a group of supportive people,” says Megan Hafner ’11.

The women of WA said this relaxed, open and supportive atmosphere is what they love most about where they live. Schwartz, who is residing in WA for the second year in a row, cites this as one of the reasons she applied in the first place. “I would come to CWI [two years ago]…and it was such a positive experience for me. I also just really love the house.” Ward also particularly enjoys WA House’s welcoming vibe. “Everyone here is really open to visitors and that’s kind of rare, I think.”

The passion the other residents feel for both the house and the work done there is no secret either. “It’s really great,” said Ruth Aufderheide ’10.

“Multiple thumbs up.” Hafner agreed, saying, “We have a lot of fun. And we love hanging out on the porch. Come by and ‘porch it’ with us,” she said.

It is clear that, despite their house’s less than breathtaking exterior, the ladies of WA want everyone, male, female, or anywhere in between, to come over and hang out, whether it’s to meet new people, to express themselves, or just to ‘porch it.’

“You can do homework here, you can watch TV with us,” Schwartz said.

“We have tea!” Ward added.

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