UVic Womyn is calling for financial disclosure and an end to harassment of feminists at the former Womens’ Centre in the wake of a “take-over” of women’s space.
The feminist group is demanding the University re-open space for women only. In 1981, the UVic Women’s Centre was established as a women’s lounge and meeting space. In 2016, the collective re-branded it “Third Space” for gender-variant people, and adopted new policies that require members to subscribe to its theory of gender identity.
UVic Womyn is also challenging the Third Space collective’s decision to “donate” $3200 of its budget to former financial coordinator Daphne Shaed, a trans person who identifies as a Hindu woman.
In September, Nadia Hamdon, the new financial coordinator, quit her position without explanation and the centre is now unstaffed, according to an email from Erin Ewart, the executive director of the UVic Student Society.
“This raises a lot of questions,” said Tara Prema, researcher for UVic Womyn. “The space is for women. Student fees are collected for programs for women. Students did not vote to give thousands of dollars to an individual staffer who ‘identifies’ as a woman.”
“We are going to insist on holding Third Space and UVic Student Society accountable for these decisions.,” Prema said.
The Third Space website has not advertised any programs or services for students since May.
In summer 2016, a Third Space coordinator confronted a UVic student about her support for women’s space, and the student says the collective banned her from the centre for that reason.
“It’s no crime to have a different opinion,” says the student. “Students did not consent to converting the Women’s Centre to Third Space.”
“Both women and trans people deserve to be safe. But we have different issues. So why can’t each group have a place to meet and organize?”
UVic Womyn claim the atmosphere in the Student Union Building has become “openly hostile” toward feminists. The student points to an incident in early September during an event sponsored by the UVSS. Organizers for the Victoria Anarchist Bookfair distributed copies of a poster with names and photos of three women alleged to be part of UVic Womyn, which they called a “hate group.”
Students watched in shock as a group of bookfair organizers confronted and verbally abused a student who resembled one of the women on the poster. A bystander intervened and the student was able to get away from the group who tried to chase them down the hall of the SUB.
UVic Womyn tweeted that they are not connected to the women on the poster. Regardless, a bookfair presenter from Vancouver posted the women’s names and faces on Facebook. A second bookfair volunteer bragged about confronting the student and complained that organizers should have prevented feminists from attending the public event.
One of the women named on the poster is Erin Wallace, a UVic grad now living and teaching in Germany. Wallace had no connection with UVic Womyn at the time of the Anarchist Bookfair. She has filed a complaint with Saanich police, who are now investigating.
“It’s anti-feminist,” said Erin Wallace. “They’re trying to scare us into silence. To go to the extreme of harassing and threatening women who want to organize in the absence of men clearly represents a backlash against feminism.”
“The censoring and exclusion of feminists from the campus Women’s Centre by males and their supporters is an alarming symptom of this backlash,” Wallace said.