Program seeks to unite women

by Jenn Buck | 11/4/03 6:00am

Leigh Heeter '04 wants to ignore race, religion and politics.

This doesn't sound like the sentiment of an activist, much less that of a feminist. But Heeter said this may be one of the most challenging notions many women at Dartmouth College have seen in some time.

This idea inspired Heeter to coordinate a three-week-long programming event through her internship at the Center for Women and Gender. She said she wants to bring women from divergent -- and often conflicting -- groups at Dartmouth together to share what they have in common and strengthen their bonds of identity as women.

Heeter's goal is to enable women to transcend the often controversial nature of their individual cultural and political identities, in hopes that they may be able to come together under the umbrella identity of "women of Dartmouth."

The awareness campaign, entitled "Women Supporting Women," is co-sponsored by Women of Color Collective, the Panhellenic Council, and Pan-Asian Council.

Heeter said she welcomed the diverse collaborative of co-sponsors "in the hopes that by having all these perspectives represented, everyone's different issues will be addressed organically through the process of coming together."

Tsering Kheyap '04 is the co-chair of the WoCC, and said she is glad to bring this divergent campus organizations together. These groups "might occasionally overlap on some individual event, but to come together on this broad initiative is compelling," Kheyap said.

The campaign will seek to help women define what it means for them to "support" each other, and how they may collectively identify as women of Dartmouth.

Programming events will seek to unite women to celebrate ways they may support one another emotionally, culturally and politically through encouragement and bonding.

Heeter says she intends the campaign to address issues of concern to many women, such as healthy relationships with friends, partners, and eating. More importantly, she hopes that women will develop a dialogue about ways to support each other around these issues.

Campaign events began yesterday with the "Women Supporting Women" table in the Thayer lobby.

Volunteers will be handing out buttons and conducting surveys asking Dartmouth women how they do or do not feel supported by one another. "Trailblazers" posters around campus will highlight women throughout College history who have achieved great things through supporting each other.

Week two will feature a talk by Amanda Cochran of WISE entitled "Healthy Women, Healthy relationships," on Thursday, November 13 at 5 p.m. Campaign t-shirts will be sold at the Thayer table, with the proceeds benefiting WISE.

Heeter described this exchange between WISE and her campaign as a "symbiotic" relationship that exemplifies the concept of women supporting other women.

WISE will share their insight and experience to help educate Dartmouth women, who in turn will help to fundraise for this local non-profit.

The final week of the campaign, which officially starts on Monday, November 17, will feature posters displaying the results of the survey, which Heeter said she expects to be expository and thought-provoking.

The highlight of the final week will be the campaign's culminating event, a Women Supporting Women panel of "strong, diverse Dartmouth women," Heeter said.

The panel will address myriad issues affecting Dartmouth women and will strive to create movement toward unity through the collective sharing of diverse views.

Kheyap said, "there may not be 100 percent agreement [among the different groups], but willingness to get together and support dialogue on issues is something that's been missing at Dartmouth."