Why I left WILL

A couple of months ago, I came to the realization that I wasn’t sure about my involvement with WILL anymore. At first, this felt like an absolute betrayal of self, but over time, I realized WILL is part of what taught me to challenge and question the system in the first place. I know that since I’m not a part of WILL this semester, I’m not required to write a blog post, but I think it’s important that I do. I’ve also heard whispers that my Facebook post saying I’m leaving was “really weird”, so I wanted to see if I could clear things up.

 

I struggle sometimes with reading long posts that aren’t broken up into sections (which is why I love BuzzFeed), so I broke it down into reasons:

 

Reason 1: I felt that I didn’t have space within WILL to teach or learn.

 

When I’m in a group focused on social justice, activism, and learning through community, I feel a need to learn by sharing my own experiences and listening when other people share theirs. In WILL, I had an overwhelming feeling that there wasn’t space for me to do that. Two hours a week certainly isn’t a long time, but I think that not enough of those two hours was devoted to learning from each other.

 

The learning I’ve done through WILL this year has been through my conversations with the community outside of our meetings. Whether it’s talking about the privileges of marriage with Jack or relationships and kittens with Raquel, I’ve learned a lot from conversations unrelated to WILL’s programming. I believe that when you have a community of activists, the learning fuels itself as long as there is space for it.

 

Reason 2: It seems like we’re the only ones willing to represent ourselves.

 

Within this point, I first want to acknowledge the amazing work Brandy has been doing as program coordinator for the Women’s Center. However, she shouldn’t be expected to do it all. The Women’s Center is running on a skeleton crew, and it seems like some of the bones are missing.

 

Sara and Raquel have been doing an amazing job facilitating and keeping WILL going, but this is a program that really needs someone working full-time. It’s such a vital part of the Women’s Center that there should undoubtedly be someone with the title “WILL Coordinator” in their email signature. I really appreciate the work Sara and Raquel have been putting in, but my issue is that they shouldn’t have to be.

 

With the Women’s Center losing so much of its staff and RECLAIM shutting down, student activism is extremely important, now more than ever. However, it gets really taxing on the students. I simply can’t handle the struggle of trying to support the Center during this time of absolute crisis. It’s for my own self-care that I need to move back for a while so I can come back when I’m ready to.

 

Reason 3: I wasn’t being challenged enough.

 

I love the fact that WILL brings together people from different stages in their feminist journeys. It’s beautiful to see people actively learning from the community, and it’s so powerful to see those changes within yourself as well. I think that this year, I haven’t been seeing as much of that change within myself. I need to be challenged more.

 

When I say that, I don’t necessarily mean people telling me I’m wrong, although that is welcome. I want to share an example of a time someone in RAPP challenged me and made me think about the way I had conversations about social justice. I casually said the phrase “Men are awful” and someone “#notallmen”-ed me immediately, asking “Why all men?” and “What did I personally do wrong?”

 

While these questions were definitely irritating and I don’t believe anyone should have to answer them, I think I was able to give a decent reply. I explained that by saying “all men” instead of “some men” when of course I mean “some men”, it makes people check themselves. Of course, “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” A true ally would realize the emotion behind a statement like “men are awful” and understand that it comes from a place of hurt, anger, and oppression.

 

I think that’s what I mean when I say I want to be challenged. I want people to question me, even if they do it indignantly. I learn from challenging and introspective conversations. When people tell me I’m wrong, I want to either be able to defend my beliefs or listen to why they feel that way, and learn from it.

 

Finally…

 

I love WILL. I really, really do. It’s a great community, and I learn so much every day from everyone in it. Ultimately, my decision to step back isn’t because of the people in WILL or the programming, but the fact that it’s so hard to run a program like WILL without full-time staff. While I love learning from my peers, I prefer to do so in a setting without inherent hierarchy. I hope I’ll be able to come back to WILL in the future, and I miss being a part of it, but it’s important for me to prioritize my mental health and self-care. That being said, it’s even more important for me to see my leaving as a form of activism: it’s radical to move back when you need to. Maybe me leaving could be a clear sign that the Women’s Center needs more from UC…

 

Anahita Sharma is an Early Childhood Education major expected to graduate in the Winter of 2017. She is a 2nd year WILLer and a vital component to our WILL community. We thank Anahita and celebrate her in her courage to be transparent and authentic in her feminism. “It’s radical to move back when you need to.” Here’s to Anahita’s radical activism.

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