The Happy Trail

CHWS debuts women’s self-respect workshops

The Student Diversity Center, where the workshops take place — Photo credit to Molly McLean

Five Puget Sound women closed their eyes, scanning each and every part of their body in a meditative state, noticing — but not judging — how each section felt. They were participating in an integral aspect of the brand new Puget Sound Women’s Self Respect workshop: meditating on their feelings in a safe and welcoming environment.

Christine Hutchison, a Counseling, Health and Wellness Services (CHWS) pre-doctoral intern, began the Women’s Self Respect Workshop at the beginning of this semester. The workshop runs for three weeks at a time and cycles over for anyone to repeat it or jump in for the first time. It meets once a week on Wednesdays from 3:30–5 p.m. in the Social Justice Center, also known as the Blue House.

“I started this group because it is the group I would have wanted for myself during college,” Hutchison said. “It’s very challenging for female-leaning people to find a sense of self-respect because in many of our daily actions, women aren’t afforded respect and are even degraded by others.”

The Women’s Self Respect Workshop includes an hour of meditation, self-reflection through drawing or writing and open, free-form group conversation. Participants are invited to share as much or as little as they please. The first week in the cycle focuses on the women’s relationships with their bodies, the second focuses on women’s relationships with and towards men and the third focuses on women’s relationships with or towards women. Participants are invited to join for any and all sessions they are particularly interested in.

The workshop is run through CHWS and the attendance of two meetings can fast-track a student to meet with a CHWS counselor for their intake appointment. The workshop, however, is not necessarily considered a counseling or therapy session. Hutchison labeled it a “workshop” so that Puget Sound women could work through their ideas about what womanhood meant to them with each other, as well as work on creating ways to cope as a woman on campus and in the world. While students do not get one-on-one time like in a private counseling session, they do get to tease out their ideas in a safe environment with others in order to prepare for more focused work in a private session with a CHWS therapist.

A group workshop for women is especially important so that women can see and interact with women who have faced similar struggles with things such as harassment, misogyny, body-shaming and more.

“I hope that students who attend the workshop start to get the feelings that come with self respect. I want them to understand that self-respect and self compassion to be a practice, not a destination,” Hutchison said. “I hope that it will allow them to be kinder to themselves when they aren’t feeling confident.”

In a world of commodified, mainstream feminism, women are expected to be confident, love themselves and never feel unconfident, ashamed or self-loathing. It is nearly impossible to escape the fat-shaming, racist, anti-feminine and anti-woman sentiment of media and the American cultural landscape. On top of this, many women say that they know that they shouldn’t hate their bodies, or know they shouldn’t feel ashamed of wanting sex or of breaking personal boundaries, and are ashamed that they have these feelings. Hutchison wants the women in her workshop to know that it is never incorrect to feel any emotion about anything. Instead, women can focus on why they feel a certain way about themselves and acknowledge the outside forces that are at work.

“Sometimes feminism gives us a sense that now we should be able to set boundaries, love ourselves and be confident all of the time without fail,” Hutchison said. “While it is great to encourage those things, it is nearly impossible to feel that way all of the time, and that it absolutely okay.”