You may already know Autumn Haynes from her directing days at Boise Little Theater or her work with the Boise State Office of Student Activities. You may not know that two months ago, she stepped in to fill the void left by Melissa Wintrow, longtime coordinator of the Boise State Women's Center. In the midst of finishing her master's degree and planning her wedding, Haynes has taken on all the duties that running such a vibrant hub of campus life entails--including distribution of the infamous chocolate vaginas.
BW: What are your duties as interim coordinator?
AH: I advocate for the sexual response line for students who have been sexually or domestically violated. I work on educational outreach programs and give presentations to student groups. I passively hand out information whether it's a whistle, a bookmark or the Clothesline Project out in the quad--anything that addresses attitudes, values and beliefs that marginalize individuals in society; and I do a lot of writing for The Arbiter and opinion pieces for the Statesman that engage the student population. That's my focus, my audience.
What effect do you hope things like the Clothesline Project have on students?
It's horrifying but motivating. It makes you ask yourself, "How am I contributing to the continuum of violence that perpetrates sexism, racism and all the other 'isms?'"
How is the atmosphere at Boise State in regard to "isms?"
It ebbs and flows, but I'm surprised at the level of consciousness. The students are the first to point out inadequacies in the system or instances of institutionalized oppression. That's encouraging to me.
What are the biggest issues for female students?
In two months in this position, the most glaring challenge to female students is recognizing their participation in their own oppression. They are participants in the everyday catcalling and joke-making that degrades other female students, and I haven't figured out how to educate around that yet.
Where do you draw the line between acceptable humor and a Puritanical, politically correct purge of all jokes?
I'm all about humor. It's a great way to talk about the issues, but you have to ask if it's hurting or educating. If, in any context, it creates an image of people that's negative, well ... I struggle with this because I'm mainstream in many ways. It's not easy to be a feminist activist, but if you believe in equal rights for all people you have to do the work. You also have to respect their right to exercise tasteless humor, but we're allowed to be out there educating about how it affects others.
Is the Women's Center exclusively for female students?
Despite the name, the center is open for all students and all people who are ready to open their minds to the fact that individuals are more than their race, economic background, sexuality or political affiliation. We're a safe place that welcomes respectful conversation and disagreement, and we're there to support anyone in opportunities to make social change.