Purple Sex is an annual opportunity for the feminist community at Western to connect over spoken word, storytelling, music, dance, and performances that celebrate sexuality, bodies and the lives of students. Madeline Vrolyk, the USC’s Coordinator of the Gender Equality Network (GEN), believes that the event is integral to campus life and Western’s student experience.
“Feminist events often take on an negative or pessimistic tone because there are so many issues that affect us. That can be discouraging for students, including our team at GEN, but Purple Sex is truly an opportunity for celebration,” said Vrolyk.
The Gender Equality Network (GEN), is a USC service dedicated to advocating for gender equality on campus through programming and awareness initiatives.
Madeline first got involved in the portfolio because the organization’s mission aligned with her Women’s Studies degree and previous volunteer experience at Anova, a London organization that provides safe places, shelter, support, counselling, and resources for abused women, their children, and all oppressed individuals. She joined the then Women’s Issues Network as Communications Coordinator and has grown into her current role as GEN Coordinator.
“I’ve always been passionate about feminist issues and gender equity,” said Vrolyk, “I recognized needs on campus for women and gender minorities that weren’t being met such as sexual violence, consent education, and the absence of women’s only hours at the Rec Centre, and I wanted to get involved to help get change moving.”
As Coordinator, Madeline has overseen the development of popular new GEN initiatives including the Women in House trip to Ottawa and the Feminist Mixer. The Feminist Mixer, which has traditionally been hosted by the Women’s Studies Student Collective, was supported by GEN this year to bring the event to both a larger venue and a larger audience with the goal of connecting more feminist student leaders on campus with feminist community leaders.
Madeline is careful to not deemphasize the smaller-scale events that her portfolio hosts, such as the Developing Positive Masculinities Panel and the Pro-Choice Sign Making Party. She believes that this kind of student outreach is a critical aspect of GEN’s initiatives as it helps the group remain receptive to student feedback.
“Although these are not big flashy events, our pro-choice booths, in particular, are when we really get to interact with students one-on-one and have productive and supportive conversations. While we do love our other events, the practice of spreading love, support, and education to students is invaluable in the eyes of our team.”
One of Madeline’s favourite parts about her role as coordinator is seeing her committee members succeed in catalyzing change in the Western Community.
“Just this past week we ran a reproductive justice booth in the UCC, and having productive and educational conversations with students on campus makes me feel like all the hard work that we put in to running our programming is worth it.”
At the same time, however, Madeline admits there are limitations to her leadership, “As a white woman in this role, I have to constantly be checking myself and ensuring that I am representing all women-identifying students on campus, and not just those that share my identities. Feminism must be intersectional, must be inclusive, and must be all-encompassing.” In committing to this, Madeline strives to take the steps necessary to ensure that events are inclusive and that all communities members feel safe attending.
Madeline believes that the service’s name change reflects their commitment to inclusion and intersectionality and she hopes it will guide the organization’s direction in the coming years. “It is so important that our campus community knows that issues surrounding gender do not just affect women, and the burden of solving these issues does not lie solely on women. Feminist issues affect everyone, in different ways and at different levels. In the next few years, GEN’s focus will be on including all campus community members and building a strong relationship with students of all identifies.”
Submissions for Purple Sex have been extended until Wednesday, February 6th at midnight, and interested performers are encouraged to visit the submission event page for more information. All community members are invited to attend Purple Sex on February 8th in the UCC Community Room from 7:00pm-9:00pm. For more information, please visit the Purple Sex event page.