Transformative Times

Dear Friends, Champions, Supporters, and Colleagues of the Center for the Study of Women in Society,

We have tried to write this statement countless times over the past two weeks since a law professor wore blackface at her Halloween party.

First, there were no words. How could we even respond to that? Then, there were too many words – words that were inappropriate for public dissemination.

Then, Election Day happened, one week ago (can it really be, that that was just a week ago?). And we were thrown right back into the cycle of grief and found ourselves back at square one, trying to absorb our shock and disgust at the depths of the ugly truth of this country.

To be clear, as women, some of us as women of color, some of us as queer women of color, we had no illusions about what kind of country we live in. We are all too familiar with the profound racism, sexism, and xenophobia that make up the very fabric of this nation. We see it every day. But to be honest, we had been holding out hope that the arc of history had been bent far further toward justice – that despite the ugliness of America, its beauty and truth would win out this time.

Unfortunately, we had underestimated the depths and breadths of the seething anger of those who were disgusted by the thought of a black man or a woman in the White House.

The very day after that dark Tuesday, CSWS hosted a forum on what we called “Transformative Philanthropy.” We brought four speakers from across the country to talk about how social justice is being fueled by funders and donors, and how the social change we have seen occur at sometimes breakneck speeds in our country has been propelled and shaped by the visionary funders who support it.


Carol Tatch, Gabriel Foster, and Emily Evans, along with moderator Rebecca Flynn at our Transformative Philanthropy panel.

That morning, as we gathered to hear from a black woman, a black transgender man, and a white woman, all in positions of leadership at their organizations, many in our audience echoed what we ourselves were also feeling: that despite feeling like we might not be able to drag ourselves out of bed that morning, being there in that room to talk about social justice for people of color, LGBTQ people, women, and other vulnerable populations was, in fact, exactly where we were supposed to be.

And this is what CSWS does: we create and convene community. We are here for you when you need a safe space and a reminder that you have a whole network of people who have your back. We make grants that fund intersectional feminist research, to be sure, but one of the primary ways CSWS functions as a catalyst for change and hope on this campus is through the fabric of community that we all weave together.

We at CSWS certainly do not know what the future holds or even exactly how to move forward as a country toward our vision of one that fully recognizes our individual and collective humanity, but we know this: coming back to community is always part of the answer.

So please, in these days of despondency, as you cycle through your own stages of grief, whatever they may be, know that you are welcome here. If you want to come sit in our conference rooms or say hello to an assured friendly face, Suite 340 in Hendricks Hall is always open to you.

CSWS is committed, more than ever before, to combating the sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism that pervade every corner of this country. We are your safe space. Thank you for joining with us as we march on.

In solidarity,
Michelle McKinley, Director and Dena Zaldúa, Managing Director
On behalf of the staff of CSWS


P.S. You can contact us at any time at or 541.346.5015.