Invasion or invitation?
Seems the Women's Centre isn't just for women

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 26/97) - Penelope Shaw objects when two women -- each with a black eye -- end up doing chores for men who take over the Yellowknife Women's Centre living room.

Men have been invited into the centre for years but Shaw, a centre volunteer, says they should be restricted to potluck suppers or Christmas, not every day.

"It's nothing personal. That's my view, which is shared by many of the staff and people in the community," she said.

The centre used to be run by volunteers but now it has government funding and paid staff, so Shaw said this is a good time to reassess its priorities and focus.

"We need to be accountable for funding," said Shaw, who has lived in the North for 11 years. "The donations and funding for the women's programs need to go to women and not to the guys."

Shaw has worked at the Salvation Army's soup kitchen and a restaurant, so she knows the men who use the centre are very courteous and polite.

But she said she had a real problem walking in and "seeing some guys I used to serve soup to ... and two women with black eyes being told to sew their trousers, doing their laundry, bringing them large cups of orange juice and cooking their breakfast."

Shaw said that the executive director of the centre, Arlene Hache, wants to support women's choices, which includes women choosing to bring in their family.

But Shaw said she wonders how women can say no when they are being beaten up. She can see a lot of coercion over the women.

"I bet the funding agencies ... people who donate green peppers and bread -- I bet they think that when they fund the centre they think it's the place I'm looking for ...

"I think everybody who doesn't go to the Women's Centre think it's an OK place to do crafts ... a safe, secure place for women," Shaw said.