Wednesday, November 30, 2005

word on the street

Overheard today at Yale: the claim that "Desperate Housewives" depicts a matriarchy.

Let's get this straight. OK, so the show's main characters are women who manipulate others. Is this really what it looks like when women rule in a gender-inclusive context?
um.... no.

Just look at the title:
"desperate" = use men as sex-toys and stab each other in the back.
"house-wives" = defined and supported financially only by their marriage; have an extremely limited sphere of action.

Don't know about you, but I call that patriarchy.

[more here]

Monday, November 28, 2005

These tectonic plates sure do shift slowly

Today's interesting article about women in the geology major points out that women are catching up in many of the sciences ... but apparently only when it comes to the number of undergraduate majors.

Harvard President Lawrence Summers stirred controversy earlier this year with his comments on the lack of women in the sciences. But if he had poked his head into a geology class at Yale, he might have noticed that women geology and geophysics majors at the University consistently outnumber men.

Let's not forget that Summers' comment was not only about the lack of women in the sciences; he implied that women may be less competent in the sciences. The whole point is
not that there aren't qualified women out there (hello, women have been graduating from Yale for over 30 years). It's that even if we are filling classrooms, we're still sent signals that we aren't as job-worthy as our male peers. Undergraduate numbers are great, but despite them women still make up only 6.8 percent of the tenured science faculty.

The article goes on to discuss the cultural factors that may prevent women from going on to graduate school. This is true not only of the sciences - the university has acknowledged that Yale's diversity needs work at all levels... especially the higher ones.

UPDATE (11/30): Charles Bailyn's letter uses the timeframe of this change to point to cultural (instead of genetic) factors in the number of women in science.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

RSVP update

Last Friday the coordinators of RSVP met with the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board (SHGB) at the request of the administration, who had allotted them a fifteen minute slot.

Apparently the response to RSVP’s comments was antagonistic and defensive. I have to say I’m not surprised; it’s nothing new that rape is hard to talk about and hard to confront. What is currently in place is not acceptable: the options are not clear or well-publicized and existing campus responses to sexual assaults are sometimes misleading or harmful. We know it doesn't work because we've heard the stories. [see previous post below for more details.]

The YCC is in agreement on this, by the way, having passed a resolution last spring to involve students and community members in a review of Yale policy. RSVP’s coordinators have met with Larry Wise (head of the YCC Security Committee) and Steven Syverud, YCC president and will continue to cooperate in the future.

The problem: because few people (students and administration) have been willing to talk about it, the issue has been pushed under the rug countless times, and the problems have not been confronted and addressed.

Here's how to help: stories/comments/suggestions [all will be kept completely anonymous] should be sent to With first-person accounts, we avoid the unconstructive hypothetical conversations that obscure the real concerns; we can prove that the system is not adequate if students who have used it speak up.

Let’s have Yale take responsibility for its students; please spread the word.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Why Harvard IS Better Than Yale

As much as we hate the color crimson (except when used to hold up a sign that reads: "Harvard Sucks") and as bummed as we were about losing to Harvard in football AGAIN, we must commend Harvard for being better than Yale at something: Sexual Assault Response.

Three years ago, after mounting pressure from students and faculty members, Harvard University centralized its sexual harassment and assault resources to create the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. The office is the one place where all students can go to learn about their legal options, to receive emotional and physical care, and to make sure they have a trained individual whose sole responsibility is to be the survivor's advocate. At Yale, on the other hand, students (even those, like freshmen counselors, who are trained to be student resources) have no idea where to go in the case of a sexual assault. The administration has no straight answer either; there are too many options and no central authority on the pros and cons of each option. Yale's twenty-four hour services are less than sufficient; the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board (a place many survivors are sent) does not have disciplinary power like Ex-Com does and does not report statistics; Yale-New Haven and DUH clinicians do not know the legal ramifications of certain medical choices; the list goes on.

Shouldn't we have someone who can bring together all this information??! Perhaps Yale could use a lesson from its rival school.

For more information check out Harvard's website and if you want to help us push for change at Yale, come to Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP). The meetings are at 9pm on Wednesdays at the Women's Center.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sexual Assault Petition

RSVP will be on cross campus today handing out information about Yale's rape and sexual assault policy and asking students to sign a petition for change.

Please visit and find out more about what needs to be done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Feminism at 9:30am!?

A lot of you are hankering for more posts, so I thought I'd throw in a little anecdote I was thinking about earlier this week.

In one of my seminars the professor was discussing policies which accomodate minorities, and the dangers of extending legal exceptions to everyone that asks for it. She used this metaphor: "it becomes a run in the stocking." This struck me as humorous at first, but I think it is also significant in a feministy way. In general, experiencing a run in one's stocking is an exclusively female experience; while men can understand the concept (things get out of hand - you can't stop a run from getting bigger) the expression speaks most directly to women. This is pretty revolutionary in an serious academic context (don't think so? look at the composition of our tenured faculty).

It reminded me of a story a science professor once told me, about an experiment he does one of the first days of lab. First, he has groups test the absorbtion capacity of paper towels - and for the most part the men in the class take charge of the groups in planning and executing the experiment. Then, he has them repeat the experiment with tampons - and the women are the ones who take charge.

The point is not that we should use tampons in the science lab instead of paper towels, or employ women-only metaphors in all of our speech. These stories just confirm the assertion of this blog that little things matter: discussions and space can be skewed to exclude certain populations.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

It's Not All Bad

Yale announced last Thursday that it is increasing daycare options and availability for employees of the University. Some say the expansion won't be enough to fill current needs, but it is clear at least that there is pressure on the administration to really support working parents.

Does anyone have more details or comments on the specific plan?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Yale Bashes Feminist Blog

Given the flurry of dissent in our comments sections, we feel the need to address and to clarify some issues you all brought up. Just as we want to hold publications and visitors accountable for the implications of their opinions, we understand the need to hold ourselves accountable to recent criticisms.

1. Ok, so we haven’t made it an entirely safe space if people feel that they cannot post a comment without leaving their name. We think this is true for two reasons; the first: we’ve made a few mistakes and have participated in some name-calling (Della apologizes to Matt Gillum). We’ll work on that.

Secondly, and more importantly: we are using a different framework for engaging social issues. We present daily interactions as expressions of sexism (and racism and classism) – power structures which Yalies benefit from (especially white males but all of us, more broadly, as an educated “elite”). This can be threatening (see: defensive anonymous comments in response to our request for people to identify themselves). Our goal is not to attack but to encourage people to think outside the box. Sometimes it gets nasty. Bear with us.

2. It’s nothing new to accuse feminists of “not having a sense of humor,” so we are not surprised to hear it. Those who know us, however, know we actually sometimes laugh at jokes, and function in the “real world.”

There are just some things we don’t think are funny. Dana Schuster’s editorial is such a thing. Imagine being a rape survivor and reading it - such disturbing and insensitive material is not humorous, despite its widespread appearance and acceptance. We laugh because we’re uncomfortable with the reality of rape and we laugh because we’re not ready to feel accountable for such a phenomenon. Most of us know of situations where drunken sex happens, and most of us don’t want to admit that according to CT law all drunken sex is rape. Broad Recognition asserts that to treat rape humorously expresses a larger cultural feeling that is permissive of rape; it tells survivors of sexual assault that what happened to them wasn’t really a big deal. We refuse to be complicit in this, and demand accountability in our publications.

The Rumpus post is not as clear-cut. We take your comments that Rumpus is a humor magazine that makes fun of anything and everyone. That said, the piece does raise questions that are relevant to a feminist blog. Why do we all think vaginas are disgusting? Why can’t men perform and why can’t women tell them when they’re not performing well? This is, in our book, explicit gender inequality.

Yes – we have a right to free speech. What we do with that free speech, however, has vast political and social implications. Broad Recognition exists to point out these implications.

Stay with us. Watch us develop. Keep getting pissed off, but do it in a coherent and constructive way.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Say Your Name!

To all dissenters: take credit for your thoughts and identify yourselves.

We are happy to have so many responses to our posts from all different voices - even voices of disagreement. But we do NOT appreciate (or, for that matter, take seriously) anonymous comments like the ones recently posted. If you have an opinion, please accept responsibility for your thoughts and sign your name; doing otherwise delegitimizes your argument and creates a violent and unproductive discussion.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Rebecca Livengood won the Women's Center PAC endorsement for Ward 1 Alderwoman, and has the support of many other progressive groups on campus. The WCPAC statement is below.

Also see : the YDN's endorsement (from 11/07).


For the four years of Ben Healey's term as Ward 1 Alderman, Yale students had a strong progressive leader committed to women's equality. In three weeks, students in this ward will have the chance to choose who is qualified to continue and build on that tradition of leadership. After a survey of both candidates and an overwhelming vote by our membership, the Yale Women's Center PAC is proud to endorse Rebecca Livengood, an exceptionally dedicated leader with the vision, values, and experience to lead our ward and fight for our priorities.

Rebecca recognizes that protecting women's rights demands a willingness to stand up and demand more of powerful institutions. She has done so throughout her time at Yale. And since joining the Board in August, she has been hard at work with allies on campus, in the community, and on the Board ensuring that the Yale - New Haven Hospital crafts a development plan which makes the tremendous benefits of its Cancer Center project accessible to the women and men who are its neighbors. We are heartened by Rebecca's commitment to making healthcare available to low-income women and men and their families. And we are troubled that her opponent would have us push through a major development plan without regard for whether the women and men providing the healthcare at the Center will be able to afford it themselves.

Rebecca recognizes that when everyone's interests are represented, everyone can benefit. She will be a crucial ally over the years to come in continuing the progress of the women's movement and fostering social justice in our community.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"In the Animal Kingdom of Yale, Sexual Predators Rule"

It's been a lousy fall for feminism at Yale. First, the YDN gave a sexist biology freak his own bi-weekly column (see below). Then the Rumpus made every woman who wasn't already insecure about her vagina decide to hate it or at least trim it (there were no available appointments for bikini waxes at both Panaches until after Thanksgiving Break). And, now, we have Dana Schuster's horrendous editorial in the Yale Herald about the prevalence and "glory" of date rape at Yale (link not available).

Just reading the title of Schuster's work should be enough to piss off just about everyone (even those silly fools who think feminism is a dirty word). The editorial focuses on a group of self-proclaimed Sexual Predators, both men and women, who go to parties with the intention of getting laid using various maneuvers (dancing, flirting, drinking, drugging). Schuster jokes about these SPs' tactics: "they have a . . . knack for picking VICTIMS according to visible levels of sexual deprivation in conjunction with facilitating factors such as alcohol, music, roofies and visible thongs". Last time we checked, taking sexual advantage of an intoxicated individual (or as Ms. Schuster put it: "the about -to-blackout") constitutes rape. See Connecticut's Sexual Assault Law if you need a refresher.

Perhaps we should thank Ms. Schuster for finally outing the underground date-rape scene at Yale. If her story holds true (and there is even a facebook group to prove it - which Sabrina reported for inappropriate content a few weeks ago) then maybe the Yale administration will start to realize it has a problem and its current system, which claims no more than a handful of reported rapes per year, is failing its students.

More importantly, Schuster's utter lack of awareness and outrage, combined with the willingness of a newspaper like the Herald (which by the way published a story about the prevalence of rape at Yale last September) to publish such junk (especially when none of her sources are identified) suggest no one is taking date rape seriously. To everyone involved: this isn't funny - it's criminal.

Dear Rumpus: Eat Me!

We realize it may seem like a giant waste of time to post about the latest issue of the Rumpus, Yale's tabloid magazine. But it seems a disservice not to demonstrate a little outrage at its cover story, "The worst treat you'll ever eat," a one page rant on cunnilingus. If the cover image was enough to dissuade you from reading more, we understand - but here's a highlight: the description of the vagina as "the same orifice a girl uses to shoot out blood-lubed human eggs," which produces "the most horrible taste in the history of the world." As if we didn't have enough misogynistic pseudoscience in the Yale press already (see below).

What's more disturbing, however, is Dean Trachtenberg's defense of the Rumpus. According to an article in the YDN, a few disgruntled students decided to be proactive by throwing out stacks of Rumpus issues (and, no, sadly, it wasn't us). Trachtenberg argued it was a violation of free speech to toss this trash. She seems to forget the fact that the right to free speech does not include hate speech. Or perhaps she sees nothing wrong with calling women "sexually frigid," labeling Jews as inherently bad in bed, and supporting lesbian relationships only because they're fun for men to watch. At least not wrong enough to infringe on the rights of the responsible and professional Rumpus editors.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

How to comment

So you have something to say. Here's how to enter the conversation:

1. Find the post you want to respond to. Click below it, where it says “[number] comments.” A pop-up window will appear.
2. Write your comment in the box
3. Click “other” where it says “choose your identity.”
4. Type your name and email address into the fields that appear.
5. Type the word you see where it says "Word Verification" (this is to avoid spam comments).
6. Click “publish your comment.”


Friday, November 04, 2005

at it again.

Matthew Gillum (the grad student whose editorial excusing rapists on the basis of biological studies was met with utter disbelief on the part of ... well, lots of people) is at it again, with another editorial. His underlying message is the same: that we can't escape our evil DNA.

Choice excerpt:

It may seem like a revolutionary concept in political science, but humans are primates, and an enormous body of evidence suggests they have been produced by natural selection and, therefore, have built-in psychological mechanisms designed to maximize gene transmission to future generations. Without a doubt,
this is the primary purpose of human life. Most of us aspire to have happy families and, without consciously realizing it, are slaves to adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine.

If this is the primary purpose of human life, I side with Tolstoy: better the extermination of the human race than this abject view of life and of sex.

What about admitting that much of our culture actively seeks to exclude and oppress those who are not heterosexual males? What about taking some responsibility for our actions? What about
morality? That's a word that makes some feminists nervous, because of the way it has been used oppressively in history. But it seems that this time, we have to fight for the recognition of something beyond the body. Something that provides a sense of justice. Something that is free from the manipulation of scientists.

I'm sick of people finding excuses for sexist behavior. We are capable of more - it's intolerable to argue otherwise.

ps. Message to YDN: publishing racist and sexist columns is not the way to foster "diversity of opinion." Some views are not legitimate and do not deserve to be aired.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Some men are intimidated by accomplished and successful women"

A lot of people have been asking us to comment on Maureen Dowd's recent NYTimes article. "What's a Modern Girl to Do?" is a look at "the state of feminism." The data Dowd uses: dating norms, fashion, other girly stuff. Oh, and Louise Story's article.

First off: I agree with Dowd that many women have taken for granted the gains of feminism, and have stopped challenging the persisting social norms that are harmful to them. She is right that we are all complicit in these harmful norms. But in her urge for awareness, Dowd draws on an extremely limited range of experience and ignores some important critiques of feminism itself. Her analysis
suffers, as does Story's article, from a complete lack of awareness of the diversity of "women" (and men!) and of the broader implications of gender discrimination.

This great post at feministing points out the narrowness of Dowd's argument and its ultimate superficiality.

Loren Krywanczyk's YDN editorial yesterday draws together these issues beautifully as well, arguing that "no style of feminism that remains stagnant could suffice to carry a unified movement." We can't forget that changing things involves a look at how we want to change them, and not just at what's wrong.

What does everyone else think?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Male Feminist Makes Headlines

Today's YDN editorial page features this editorial about why Hillary Clinton is despised
(wrongly, he argues) by many Americans - liberal and conservative.

broad recognition is about campus life, so I'm not going to write about Senator Clinton's political record for now. I'm just glad to have a Yale guy say he's feminist in this prominent space, and to have someone point out the oft-ignored sexist dimensions of Hillary-hating.

Event Tomorrow

Sabrina (and possibly Della) will be speaking tomorrow at this event. Please come!

Empowering Women’s Voices: Student Publications at Yale University
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
5:00 to 6:30, LC 105
How can you get your voice heard? How can students get their work published? This panel discussion on women’s student publications at Yale University will highlight graduate and undergraduate women’s initiatives to create and manage avenues of expression and dialogue. The event will include editors from the journals Manifesta, Aurora, and the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. Our panelists will discuss the mission of the journal, how the journal empowers women’s voices, ways that student journals gain legitimacy, and challenges they face.