Thursday, December 07, 2006

Some Additional Musings about Sexual Harassment at Yale

The opening sentence of the Hippolytic's post "Yale Prof: I bet it would be fun f*** you" crystallizes one of my fundamental problems with the way we speak and think about sexual harassment.

"Sexual harassment is de rigueur for New Haven's seedier establishments, but now it has reared its head in the university's hallowed halls." While the Hippolytic continues on to make a searing and well-deserved point about the utter unacceptability of Yale's protecting professors who sexual harass employees, students, or fellow staff members, the implications of its opening sentence are that it somewhat surprising that a Yale professor would sexually harass an employee and that it is less surprising that such behavior would occur elsewhere.

As Maggie pointed out, this is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last, accusation that a Yale professor sexually harassed an employee or a student. Thus, it seems sort of silly to express surprise at its occurrence. It seems to me that surprise it could occur here, here at Yale, is indicative of a type of unfortunate elitism.

By conflating acts of ill-expressed sexual desire in New Haven's bars and clubs with quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace, we neglect the true potency of sexual harassment in workplaces. Indeed, sexual harassment in workplaces is about far more than sex: it is about exerting power, it is about creating a hostile work environment, it is about feeling threatened by the presence of women, and it is about undermining women's legitimacy as workers.

While the action may be the same (e.g. commenting that it would be fun to have sex with someone), the impact is different because of the different context. The sense of entitlement implicit in making sexual comments or gestures at a club or bar is certainly worth considering, it is fundamentally another animal than using sex to exert power or dominance in the workplace. Discussing the two in the same sentence minimizes these differences, and limits our ability to think of innovative solutions to sexual harassment in workplaces.

Finally, if we assume that sexual harassment is purely about sexual desire, we play into unfortunate stereotypes about male sexuality--that they cannot control themselves and consequently, that women need protection from male desire in the workplace. This creates a negative-feedback loop, because policies that emphasize protectionism further exacerbate a sense that women are fish out of water at work which will, in turn, lead to more sexual harassment.

Certainly, Yale's complicity in any of its employees sexually harassing students or co-workers is heinous, but I wish that the rhetoric in its wake could be more sensitive to the underlying motivation of sexual harassment in the workplace instead of comparing it to someone making a sexual proposition at Toad's.

Seuxual Harassment and Protecting Yale Professors

On November 22, a former Yale employee filed a civil suit against Yale. The woman, Mary Beth Garceau, worked as a secretary for the Chair of the Yale Pharmacology Department, Dr. Joseph Schlessinger. In her suit, she claimed that she suffered from innumerable incidents of sexual harassment during her three years as his secretary, and that when Yale refused to act on her complaints, she was forced to resign. The Yale Hippolytic blog has excerpts from the suit as well as a link to the full document. I encourage you all to read the post.

I don't want to speculate about Dr. Schlessinger's innocence or guilt, but I do think that these accusations reveal problems for women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. When the harassment comes from a superior, as in this case, it's hard for a woman to vocally object without fearing that she will lose her job or that such objections will only exacerbate the current condition. It's even worse when women have the courage to come forward only to have their concerns summarily dismissed. Garceau claims that she asked Yale to address her concerns but that Yale administrators made it clear that Dr. Schlessinger was too valuable to the university to warrant such an investigation. Do certain employees or, in Yale's case, certain professors, have license to act in a morally reprehensible way because their contributions (e.g. Schlessinger's work in cancer research) are so valuable? I'm thinking about the accusations made against Harold Bloom, besides those that Naomi Wolff made several years ago (on a side-note: I realize that not everyone believed Wolff's story, but I'm still troubled by how she was vilified by the media and by those at Yale). Do we think that such a system exists at Yale, one in which certain professors are infallible no matter what testimony is heard against them? If this is the case, then gender discrimination in Yale's administration is more pervasive and insidious then I thought.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Remaking the Wheel

I struggle a lot with how to approach criticizing the feminist work being undertaken by other women. Often, I fear, there is so much criticism coming from outside the movement that its counterproductive and damaging to partake. Yet, sometimes I think its necessary that women working in the feminist activist sphere be called out on certain behavior that is counterproductive to their stated goals.

Which brings me to the issue of C.Lit a new feminist literary publication started last year by a group of women in Yale College. I have two bones to pick with these women, even though I appreciate their stated goal of publishing feminist writing by Yale women, in all its editorial, journalistic, and creative mutations. Obviously, I a huge proponent of getting more women's voices out there engaged in our collective public media sphere.

1. The name C.Lit. I believe it stands for Women's College Literary Magazine, or something akin to that. The rationalization I heard was that the intention with the name was to find something clever and eye catching in the tradition of Bitch and Bust magazine. The only snag here is that there are some fundamentally important differences between the titles Bitch and Bust, and C.Lit. First of all, neither of those words EXPLICITLY refer to a female sexual organ. Second, both of those words are meant as puns, and critically: can be used as VERBS, thus giving the titles an active, engaged, combative meaning totally absent from C.Lit, a word that will forever be relegated to the realm of passive nouns.

2. STOP REMAKING THE WHEEL. Yale College, and the Women's Center, has a magazine called Aurora whose project has always been to publish Yale women's feminist writing. Granted publication of this magazine has been spotty, especially over the last few years, but to create a new magazine rather then resurrect an old one, disassociates contemporary Yale feminist work from the amazing work done by our predecessors and helps to relegate that work to the dustbins of our collective Yale memory. If instead, this group of motivatd women had thought to do some research on the history of feminist publication at Yale, and seen that as recently as last year there was such a magazine being published, and one that has been published on and off for the past twenty or so odd years, they could have aligned themselvesm with, and inserted themselves into, an extensive, important history of Yale feminist activism. And by doing so, they would have further strengthened the impact of their publication, as well as given due respect to those who came before them. But instead, they decided to start a new publication, thus becoming a part of a tired tradition of Yale students remaking the wheel so that they can say that they STARTED a new magazine, no matter how unoriginal or derivative.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Meditation on Toad's

So I went to Toad's on Saturday night, dressed up in my best '70's-gym-bunny-meets-90's-fake-gold-jewelry' style to dance. I am not sure exactly what that means, but I can tell you it involved striped pants, a sweatband, and big hoop earrings. But thats not really the point, right? While I was standing talking to my friends, two guys apparently took such a liking to my pants that one of them felt the only way he could express his appreciation was to grab my ass. An action, that was, of course, horrendously predictable considering the circumstances. Fortunately, my story has a surprising turn.

After this guy grabbed my ass, I turned around to ask him what the fuck he thought he was doing, and then turned to my wonderful friend to tell her what had just occurred. Here's where the things got really interesting, in her drunken self-righteousness, she gave him a glare, and then asked him "How would you like it if I did this?" and proceeded to reach for his crotch. He, not surprisingly, jumped back in horror, and then tried to play it off by saying, "Hey, I mean if you really want to, you can."

Fortunately, this all resulted in the two guys apologizing to me for their behavior, and trying to explain that the one guy had just really liked my pants and then the other guy had pushed his hand towards my ass. I encouraged him to, in the future, try tapping a girl on the shoulder and using his words.

What this whole episode made me really consider was actually how unwilling I had been to deal with this situation, without the aid of my friend. Sure, I turned around and glared at the guy, but I honestly might not have said anything to either one of them if my friend had not been there with me. I should also mention that this all happened after we were dancing, during which time, I watched her turn around to three separate guys who tried to grind her from behind and ask them directly: "Do I know you?" I had simply avoided that situation by dancing around and doing lots of turns.

This is all to say, that I was surprised at my own lack of conviction on the ground in terms of actually asserting myself. There was some small part of me that didn't want to argue with the two guys, and come off like an uptight [word removed due to misogynistic tone]. And yet calling them out on their sexual harrasment, was much more positive and empowering then I could have even anticipated, and ended up with them being embarrassed and us seeming totally reasonable.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lusty Busty and tottling on high heels

I just wrote a lengthy post about my concerns regarding Ariel Levy's new book Female Chauvanist Pigs: The Rise of Raunch Culture, recently published by Simon and Schuster, for The Hippolytic. It details my concern that the feminist movement spends too much time picking out whats wrong with our culture and not enough time producing ways to change it. In essence, I want a positive sex role model. Read more here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thank Yous on Thanksgiving

Today, in the spirit of this holiday, I want to register my thanks for wonderful feministy people who have been important in my life. I want to include those who do small things (like the woman at Thanksgiving today who gave her mother a hard time for only asking the men if they could carve the turkey) or the large (such as Emma Goldman for being a female anarchistic rockstart).

Also, everyone should note that this post is totally self-indulgent, so feel free not to read it.

So here it goes:

Sabrina Manville/Della Sentilles for starting this blog.
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler for making me laugh.
Danielle Mysliwiec for being an awesome feminist art teacher.
Martha Stewart, love her or hate her, she is a shrewd business woman and a good cook (you can be both!).
Gloria Steinem, Jane Friesen, and all the other women who married late and make us all remember that marriage is not compulsory, nor necessarily anything we should do soon.
Marjane Satrapi, author of the Persepolis series, an awesome Iranian feminist.
Chase McAllister-Olivarius for making us all reconsider the political meanings of penetrative sex.
Katha Politt for towing the party line.
Grayson Walker/Eric Sandberg-Zakian/Colin Adamo for re-affirming that men are a vital part of the feminist movement.
Elizabeth Alexander for being an amazing feminist role-model.
bell hooks, Angela Davis, and many many others who remind us that race and gender and class all work together!
My dad for reminding me that women are entitled to get pregnant and take time off whenever is best for them.
Erin Gaines and Carey Pulverman who reading all those crazy books with me in junior high and then following through on all our awesome feminist plans!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Not Ms. Yale?

Is anyone else troubled, or irked, or maybe just puzzled by the YSAC's Mr. Yale competition? YSAC describes the contest in the following words:

"YSAC seeks the best, craziest and funniest representatives from each college to compete in the first ever Mr. Yale. This exciting showcase will feature modeling and talent competitions, interviews, special judges (including Dean Peter Salovey) and much more! It’s your chance to show your Eli spirit as we gear up for The Game. At stake: a chance to debut the Mr. Yale crown and sash in the the halftime show at Yale-Harvard."

I guess I don't understand why the "best, craziest and funniest represetatives" must be men. Perhaps YSAC feared a "beauty-contest backlash" in which female nominees would only be judeged by their looks. Alternatively, perhaps YSAC was only using the phrase "Mr. Yale" as an all-encompassing, universal term (a problematic action nonetheless), but even if this was the intenetion, Yale students took the Mr. prefix seriously. All 12 candidates are male students. Are we saying the only men embody the spirit of Yale? In my opinion, the whole thing smacks of the ethos of an earlier Yale, a Yale that promised to continue to produce "1000 male leaders" every year, despite the sudden influx of 300 female undergraduates. By identifying a male student as the quintessential representative of Yale College, we ascribe a male normative standard to the university. Women become add-ons, after-thoughts, supplemental figures to this core of male students. The YSAC contest revives Yale's historically partiarchal identity, an identity that most of us hope had faded over the last 35 years.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Election Victory and Women

I am thrilled with the results of this week's election, and that we will have the first woman speaker of the House--Nancy Pelosi. However, I'm feeling a little annoyed about a couple of comments. First of all, Pelosi said (and I quote) that maybe we "need a woman to clean house." And secondly, the first thing Bush said in his press conference was that he would contact the decorator to help speaker-elect Pelosi redecorate her office and change the curtains. Umm, yeah, when are we going to stop using rhetoric (at the highest level of government, no less!) that reinforces that it is the norm for women to be at home. By no stretch of the imagination do I intend to denigrate women who stay at home or women who are concerned about the curtains in their office; in fact, I'm sure, as Pelosi seems to imply, women can garner and hone valuable skills in the home that could be a boon to their political careers. I just don't get why women who haven't been at home or have no interest in it need to somehow prove that they are a true woman, and that a true woman has connections to the home. It seems that there is a skills bias: the same skills that make men a qualified politician aren't sufficient for a woman--we need extra proof that she is competent and that's just not ok. Ultimately, women need to prove their competence along two axes, whereas men only along one.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Who's on Top?

Next Tuesday night at 9pm at the Women's Center, we will be having a discussion/study break about... Who's on Top? After our last event about the Hook-Up Culture at Yale, we realized that there had been very little discussion about the act of penetrative sex itself. It's sort of a hard topic to broach, and as such, I think that it's often hard for us to think of how sex and misogyny may be intertwined. So, I envision that we will talk about sex in two ways. The first is in light of of Andrea Dworkin's article /IntercourseI.html that an attendee at our last event sent to me afterwords. Dworkin argues that intercourse and patriarchy are inseparable--or that, in the context of patriarchy, they are inseparable. I'm not sure that I necessarily believe the relationship is inevitable; however, it does seem to me that the way we experience and practice sex is probably somewhat patriarchal. I mean, even in colloquialisms about sex, we situate men in the active tense and women in the passive (getting pounded, for example). The woman is getting, and the man is doing. I would hazard a guess, and I would love it if someone would/could correct me here, that the way most people practice sex most of the time reflects this dichotomy. Hence the title: Who's on top?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I swear, I will leave the NY Times alone . . .

as soon as they leave mothers alone. At least the Times reporters don't discriminate; they critique the habits stay-at-home moms as well as the lifestyle of working mothers. Last week, the Times revealed the frivolous behavior of business women, and this week's style section contains an article on "Cosmopolitan Moms," mothers who gather together to share a cocktail while their children play.

Whether or not you agree with the idea of drinking while watching children, the fact that this practice merits a feature article is problematic. First of all, the article focuses exclusively on mothers, ignoring the fathers who most likely drink in similar circumstances. As Brown anthropology professor Dr. Dwight B. Health says, "In this culture there is a still a double standard [. . .] It is more acceptable for men to drink, more often, and in greater quantities, and in public [. . .] This is not really exotic behavior." Heath's last sentence illuminates the central problem with this article, in my opinion. By examining and analyzing such banal behavior, the reporter problematizes and almost pathologizes these women's everyday existence. Having a drink with a fellow mother becomes an indication of rampant alcoholism among stay-at-home moms; the very act of drinking during the day exposes the depression and irresponsibility of these women. I know this sensational journalism occurs in other papers and about other issues, but I have to say that I'm a little sick of seeing this kind of reporting about motherhood in the Times.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Truly Insightful Opining Found in the YDN

Last week sophomore columnist Alexandra Schwartz wrote a truly insightful editorial for the Yale Daily News titled "Dearth of woman columnists is puzzling."

In the editorial Schwartz addresses the gender disparity found in the YDN's editorial page by considering what sorts of campus activities women tend to gravitate towards, in order to understand why so few women seem to be interested in opining in the Yale Daily News. Schwartz suggests that women often overload themselves with campus involvements and also are more likely to go abroad, both of which are valid points but it is slightly unclear whether Schwartz sees these facts as causal or simply corrollary to the problem she is getting at. I, of course, would have loved to have seen her title the article "Dearth of woman columnists is abhorrent" and criticize the YDN for not working their asses off to fix the problem, but hey, thats my opinion, not hers. She does sum things up very well in her last paragraph when she writes:

I don't wish that there were more female columnists to give the page some kind of vague "feminine perspective" that it lacks. Rather, I wish more Yale women felt compelled to write regular columns, if only to prove that girls can be just as outgoing and aggressive as boys in publicizing what they have to say and in standing by it. This page would benefit enormously if more women felt compelled to pursue a column of their own.

That said, its imperative that we take into consideration the greater social and structural problems that cause women not to write for the YDN, and not put all the onus on them.

Broad Recognition and the women involved (Maggie, Basha and I) obviously agree with Schwartz in that it is important for women to voice their opinions in a public way. Our hope is to enable women to do so by creating this blog and inviting guest bloggers. We would also like to develop an editorial relationship with the YDN--something Schwartz' editorial has now given us greater impetus to make a move on.

Finally, I just want to point out that the YDN isn't the only campus publication suffering from a lack of women editorializers. Yale's progressive publication, The Hippolytic, could only find one woman (me) to write for their blog (its great, you should all check it out). Fortunately, when I brought it to the attention of those running the blog (Noam Rudnick and Jared Malsin) they were both very responsive, and concerned about this dearth of women (to quote Schwartz) and we are now in the process of looking for more women to write (email me at if you are interested, please!).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Insightful Reporting from the New York Times

What is it with the New York Times and working mothers? In 2003, a New York Times magazine piece about eight female Princeton graduates announced the "Opt-Out Revolution": highly educated women choosing to stay home with their children instead of working outside the home. Last fall, an article about the professional ambitions (or lack thereof) of Yale female undergraduates caused a stir both on campus and nationwide. And yesterday, the Times published an article about working mothers who travel on business trips (you can click on the title of this post to view the article).

Once again, instead of addressing the complex issues surrounding working women and family responsibilities, the reporter chooses to write a simple, somewhat sensational piece about these seemingly flighty women who only travel in order to get away from their squabbling children. The article details the massages these women schedule and their elegant dinners; it positions these luxuries in contrast to the banal demands of the home. A quotation from one of the women interviewed anchors the piece: “I can go home and deal with two screaming 6-year-old twins and a grumpy preteen [. . .] Or I can go to the Four Seasons in Mexico City and drink Cognac in the bathtub.”

So, according to this portrait, women who travel on business are both irresponsible mothers and irresponsible employees. They neglect their children and erroneously see these important business trips as personal vacations. They are self-absorbed individuals who only want "me" time. Interestingly enough, this article unwittingly explores the conflict facing these women who don't fear being seen as bad mothers or bad workers. One of the women even says, "You meet all these investors, and they’re all men [. . .] They all look at me, and they always ask, ‘Oh, and how often do you travel?’ It’s such a loaded question. I’m now going to look like a bad mom or a bad portfolio manager.” Of course, instead of exploring such an essential conflict for these women, the article glosses over it and moves on to report another woman's "date with herself" in Vegas.

It seems that women continue to face stereotypes about their inability to balance their personal and professional lives. What no one is talking about, of course, is that fact that most work environments make it incredibly difficult for women to fulfill their duties at work and those at home. This article from the Christian Science Monitor - - explains how more women are "pushed out" of the workplace than "opt out" of it. As Basha astutely noted in an earlier post, the workplace is not yet family-friendly, and until it is, it's shameful to continue to criticism parents, especially mothers, for struggling to operate in both the professional and domestic spheres.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Can someone please tell me...

...why this makes me so angry?

Out of the sorority house and into the boardroom
With new networking group, Yale women are cooking up more than just dinner.


printed in THE YALE HERALD, OCTOBER 20, 2006 VOL. XLII, NO. 7

I think Tina Wu (Calhoun, '08) said it best:

"We would NEVER see a headline like this for any other demographic. Could you imagine: "Asians, cooking up more than just pork fried rice"?"

Yale women have been cooking up a hell of a lot more than dinner for a hell of a long time. In fact, I find it pretty blatantly offensive that we choose to define ourselves in such binary terms: the sorority house and the kitchen? Yes, I understand that the title was intended to dismantle stereotypes, but by assuming that those stereotypes are the status quo, we perpetuate the stereotype and demean men and women who do cook etc.

Some thoughts:
1) "A woman who is assertive but not bitchy"
The very use of the word "bitchy" is problematic. It is men who perceive women's assertive behavior to be unfeminine or inappropriate who use this term. When men behave in a "bitchy" way, they are assertive. We should be working to eradicate that misconception rather than define ourselves in opposition to it.

2) "The Women's Center is a safe space, but there is a need to unite women of all political ideologies."

Where in the phrase "Women's Center" did you read "crazy Lesbian separatists?" We ARE a space that unites women of all ideologies. Come to some our events. Maybe you'd be surprised.

3) "We aren't going to whine about men keeping us down."

Well, see, I WANT TO YELL THIS, THE STRUCTURE OF THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT IS INHERENTLY STRUCTURED TO REPRODUCE GENDERED ROLES. I'm not advocating sitting on our asses and complaining about it -- I'm just saying that to not address the problem with WORK in the United States head on is to hold the glass ceiling firmly over your own head. You may think it doesn't affect you. It does. It affects how people see a woman in the workplace; it means you can't be assertive because that makes you bitchy; it means that you are either the bitch, the mother, or a sex object; it means people will not take you as seriously as a man. Maybe we shouldn't strive to be "like men." Maybe there is something wrong with the male ideal of work in the USA.

Here's the thing: supposedly women friendly policies--such as maternity leave--often exacerbates the very problems they seek to ameliorate. It makes women's labor market attachment more tenuous, and increases statistical discrimination within firms because employers assume women are more likely to take advantages of these policies. Perhaps we need to work on having both parents take equal responsibility, rather than allowing "femaleness" to be defined almost as a disability.

Oh, and some tremendous irony, the Women's Leadership Initiative didn't ask anyone from the Women's Center to participate in their campus-wide intiatives.

AND btw, this is nothing new. The WC has been doing the same thing for over 25 years with great success, and to ignore that is profoundly offensive.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's funny where you find sexism . . .

In English seminar, for instance. This afternoon I listened as people critiqued a work by a female writer, and it wasn't until halfway through the class that I realized the degree to which our comprehension of gender roles inform our understanding of art as well as other intellectual disciplines. For today's class, we had read a novel by a British lesbian author that interwove her own personal narrative with revisionist versions of fairytales and Biblical parables. Some students criticized this foramlly innovative work for being "cutesy" or "too clever;" other students tried to redeem the novel by calling it "tender" or pointing to moments where it showed "heart." These adjectives, while supposedly speaking to the quality of the author's writing, are strikingly similar to negative and positive characterizations of women. Instead of being "smart," women are often called "clever," a more menacing term for a supposedy positive attribute. Women who don't show tenderness are seen as frigid our cruel. It seems that our evaluation of this author's writing depended on the degree to which she exhibited certain characterstically female traits.

The profile of this author that we read during class demonstrated a similarly gendered perspective. The journalist described the criticism this author has received: words like "self-confident" apparently have a negative connotation when describing a woman. The profile detailed the author's self-absorption, dedication to her craft, and narcissim (a rare trait among artists, apparently, or perhaps just rare among female artists), as if all these qualities detracted from her fiction, or, at the very least, indicated flaws in her character. In a desperate attempt to salvage the author's reputation, the reviewer listed compliments from the author's friends, who describe her as "humble," "generous," and "modest." Well, thank goodness, because for a second it looked like this author was threatening to break out of the stereotype of the demure female, refuse to play coy, and conduct herself in an assertive fashion that can only be labeled "bitchy" (a word that was not used but that haunted the written profile and our class discussion).

I am so tired of these confining gender roles, and I am even more tired of strong, assertive women being called "bitches," or of strong, assertive women restraining and modulating themselves so as to avoid that insult. It's funny - or, really, not so funny - that at an academic institution like Yale, a place teeming with smart, strong, confident women, this sterotype persists.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

It seems that at least once a year, the YDN publishes an article about gendered inequities in academia. This year's installment appeared in Friday's paper. The headline read "Female profs still paid less," and the body of the article detailed the ways in which female professors at Yale earn less money than male professors at every level from junior faculty up through tenured professor. Even more troubling, it appears that the payment gap between male and female professors at Yale is larger than the salary gaps between the genders at Stanford, Columbia, Duke and MIT. To top it all off, the number of tenured women on Yale's faculty is nowhere near the number of tenured men, a trend that runs throughout the Ivy League.

As someone with dreams of someday being a university professor, I find these statistics disheartening and extremely frustrating. I feel like I read the same thing year after year without seeing any significant changes. Yes, Yale has hired a few more women, such as the physicists mentioned in the article, but these hirings don't represent systemic changes that get to the heart of the problems facing women in academia. And I don't feel that we're on the cusp of change, either. Prof. Shankar suggests, in a somewhat patronizing manner, that the number of female undergraduates foreshadow an increase in female professors, but I'm not sure whether his timing is right. We're not in the wake of coeducation anymore; women have been attending college in large numbers for decades. Although there is an equal ratio of male to female undergraduates, this ration changes in graduate school and changes even further at the professional level. I think that some undergraduates feel daunted by the problems facing women in academia and eschew this line of work.

There is absolutely no reason I can think of why a female associate professor should make less than a male associate professor. Many argue that the pay gap simply reflects the tenure gap (a problem in and of itself), but this study seems to indicate that the inequality in men's and women's salary isn't necessarily linked to the fact that the university has fewer women on its faculty than man. Indeed, it appears that women still don't recieve equal pay for equal work, and the workplace of the university is no exception. For some reason, I find this salary discrepancy in academia almost hypocritical, since these are institutions that promote the values of equality and justice and that supposedly operate on a merit-based system.

At the same time, I don't want to push for a system that looks at "merit" alone and turns a blind eye to the complicated relations between gender, family, and work. The tenure problem is a perfect example of the need to revamp an essentially patriarchal system in light of women's rise in the academic world. Female faculty at Yale often fail to achieve tenure, partially because of the opacity of the tenure review process and the almost incestuous nature of the review committee, but also because of simple biological facts. As my advisor is fond of saying, "for women, the biological clock is the same as the tenure clock;" that is, the years that you are supposed to be writing and researching and publishing are the same years that you are getting pregnant, if you choose, and raising young children. The simultaneous responsibilities of teaching, researching, and child-rearing make it incredibly difficult to achieve tenure. I believe that universities need to take this problem into account and provide better child care, among other services, for its female faculty. Kate Ott's call for "creative solutions" is a call that Yale must heed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hook-Up Culture at Yale

I just want to let you all know about an (awesome) event happening at the Women's Center next Wednesday at 9pm in (loose) reaction to the Brett Sokolow event that Adda and I discussed. It will be a discussion about hooking-up at Yale with Indian food from Zaroka. I'm not sure exactly what I expect/want out of this event--but it will be a safe space to mull over issues we all struggled to deal with and to (maybe) take action. I expect to see you all there.

Drunk Sex or Date Rape? Responses

Basha weighs in:

When Brett Sokolow, JD, came to speak last Thursday night about drunken sex and date rape, I must admit I attended more out of a sense of obligation than genuine curiosity.

Sokolow proceeded to relate the facts of a case, and then ask the students and faculty present to vote guilty or not guilty. While I had rightly expected discord amongst those present, I did not anticipate my own ambivalence. Legally it seemed the man in question was guilty of rape, but morally? Maybe just poor judgement. His punishment seemed disproportionate: 18 mos. in prison + lifelong registration as a sex offender? The man lost his job and education prospects because a drunk girl woke up the next morning, didn't remember having sex with him and was very unhappy about it. At the same time, she had consumed the equivalent of 15-20 shots (at his behest) while he remained basically sober. Any reasonable person should know she couldn't consent, right?

Honestly, I don't know -- one person's funny story of a drunken Saturday night is another's nightmare. How do you tell the difference and what should the consequences be?

I think a large part of the problem is that we don't seem to have the proper vocabulary or perhaps comfort level to talk about what happens to us and to express what we are comfortable doing or not doing?

Adda weighs in:

I totally agree with Basha in that, legally speaking I did find the defendant guilty of rape--the girl in question had had way too much to drink to be able to consent, evidenced, if nothing else, by her having blacked out. Unfortunately, its also true what Basha said, which is that so much of this case depended on things specific to their respective personalities--another, more sexually experienced woman might not have charged the defendant with rape. The point being that at the end of the day it often comes down, not to objective facts, but the experience of each person involved. In this case, the accuser felt like her drunken state, and lack of ability to make a reasoned decision, or fight back, was taken advantage of.

And although I truly believe in the importance of respecting and believing women who feel that they have been raped, I do wonder whether such circumstances are enough to warrant the sorts of penalties they can carry--its a tragedy that the defendant will now forever have to register as a sex offender.

What this leads me to wonder is whether or not we should lump all sexual assault crimes together, or whether the law, and society should actively acknowledge that there is an enormous grey area and that crimes that fall into that grey area should be handled differently? In other words, I want to believe in the inherent goodness of most men, and I want to believe that good men can make poor decisions, but that does not mean that they are morally corrupt, or dangerous to all women-kind. Instead, I think it behooves us to create a well structured system that addresses what causes men in such ambiguous situations to take advantage of the situation, rather then respect the female and her right to protect her body. Why do men feel entitled to sex? Is it purely hormonal, or is it conditioned by our society that encourages men to want sex all the time?

What is interesting to me though is that of my friends who can remember their assaults, they have talked about how during the assault they felt totally invisible, or like anything they said or did was falling on deaf ears. What this indicates to me is that during most sexual assaults men dehumanize the victim to the extent that its totally irrelevant what his or her feelings are in the moment--their sexual desire, or desire for power, conquers all. It also suggests that assaulters care so little about the feelings of the victim, that after the fact the assaulter would never register the event as an assault. I think that sort of dehumanizing is obviously incredibly problematic and speaks of deepseated misogyny on the part of the assailant. Unfortunately, in this case, the victim couldn't remember having sex, and is therefore incapable of telling us what the defendant acted like in the moment.

Perhaps instead of jail sentences, men should undergo major counseling. But maybe something like this can't be solved that easily, and the only answer is to change our culture so that men and women don't don't internalize such misogyny.

Maggie weighs in:

I wish I had made it to this talk; it's such an important discussion.

I understand what Basha and Adda are saying about the punishment being disproportionate to the crime in the case study, or at least disproportionately harsh when you consider the intentions of the male student. That being said, I don't feel an inordinate amount of sympathy for this guy. I think men, especially male college students, need to be aware of the consent laws in their state and know the role of alcohol in this legal context. If you know that a woman can't give consent when she is drunk, then it's probably in your best interests to not have sex with her, even if she is the one initiating the hookup.

I think that men should be as aware of the possibility of rape as women are. Rape is a constant threat that changes the way women conduct themselves. It changes what neighborhoods we live in, how late we stay at the library, with whom we socialize and how we interact with these people. Before we come to college, many of us hear the same warnings: always pour your own drinks at parties, don't go anywhere alone with a guy you don't know, etc. My point is that rape is a part of a woman's consciousness, but as far as I can tell, it's not something most guys think about, or at least it's not something they think about as much as women do. To be honest, I'm kind of envious of college guys because they haven't had to worry about keeping their wits about them when they go out. I don't think that such ignorance or obliviousness on the part of men is fair or productive. Why is the onus on the woman to "not put herself in a bad situation?" Why shouldn't men operate on the same principle and avoid situations like the one described in the above case?

In short, why should only women be responsible for stopping rape? In recent years, groups of men have become more active in preventing sexual assault. The national group Men Can Stop Rape and the undergraduate organization NO MORE (a group dedicated to involving men in discussions about rape and sexual violence) are too great examples of the growing number of men who are taking responsibility for their role in sexual violence prevention. I think that when men begin to be more conscious of their role in rape prevention, there will be fewer situations like the one Sokolow discussed.

The Black Widow

On Tuesday all of Yale College received the following email from YSAC:

YSAC Presents: S’Wings Wing Fling

Ever wanted to put your eating skills to the test? Join YOUR residential college team!

This year at the Yale-Princeton Tailgate on Nov. 11th the colleges will compete.
5-person teams of 4 guys and 1 girl, going at it for 10 minutes to determine eternal glory.

Can you bring your college the awesome trophy?

We here at Broad Recognition forwarded this email amongst ourselves and discussed whether or not we thought it was sexist. I want to preface the following by saying that at the end of the day, my goal is not to eradicate sexism in competitive eating--I am not sure that its an area of sports in need to particular attention. That said, I do think its important to note how we as a culture totally take sexist stereotypes for granted and I think its important that we point out the basic fallacies that these stereotypes rest on.

So allow me to introduce you to the Black Widow. Sonya Thomas is a petite Korean woman who loves to win competitive eating contests. She holds the world record in asparagus eating, as well as in the divisions of cheesecake, eggs, jambalaya, and a host of other random food groups. At 105 lb she is the second ranked competitive eater in the United States and third in the world.

The point being that winning at competitive eating has little to do with sex or size (in fact, this wikipedia article suggests that Sonya's petite stature may put her at an advantage) and is instead all about drive, sheer force of will, and the willingness to stuff oneself with an enormous amount of a designated food product. So though I acknowledge that more men may want to eat themselves silly on wings, a four male to one female rule does nothing in terms of giving the teams a fair playing field, nor does it enhance the teams. Its simply a rule based on outdated, disproven, sexist reasoning.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


This summer I listened to a really interesting interview Brian Lehrer did for WNYC, New York Public Radio with the two founders of the website Holla Back NYC.

In short, a year or so ago a group of four women and three men got together and started a website called Holla Back Nyc, with the mission that "Holla Back NYC empowers New Yorkers to Holla Back at street harassers. Whether you're commuting, lunching, partying, dancing, walking, chilling, drinking, or sunning, you have the right to feel safe, confident, and sexy, without being the object of some turd's fantasy. So stop walkin' on and Holla Back: Send us pics of street harassers!" The website was inspired by a young woman who took a photograph of a famous local restauranteur exposing himself on a subway, which was reprinted in local newspapers.

Holla Back NYC offers local New Yorkers the opportuntity to post photos of people who harass them on the street or in other public places, such as subways, buses, parks, etc. and tell their story. Recently, they have expanded to websites that offer the same space for sharing stories of street harassment in DC, Texas, Boston, Canada and Europe. They also offer their email address and encourage people to send photos of perpetrators directly from their cell phones to the website. Additionally, the website tracks pending criminal cases of people charged with public lewdness. It also offers browsers links to tons of legal, activist and social service resources, and links to women friendly organizations all over the five boroughs.

What I found particularly impressive about this project was that the founders of Holla Back NYC are also very conscious of how race plays into sexual politics. Their website includes a great section outlining their policy about how race be discussed. In a nutshell, in light of how often men of color are stigmatized as being sexual predators, Holla Back NYC forbids people who write in from referencing the race of their predator, unless it is overwhelming relevant to the story. As they say, "Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper holla back. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, HollaBackNYC asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary." They then link to "Further Reading" on anti-racism, including (my all-time favorite), Peggy Macintosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." (Which you should all read.)

The awesomeness of this project, coupled with how amazing the two founders (a man and a woman) who spoke on Brian Lehrer's show were, has inspired me to establish a special section of this blog that will highlight amazing feminists doing amazingly feminist things--especially those projects that are a little off the beaten path. For now we will start by highlighting people outside of Yale, but hopefully we will include some awesome past and present Yalies to the ranks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Yale: the #1 sex school?

I just got back from a very thought-provoking lunch with a student who is writing a nonfiction piece on the forthcoming HPV vaccine and general sexual health at Yale.

I'm sure many of you have heard that Yale ranked first in a Trojan-sponsored study (yes, that would be the condom company) of sexual health policies at undergraduate institutions. The study praised YUHS for providing contraception, including emergency contraception, to students, and it cited Sex Week at Yale as evidence of general openness and willingness to discuss issues of sexuality in a frank and direct manner. All of these observations are true, but as my fellow senior and I talked, we realized that many undergraduates, especially underclassmen, still feel lost, confused, insecure, and ashamed when it comes to issues of sexual health.

I hesitate to criticize the institution, because Yale does many things right. Condoms are easily accessible, Peer Health Educators and freshmen counselors discuss dating/sex/sexual assault issues with incoming students, and emergency contraception (EC) is free and available at YUHS. Upon returning to campus this semester, I was excited to learn that Yale has formed a rape crisis center in response to student demand for a more concentrated system of assistance for victims of sexual assault. I feel lucky to go to a school where all of these services are easily available.

I feel luckier, however, that I actually know that these services exist. It surprises me that every year when I hand out flyers during EC awareness day that many students don't know what EC is, and even those who do know don't know it's available at YUHS. I've heard horror stories from students who have tried to get EC, or other forms of contraception, and have been interrogated by moralizing doctors and criticized for "risky" sexual behavior, which usually describes any sort of non-monogamy. YUHS has not always been transparent about its services or its policies. At the moment, it appears that students who are trying to get the new HPV vaccine are being turned away, even though YUHS spokespeople say that the vaccine is available. Perhaps such confusion is just part of any bureaucracy, but YUHS could do a lot more to publicize their sexual health services and make sure that all students seeking help receive it.

The administration of Yale College hasn't been much better in terms of communication. I'm happy that they've decided to take the issue of sexual violence at Yale seriously, but it took a lot of persuasion by various student groups to get them to do so. I haven't seen the statistics for the past year, but I wonder if Yale has decided to report the actual number of rapes on campus instead of reporting absurdly low numbers (e.g. 3 rapes in 2003-2004?) that it reported in past years. I wonder how many students know about the rape crisis center and what the administration has done to spread the word. Student groups do a great job publicizing these changes, but it seems the administration could do a bit more to help them.

Of course, the trickiest part of this discussion is the evaluation of attitudes among students themselves. Are we as open about issues of sexuality as outside observers say? Is Sex Week an indication of our comfort with sex and our willingness to talk about it? I have a lot of ambivalence about Sex Week, mostly because I think it provides an excuse to play into sexual dynamics that are demeaning towards women, but perhaps other students feel differently. I wonder whether students would agree with Trojan's laudatory evaluation of Yale, or whether we still have a ways to go in order to deserve our #1 ranking.

Rossborough Fellowship

Applications for the Yale Women's Center Rossborrough Fellowship are due today, via email to Tina Wu at

This blog was started as a Rossborough Fellowship last year. The fellowship is a great opportunity to get funding to do feminist work, please read on for more information about the fellowship and how to apply:

The purpose of the Amy Rossborough Fellowship is to capture the spirit of Amy Rossborough’s activism by building a strong core of female leaders in the Yale-New Haven community. Amy Rossborough (1959-1979) was a political activist and a fighter for women's rights and social justice when she died in the summer before her senior year at Yale. The Fellowship in her name was generously established by the Rossborough family to honor Amy’s memory and to support her passion for women’s rights.

The Fellowship awards semester or year-long stipends of up to $1000 to Yale students based on their proposals for new service projects. It is designed to provide organizing and leadership experiences to students whose involvement would otherwise be limited due to work-study obligations. The Amy Rossborough Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for self-motivated, creative students to pursue independent projects that will improve the lives of women at Yale and/or in New Haven.

Fellows will be chosen based on a written personal statement, a project proposal, and a personal interview. Up to six fellows will be announced at the end of October.

As recipients of the Amy Rossborough Fellowship, fellows are required to meet regularly as a group throughout the year, and meet with the fellowship coordinator individually. Fellows will be also be required to submit weekly time sheets, in order to be paid in weekly increments, and to submit project updates throughout the year. The Fellowship will culminate in a final project report and presentation to Cynthia Brown, the Fellowship benefactor, and the Women’s Center in April 2007.

To apply please fill out the following information:


I. Basic Information

Name (First) (Last)
College Class Year
Email Phone Number

II. Written Statements

Personal Statement, expressing your interest in the Yale Women’s Center and an independent fellowship. Why are you interested in the Amy Rossborough Fellowship?

Detailed Project Proposal, discussing why this project is significant, and how you plan to carry out the project. Discuss the goals of your project, and a strategy or plan of action. Include, where relevant, a timeline and budget sheet.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Awesome Talk Tonight

The Women's Center's RSVP group is hosting an event with an awesome speaker tonight:


Thursday, October 19, 2006
9 pm
LC 102

Everyone should come. This is an incredibly urgent issue.

Safe Spaces

Sometimes I wonder if people at Yale think the Women's Center is irrelevant--a relic from a time when women didn't feel physically safe in the other spaces, the common rooms, the dining halls, and the dorms, at Yale. They needed a place where they could talk with their peers without fearing sexual harassment (though I'm not sure it would have been identified as such), and where they felt like they actually belonged at a male institution. Actually, I think that most undergraduates haven't thought about the Women's Center that much--and please, I would love for someone to convince I'm wrong--but that when they see our small space next to Durfee's, if they even bother to look that way, they just think it is a waste.

The oddthing is that I didn't realize quite how the Women's Center was perceived until I talked to the women, Marissa Brittenham ('07) and Allison Pickens ('07), who founded the Women's Leadership Initiative this year. I respect that they are trying to inspire and encourage more Yale women to be leaders both at Yale and their careers afterwards. However, their reticence to work with the Women's Center--or beyond reticence, their confusion that it would even be relevant to what the Women's Center does-- shocked me. While the WC does have wonderful residence groups working on a whole hodgepodge of political and non-political issues, we are a space that wants to open itself to the needs of all Yale women--and fundamentally, to their desires to be leaders and equal members of the Yale community. In truth, so long as there are men saying that "No means Yes," so long as women are sexually harassed on a daily basis on campus, so long as we remain afraid of identifying our discomfort when a male professor treats us differently, we will be unable to become the types of leaders we want to be. I don't feel hopeless; I just think that by marginalizing the Women's Center, by stigmatizing a safe space, all Yale women who want to be successful ultimately undermine their own goals.

My SHIT List

8. VH1's Women to Women, a Bicurious Journey. While flipping throug channels I came upon this treasure which followed married couples to a resort in Jamaica where the wives could explore their homosexual fantasies with other women. The inspiration for the show came from statistics that show that a much higher percentage of women than ever before are engaging in homosexual activities. Look, here's my problem: I am all for expanding the bounds of sexual orientation/acceptable sexual behavior to bisexual and homosexual behavior. I am NOT, however, for expanding the bounds of who can now sexualize women--isn't it bad enough that men have been treating us as sexual objects, do we really need to do it to each other? And since when is homosexuality about sex? I thought it was about love.

7. Julie Bain, editor at Reader's Digest and guest of the Women's Leadership Initiative's panel on Women in Journalism. This women got onstage in LC 102 and told me (and a roomful of aspiring women journalists) that in order to succeed in the world of journalism, we were going to need to "have great hair." And I quote. Also, she mentioned all the free cosmetics and products she gets from advertisers at least three times. Please.

6. Guy Bourdin. I was subjected to his misogynist photography in my photography class, and was told that he has been a major influence on the contemporary fashion photography. Everyone, we now know who to blame for all the f*cked up images of women that are all over Vogue, Glamour, et all. Also, my professor stopped on one photograph in particular to point out the cleverness of the composition: the photograph was of a poolside scene seen over a women's feet that was laying face down in the foreground of the photograph. Facedown, her heels lined up with some men talking in the background. Art?

5. Dean Salovey for refusing to email the Yale undergraduates about the new SHARE center for people who are the victims of sexual assault, harrassment or violence, despite repeated requests from students to please do so. What are you waiting for?

4. The NOGAYS people. What offends me second most, after the incredible homophobia, is that this ad campaign gives a bad name to all of the wonderful people out there trying to use cleverness, wit and comedy to undermine prejudice. Lots of people are doing good work, and we don't appreciate having our methodology appropriated for such negative uses.

3. SAE. Believe it or not, I am about as tired of peddling the trope of the misogynist fraternity boys as they are of hearing me do it. But what else can I do when they parade their new members around campus shouting gems like:

"No means yes. And yes means anal"

2. The Amish school shootings in Pennsylvania. Or, should I say, the fact that in both of the two recent high profile school shootings the perpetrators have specifically targetted women, and no one is really talking about it as a hate crime. Except for Bob Herbert at the New York Times, who wrote an excellent Op-Ed.

1. Men who rape, assault, expose themselves to, molest, harrass, and cat call women. STOP IT. Enough is enough.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Letting the Homophobia Out of The Closet

by guest blogger Nadja Spiegelman

October 11th is National Coming Out Day, a day for people to proclaim loudly and proudly who they are and how it is that they identify. This year, on Yale’s campus, this has been extended beyond gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender identities for whom the day was designed. Some on this campus wish to let their homophobia out of the closet.

Along with the numerous LGBTQ co-op emails informing people about the exciting activities the co-op planned for the day, on Wednesday many Yale students woke up to find thinly veiled hate speech in their inboxes in the form of a joke email. Disguised as a letter from the co-op board, the email is signed by the National Organization to Gain Acceptance for Your Sins (NO GAYS). It urges people to “come out” as male chauvinists, Nazis, or racists. “Are you a homophobe?” the e-mail asks, “So was JESUS.” The letter ends with “There’s no shame in being who you are. Just remember, admitting it doesn’t make it right.”

How hard it must have been to keep these vehement and hateful feelings under wraps for so long. On a liberal college campus, the life of the bigot must be a difficult one. In an environment where queer students who come from repressive communities or un-accepting homes are finally able to be themselves without fear of being ostracized, reproached, or victimized by hate crimes, the latent homophobes among us must be livid.

On Yale’s campus there is little queer political action. There are the valiant and heroic efforts of QPAC (the Queer Political Action Committee), and there is the LGBTQ co-op, newly invigorated under Anna Wipfler’s (BR ’09) leadership – but mostly, in the gay community, there are parties, drinking, and hook-ups. In part, this is due to the fact that, up until now, most of the homophobia present has been subtle – acts that, while hurtful, are easy to ignore and difficult to protest (the pandemic use of “that’s so gay,” and the general separation between the heterosexual and gay male community being but two examples). An email signed by NOGAYS on the other hand, is everything but subtle. If everyone who received this was even one tenth as outraged as I was, then this is a very effective call to arms.

I must admit – this is refreshing. Someone is finally taking a stand. And, even though you are hiding behind a hidden email address and anonymously posted flyers, mystery sender, we will find out who you are and confront you directly. Please do not think for a moment that your cry for help has been ignored. Whoever you are, I hope to shake your hand in front of Excom.

Let me now address all the other homophobes still languishing in the closet: show yourselves. Lets confront this issue head-on. If, in this day and age, you are still misguided enough to truly think homosexuality is wrong, then let us show you otherwise. Come to our co-op meetings. Come see the faces of the people you are condemning. Come see our struggles, our bravery, and our strength. If you hate us for religious reasons, come talk to those among us who are religious and learn about the incredible hurdles they’ve overcome. If you hate us because you are ignorant, come educate yourselves. We are people and we are good people. Stop hating us in silence or from behind hidden email addresses. Come talk to us. You’ll be surprised.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Homophobia at Yale

Well, if I ever had a flicker of doubt that this blog was still needed on this campus, that doubt has been erased by the incredibly crude, homophobic poster campaign that went up today all over campus, accompanied by emails, mocking National Coming Out Day. This poster campaign was cryptic, attempting to be funny, and overall TOTALLY lame. In addition to just being gross, tasteless, and hate speech. Its shocking to me that another Yale student doesn't at least have the intelligence to deal with these issues in a more sensitive, thought out way. But I guess thats the whole idea with bigotry--its not really thought out nor sensitive nor intelligent. But rather than continue to rant and rave, I want to give the floor to Nadja Spiegelman, a co-ordinator in the LGBT Co-Op and an awesome feminist in her own right. The following post is an editorial she wrote in response to today's events.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A new day is dawning...

Last year two enterprising Yale women, Della and Sabrina, started a blog as a Rossbourough Fellowship with the Yale Women's Center. Their blog was called Broad Recognition and their aim was to create a forum for addressing gender bias and discrimination at Yale. The blog was widely read, frequently reported on, and highly controversial. In other words, a huge success!

Now that Della and Sabrina have graduated, and moved away from our hallowed halls, we, Maggie Doherty, Basha Rubin, and Adda Birnir, are excited to take over the reins. Over the course of this year we will be providing a feminist perspective on things that happen at Yale and pertinent issues that arise outside of campus. We hope that Broad Recognition continues to serve as a forum for productive dialogue and important insights on our gendered lives.

Let the blogging commence!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


In case you haven't noticed, dear readers, broadrecognition is on hiatus for the summer months. Della and Sabrina have graduated and will not return to Yale in the fall, but we will keep you posted on where Yale's feminist voices will continue - both on campus and in the "real world." Best wishes...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Women and Luda (continued...)

This post may be a little outdated now, but I've heard responses (unprompted, I may add) from many progressive/feminist friends about the comments made by Ludacris at Monday's concert. I asked Nazneen (JE '06) to guest-blog for us about the issues... welcome, Naz, and thank you.
After a few lackluster years of forgettable Spring Fling performances, the Yale College Council finally succeeded in getting Yalies to cough up even more money for a new Student Activities Fee in hopes of getting real headliners to come to campus. Securing both Ben Folds and Ludacris for the event was a commendable accomplishment for the YCC, but the latter’s performance left something to be desired—namely, respect for women.

Standing in a sea of students at Spring Fling on Tuesday, we were one mass of “Yale.” Ludacris gave a shout out to us as students, specifically as Yalies, but by the third song, there was a change in our solidarity. Ludacris cleared his throat, and singled out the women in the crowd, "Excuse me for my language, ladies, because some find it explicit, you know...," before asking us, “but how many women here have their pussies clean? come on girls...” Visibly irritated, I looked around at the jocular response from the crowd, and only one of my girl friends standing nearby returned my “what the @#$?!” expression. One song later, the latent misogynistic aggression returned in the form of the question, posed again only to the “ladies,” “Ok, how many of you ladies are just waiting till the end of the night to get fucked hard and good? Fucked hard and good.” To this, his spinner responded over the microphone, “Well, how many of you think you’re making love for a little bit, before you really get fucked!?”

Some will say, “Well, if you didn’t like it, you should have left,” and, I did. The point, however, is not if I had the right to leave, or if Ludacris had the right to say what he will on stage. I would never question his first amendment right to inquire about the cleanliness of my genitalia, but to ignore his comments without reflection would be a missed opportunity to question our complicity in commercialized misogyny.

As 18-22 year old Yalies, we are taught the skills we need to critique society, but we still want to be “normal” kids who can operate in the “real” world. Misogyny is not just a part of rap music, but part of society more broadly, so some may say that I should just grow a thick skin and realize that this is part of what sells in popular culture. We may even assume that Ludacris himself opposes misogyny, and only capitalizes on it to make money and garner fame. Thus, we’d have a situation where Yalies and Ludacris understand that disrespecting women may be part of stage persona, but not reality.

The fact of the matter is that the dichotomy between woman as nurturer vs. woman as whore exists at all levels in our society. For me to step back and say, hey, he’s talking about the ‘other’ women, so this doesn’t affect me, the Ivy League graduate about to enter law school, is exactly the kind of first-world feminism that has provoked criticism of the movement, as well as created a fractionalized notion of sisterhood. Even if Ludacris thinks differently, what about the countless American teens and adolescents who do find themselves in relationships based on male domination and the idea of “separate spheres” in terms of sexual standards for men and women? Laughing at the fact that women might think they are equally consenting participants in sex (“think you’re making love”), but really they are in fact “getting fucked” by someone else, shows that Ludacris is not attempting in any way to be ironic or subvert the status quo by exposing sexism—he’s just perpetuating it.

It’s such a small act to point out misogyny at a rap concert, and perhaps futile as well, given the pervasive effects of such comments. But, at least to those who think feminism is outdated—think again.

If others have anything to add about other aspects of the performance (there was apparently objectionable racial commentary as well), please continue to discuss in the comments section.

Monday, April 24, 2006

just curious...

Is anyone else just not that excited about watching hundreds of Yalies sing along with Ludacris about wanting a lady in the street but a freak in the bed (etc.)?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The 21st Century Woman

The Women's Center's annual speaker series begins today. The schedule is below; make some time to attend! Tonight's event addresses the lack of women leaders on campus addressed by last week's Herald.

Twenty-First Century Woman:
Who is She?
Past Changes and Future Challenges

-April 19 - Where have all the women gone?
A study break on the lack of visible women leaders on campus.

This past YCC election, no women ran for President or Vice President of the Council; there were, in fact, just two candidates for eighteen positions while women account for more than half of the undergraduate population. However, absent women leaders extend beyond YCC to lead positions in various other student organizations on campus. Perhaps they work behind scenes? Regardless, the lack of visible female leadership is unmistakable when considering the abundance of their male peers'. It can't be for lack of qualified women - so what's the reason? Eat Thai and discuss the dearth of active women leaders on campus.

8pm at the Women's Center

-April 20 - Beyond Madonna: An Exploration of Women in Art

Who is our era's Madonna and what does she look like? Images of women in art have changed radically over the millennia. Join the Yale Women’s Center as it teams up with the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art for a grand tour of how the depiction of women has changed in art.

5.30 Center for British Center

6.30 Undergraduate Art Galley
8.00 Opening of undergraduate works at Women's Center

-April 22 - Life after Yale: Alumnae Discuss Work and Family, Expectations and Realities

Four diverse women alumni will return to Yale to hold a panel-discussion with undergraduates on the complex factors that shape their lives after graduation. The panelists will speak about the combinations of choices they've made and chance circumstances they've encountered. They will discuss living with Yale's expectations that its graduates will become "successful leaders." Likewise, they will offer observations and insights derived from their experiences and attempt to answer our questions on future apprehensions and aspirations.
Alumnae :
Anne Nelson YC '76, playwright, mother and professor at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs
Laura Freebairn-Smith MPPM '86, mother, director of Organizational Development at Yale
Linn Cary Mehta YC '77, professor at Barnard College, scriptwriter and literary consultant, mother, writer, and philanthropist
Cary Hyson YC '77, history teacher, mother and college counselor

email for location

-April 23 - A Conversation about Writing, Girls' Issues, and Trying to Have it All
With Carol Weston, Novelist, Columnist, Alumna and Mom

Carol Weston, SM '78, writes and speaks about girl and teen issues. She is the "Dear Carol" columnist at Girls' Life magazine. Her twelve books include Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You and For Girls Only (HarperCollins), and Melanie in Manhattan (Knopf). Girltalk has been in print for 21 years and has been widely translated. Carol has appeared on The Today Show, The View, and Oprah . She lives with her husband and two teen daughters in Manhattan. Her website is

11am brunch at the Women's Center

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Deans respond to the Rumpus outrage

Let's hope this community responds similarly next time Yale publications publish rape jokes and other sexist "humor" pieces.

"The stereotypes of Asian Americans appearing in certain student publications recently are neither humorous nor inoffensive; they are, in fact, disgusting. Although Yale College's commitment to free expression protects vulgarities such as these, we all must be mindful of an equally powerful obligation to create a larger community fostering mutual respect. In this instance, what may seem funny to a few is deeply insulting to many."
-Peter Salovey
Dean of Yale College

"Free speech is a fine thing. But we are also free to call the Rumpus articles exactly what they are: thoughtless, arrogant, insulting and disruptive to our community. I am repulsed that the editors used their privileged positions to spread vile and puerile stereotypes, particularly as we welcome over 1000 extraordinary admitted students to campus as our guests. Thankfully, the vast majority of Yale students will provide the admitted students with a very different kind of welcome."
-Jeffrey Brenzel
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Yale of the future? Still not so bright.

The Asian American Students Association and other groups are protesting racist content in the Bulldog Days editions of the Herald and Rumpus. There's a facebook group that makes the arguments and has a lively discussion board.

We've found it hard to laugh at the Rumpus' tasteless and irresponsible articles in the past, and we've had the same debates on this blog about rape jokes and the promotion of sexist stereotypes. The verdict is that the line has been crossed, again. I find it disturbing, telling, fitting that it's been crossed in connection with Bulldog Days, a time notorious for sexual assaults on and among pre-frosh and what exists of Yale's frat culture is played up to the max. Not only does this "undermine diversity recruitment," it fosters this culture among Yalies - before they even get here. That's shameful.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Take Back Tonight

Take Back the Night
is this evening (Friday) at 6:00pm on Cross Campus.

TBTN is a national event that gives voice to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The event will feature a performance by Tangled Up In Blue, survivor testimonials, and an address by Kristen Leslie, a professor at the Divinity School and a former consultant on sexual assault to the US Air Force Academy. It will culminate in a short march through campus and a reception at the Women's Center.

Please come in solidarity and in protest of sexual violence.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Women's Center Endorse Larry Wise for YCC President

I'm pasting the Women's Center endorsement below. Please vote in the run-off election today here.

The Women's Center endorses Larry Wise, MC '08 for YCC President as he has demonstrated a strong commitment to gender and sexual equality most notably in his work regarding the drafting of a new sexual harassment policy on campus.

We would appreciate if you could take the time to vote for Larry Wise between this Thursday, 9am, and Friday, 9pm. We firmly believe that Larry Wise is the candidate offering the best kind of broad-based platform necessary to succeed as the YCC President. As the Morse YCC Representative, he has developed this platform through his experience and successes on the council this year. During these two semesters Larry Wise:

* Wrote the Sexual Assault Resolution in conjunction with RSVP, establishing a more centralized and advertised of assault prevention and response
* Chaired the YCC Security Committee
* Successfully advocated increasing police patrols, improving street lighting, and better campus security publicity
* Created the new nightly Blue Line bus route and advocated minibus expansion
* Successfully pushed for renovations to Morse, Stiles, and Calhoun
* Sat on the Committee for Campus-Wide activities (CCA)
* Co-chaired Yale's upcoming Community Service Day

We think it is important that the Yale College Council works on both serious, long term issues and day-to-day student life functions. To that end, Larry's stated objectives are to:

* Significantly increase aid for middle income families
* Finalize improvements to Yale's Sexual Assault response and
prevention system.
* Use the activities fee effectively year-round and improve fall show;
* Publicly seek student opinion of renovation needs
* Promote responsible environmental stewardship by emphasizing green products
* Press the administration to support Yale's LGBTQ community with an administrator and increased funding
* Improve relations between our Greek community and the Yale administration
* Make DUH more student-friendly by continuing to push for minimized wait times and more effective publicity and web-based information

Please join the Women's Center in voting for Larry Wise for YCC President. Thanks for your time.

Finally, I'm Proud To Be From Texas

For anyone who has ever been ostracized for having progressive or gosh dare we say it "liberal" views check out the Dixie Chick's new video. The song's called "Not Ready To Make Nice". Sure, it's not entirely Yale related, but sometimes we all need a little upper.

It's Not Funny

I don't know what it is about this week, but the rape jokes have been incessant. Just in the last twenty-four hours I've had two men come up to me to tell me a) that my outfit is asking for assault and b) the t-shirt displayed on cross campus that reads "my short skirt + my drinking = my fault?" is a true statement . . . no need for the question mark. When I didn't laugh, but gave them the "angry feminist" death stare, they did the usual "oh come on, Della, it was only a joke". I'm still not laughing.

We've said it time and time again, there are no such things as rape jokes. No one asks to be assaulted no matter what they are wearing or what they are doing. To suggest otherwise, even as a "joke," is offensive and gross. It's time we take back not only the night, but also our sexuality.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Weekend news

For those keeping abreast of the Duke rape scandal, there's a scathing piece on Slate on the culture of lacrosse with good links throughout. The commentary on the sport's demographics is perhaps not surprising, but elicits a sigh of despair from this blogger.
More than any other sport, lacrosse represents the marriage of athletic aggression and upper-class could college lacrosse players be any more misogynous than your typical football-team steakhead? Perhaps it's because, unlike their football brethren, an unusually large proportion of college lacrosse players spend their high school years in sheltered, all-boys academies before heading off to liberal co-ed colleges...In the warm enclave of the locker room, safe from the budding feminists and comp-lit majors, their identity becomes more cemented.
I am a little wary of the stereotypes promoted in this article - but i have to say that they are, sadly, confirmed by my own private school experience. Thanks JS for the link. ;)

Also check out the Herald's cover piece on women in leadership positions on campus. It's always interesting to me to observe the ways in which progressive institutions can reproduce social inequalities while trying to address them externally. I've personally been in groups where "liberal" men consistently feel uncomfortable ceding control to the women they work with - as the article implies, it's essential to call them out on these unconscious biases. That last quote is really sobering, by the way...

I'd be interested to hear our readers' responses to the article, if there are any of you still out there. Actually, right now you're probably at Toad's.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hear us in person

Della and I will join this year's other Rossborough Fellows in speaking about our projects at 5pm at the Women's Center today. We'll talk about the blog and about Aurora; come cheer us on, or to throw rotten fruit.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Take Back the Night Public Art Project

Please come participate in this important preparation for Take Back the Night, which is next Friday on Cross Campus. We'll write more about TBTN next week.

There is also a rally for the gender non-discrimination clause on Beinecke Plaza at 5pm today.



Wednesday, April 5th
10-11 pm
Yale Women’s Center

come design and paint a personal t-shirt about sexual assault.
the shirts will be displayed on cross-campus during the week of take back the night as a symbol of solidarity for survivors of sexual assault.
please bring your own t-shirt if possible (inside-out is ok!); paints and markers provided.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Two items of interest

Jacob First has an editorial today explaining the motivations and reasons for adding a "gender expression" clause to Yale's non-discrimation policy.

Also, feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon is speaking today at 4:30 at Labyrinth Books on York St. It should be awesome.

Friday, March 31, 2006

"Man"! what a beautiful word!

Hey, frat boys! How many times can you use the word "gentleman" in an article on improving your sw8 frat's image on campus?
"Our pledge process tries to teach some of these values through the True Gentlemen, as well as many old-fashioned principles of etiquette [such as] proper table settings [and] walking on the street side with a girl," [Sam] Beutler [07] said. "It's also about presenting yourself well, which we try and uphold in events such as football tailgates, where all our brothers are dressed in coat and tie."
Here's the thing: I don't want us to go back to the "good" old days. "Gentleman" is a word reeking of offensive/oppressive class and gender role stereotypes - if you want to revamp your image, how about doing it in an actually progressive way?

Needless to say, I'm not holding my breath. Looks like fraternities will continue to be
flagrant institutionalizations of masculinity and male privilege...and they're damn proud of it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Petition alert: gender non-discrimination clause

QPAC (Yale's Queer Political Action Committee) has been campaigning to expand Yale's Non-Discrimination Policy to include protection of "gender identity and gender expression."

Its members are currently gathering petition signatures to present to the administration, demonstrating support from across the Yale community for this action. The petition is now available online here.

Sign up and spread the word; QPAC's goal is 1000 signatures by Wed April 5th. There is also a rally planned on Wednesday, April 5th at 5pm on Beinecke Plaza.

Biceps and arm candy: the female body in the sports world

Loren's editorial today discusses the sexualization of women in the sports world. There seemed to be several different arguments at work here, and I want to try and separate them from each other.

Men's sports get a ton of coverage, and their (mostly male) coaches are therefore in the spotlight. The wives of these men are often depicted as physical accessories to their husbands in a way that successful women's partners are not - because women coaches tend to be coaching less-covered (women's) teams, but also because of gender norms which more closely link a woman's worth with her physical appearance and husband's status (and, importantly, with her acceptance of a submissive relationship to that husband). The sexy/mothering dichotomy is interesting in this, but I won't get Freudian.

Jenkins' front-page Times article presents wives whose significance is entirely relative to their function in the lives of the men who comprise the legitimate event. They play the supportive wives of die-hard coaches, the mother figures and the nurturers to the team. More and more, they also represent the sexy hallmarks of the accomplishment that continues to define a woman's success as gauged by popular media attention: her ability to satisfy the heterosexual male gaze.

This expectation of women's "physical availability for men" extends to female athletes, who are photographed in hyperfeminine clothing and whose bodies become the main attraction, instead of their actual athletic accomplishments. I'd love to hear our female athlete readers weigh in: how can we navigate the tension between this physical nature of sports and the resistance to objectification we promote as feminists?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

YDN's error is sadly ironic

A YDN correction today to yesterday's article on the YLS "Disempowered Voices in Legal Academia" panel, which was organized mostly by women students and well-attended by women, ignores the problematic racial and gendered nature of the error.

broad recognition reader (thanks SM) noted that the article itself "does not quote a single woman student. The YDN even takes the words of one black woman student -- "I just want to ask everybody to look around the room at the group of people that we have here. This is the world I want to live in" -- and ascribes them to me, a white man...It appears that the struggle to make women's voices heard at Yale has a long way to go."

Student poll on Hashemi

The results are in from Yale Herald's student opinion poll on whether Hashemi should be admitted to Yale in various programs. 1900 students took the poll. President Levin denies John Fund's claim that he will determine Hashemi's admission status. All this confirms the desire of Fund and others to turn this debate into a political firestorm - when some of the questions they want all of us at Yale to answer are questions for another authority.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

You ask why we left out Hashemi

broad recognition seeks to
uncover the insidious forms of sexism on this campus which are masked by a veneer of privilege and liberal politics, and ignored. To analyze this misogyny is not simple - not as easy, for example, as singling out a former spokesman of the Taliban, the latest cultural icon of misogyny. Asking why we left out Hashemi inevitably moves the discussion away from the misogynistic events on this campus and into the realm of American foreign policy. This blog is not meant for such a discussion.

Our discomfort in employing the rhetoric of our particular feminism in the context of other cultures and in the context of this blog does not deny that there is sexism in these cultures. It merely demonstrates what type of discussion we are trying to achieve with broad recognition, and our recognition of the ways in which American feminism has been manipulated to justify violence abroad.

Yes, the Taliban is a violently sexist and oppressive regime. Yes, the Taliban has some viewpoints and practices that we deplore. If Hashemi still subscribes to those tenets, then Yale has admitted a sexist man. It’s not the first time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Institutionalizing inequality: admissions, activism, law

In the news today:

The YDN reports on how the recent School of Architecture scandal brings to light gender inequalities in the school, and why students are voicing complaints. There's a lot of familiar rhetoric there (think back to our discussion of gender statistics on Yale's faculty).

Loren argues for the value of an extra-institutional form of activism:
However, activism contained within the parameters of an influential institution such as Yale and directed towards improving the status of individuals within that institution without challenging its foundations is arguably doomed to reinforce the authority of the institution.
And please check out tonight's event, which addresses an important and underdiscussed distinction:

Drunk Sex or Rape?
An interactive jury exercise by Brett A. Sokolow, J.D.

FEBRUARY 28, 2006
SSS 114

Sponsored by:
Peer Health Educators, Safety Net, & YUHS Student Health Education

Monday, February 27, 2006

In defense of feminism

(plus the word on the street about porn week)

If you didn't see it, check out Della's opinion piece in the Herald on why feminism is still relevant, at Yale and in the "real world." She is responding to these two pieces from last week's edition, which defend Sex Week for its "universality" and accuse feminism of being too "radical" to address real problems. Della sounds off on the shaky motivations and dangerous implications of both opinions.
Denying that sexism exists suggests that women would rather be silently victimized by men (and by themselves) than admit to being oppressed and actually doing something about it.
Also: despite its final recommendation, at least this snippet acknowledges the real audience and nature of last week's fashion show:

Despite the hype, Brynne Lieb’s lingerie show, which capped off Sex Week 2006, failed to impress, blue-balling audiences looking for a hot night...Next year, if you’re looking for some hard-hitting scintillation, get your suitemates to pool the money you would have spent on tickets, and get a real show at Catwalk, New Haven’s finest gentlemen’s club. Now that’s what I call skeezy.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

If you missed it

We never linked to last week's YDN editorial, which argues the case (long made by RSVP) that Yale needs a more centralized system to respond to sexual assaults on campus. The editorial discusses the current situation and the recent YCC resolution. It's informative and clear - check it out.

RSVP's website, by the way, has a new "What to Do" section with a ton of information about sexual assault resources in New Haven and on campus. And don't forget to share your story about sexual assault so that we can tell the administration what's working - and what's not.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Summers' Time and the Living's Easy

This past Monday, the President of Harvard University, Dr. Larry Summers, after receiving a vote of no confidence by the Harvard faculty, finally resigned. For most individuals concerned with minority rights, Monday was a fine day. During his presidency, Summers succeeded in losing the once famous African American department by insulting Cornel West and a few others, most of whom defected to Princeton. Then, he made the outrageous comment that women are naturally less skilled in sciences and that is why there are fewer women in those departments. The fact that he lasted so long was at once a surprise and a testament to the kind of sexism this society tolerates.

Today there's another testament, from our fave columnist Matthew Gillum. While Gillum's outright racism with regard to Cornel West and his interest in hip hop as a form of political resistance seemed enough to stir up a crowd, the sexism in his Summers-worship put even Summers (who has since apologized for the comment) to shame.

Choice excerpt:
But the defining moment of his tenure was during a conference on the gender imbalance in science last year. In a moment that would go down in infamy, he suggested that innate sex differences might partially explain the preponderance of men at the highest levels of math and science. His basic argument that the variance in mental ability among males is greater (that is, that males are more likely to be at the extremes of intelligence, both high and low) is well-established and particularly obvious on the low end -- how many females get Darwin awards? . . . The fact of the matter is that most people don't have what it takes -- which includes drive -- to be a professor at Harvard, and those that do are drawn from the extreme hinterlands of the bell curve, where males tend to be more abundant. This is one possibility that deserves to be considered, and Summers displayed courage and remarkable leadership for highlighting it.
Frankly, I don't have words.