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.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Porn Week at Yale

For most of last week, I couldn't really put my finger on why I hated Sex Week - it claims to be an exploration of all kinds of sexuality and all aspects of sex, which seems like a good conversation-starter for the issues of gender and sexuality which concern feminists.

But then a) I got an email containing the words "hottest Porn Star" and b) it wasn't spam, but an advertisement for an event that hundreds of Yalies attended. It all clicked: I hate Sex Week because it's basically a bunch of Yalies pretending to be porn stars and pimps.

Here's the thing:
sex is not the same as objectification, and it does not have to involve unequal power dynamics. In fact, seeing it this way invites oppressive stereotypes and harmful relationships; Helen in the YDN does an awesome job of pointing out the gender dimensions in SWAY's magazine. There's something wrong when enormous amounts of funding and resources are available for this stuff at one of the best universities in the world. I still can't believe intelligent Yalies ate up the (self-?) promotion of women in "fashion-forward" lingerie, a talk for men about how to "mack" "girls" by asserting your power over them, and a panel on pornography with the "very high-profile" (I wouldn't know) porn star Jesse James - all without seemingly thinking about the implications for their own sexual awareness.

Just check out these quotes from Mr. Macker Nasheed, which seem representative:
"Never ask for a number; instruct them to give you their number" - that's the power stuff - and "the definition of a gentleman is a man who hasn't had sex with you yet" - there's the unhealthy view of sex. 'Nuf said.

Yes, we can play with gender stereotypes and experiment with our sexuality in many ways. But most of us don't even have the healthy sexual relationships necessary to do so. Let's talk about that, shall we?*

*oh, sorry, there's no funding available.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Three Cheers for the YDN and the YCC (Who Would Have Thought?)

Last Wednesday the YCC passed a resolution in favor of centralizing Yale's sexual assault resources and this morning the YDN finally did the story some serious justice. For more details please read the article. While Betty T doesn't seem too thrilled with the idea, Dean Salovey doesn't seem to be saying no just yet. Finally, we're making some progress! Kudos to Larry Wise and the rest of the YCC for being ready and willing to take this issue head on.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Talking Vaginally

I'll always been a bit hesitant to embrace Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues. Sure, the play is funny and witty and sadly applicable to the current state of affairs. Yet there was always something a little too essentialist about celebrating the cunt and something a little too potentially imperialistic about claiming to speak for oppression of women in Afghanistan and Africa. My penchant for cultural relativism always took precedent.

But last night I went to see Yale's production and the monologue about comfort women and the Japanese government's refusal to acknowledge made me weep. Women are constantly denied visibility about our achievements and about the violence we endure. The silencing of comfort women during World War II is enacted by the same mechanisms which silence Yale women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted and harrassed and violated on this campus - who have been denied the right to protection and support because of social stigma and the administration's refusal to take a more proactive stance. The truth is, as Jean Beaudrillard writes, we are all victims. We are all complicit in the oppression of others but we are all also, in various ways, oppressed. Women and men, here and abroad, are all victims of partiarchy.

On a lighter note, bravo to the women who performed the Vagina Monologues here at Yale. It must take an impressive sense of self to take that kind of risk to be so honest and so real, to share stories about violence, about pleasure, about shame, about sexuality, about orgasms in such a hostile space. We thank you.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


What is this??

Penis Monologues?

Garrett Morrison's letter in response to the editorial we linked to yesterday argues that men also have unhealthy relationships with their sexual organs and only talk about their penises with "bravado."

I think it's partly true that there is not enough productive and honest discussion of male sexuality. But isn't it true that the way that culture "stifles" straight men's sexuality is far less dangerous to men than the way it stifles women's sexuality is to women? Let's face it - the distortion of male sexuality puts them in a powerful (often violently so) position with respect to women. The "Vagina Monologues" prove that the vagina is too often a symbol of pain and shame in our society. That's a little different than
bragging inappropriately about the power of your penis.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

V-Week begins today

Alexandra Schwartz's editorial today explains the value of V-Week and the Vagina Monologues, arguing that they represent "nothing less than the legitimizing of a woman's right to exist as a sexual and inquisitive being."

The V-Week calendar is at left (click to enlarge).

Monday, February 06, 2006

Woolsey wage gap

Gunther told the YDN that "if you have respect, you can have sex and love and the whole thing. I am a gentleman style-2000, which means I honor women."

I just learned that of the $16,000 spent on the concert, Gunther received $8,000. Each Sunshine girl received $800.

Where's the respect there?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lesbians at Yale

If Yale is the "gay Ivy", where does that leave lesbians? scene's cover article describes the (still underground) lesbian social scene at Yale.
Let's face it, men (and women) often feel threatened or confused by a woman who doesn't want a penis in her life. All of the women in the article say they have been verbally harassed, on-campus and off. This quote hit me hard:
"Lesbianism is ... very, very eroticized," Prichard said. "I literally have never been to a straight party with my girlfriend where some really drunk guy hasn't been on his knees begging to have a threesome."
But, don't women exist to sexually please men?! The whole article points to a serious lack of acceptance and resources for queer women - check it out and comment.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Facing Off

Last Wednesday morning the virtual world of www.facebook.com found a new medium: printouts. Anonymous individuals printed out individual profiles and group profiles from the website and posted them all over Yale campus bulletin boards. Circled in red were Yale student's homophobic and misogynistic remarks (ex. "cubs fans are f-ing homos" and "we love tits"); written under these remarks were email addresses: anti_homophobia@hotmail.com and anti_misogyny@hotmail.com. By mid-afternoon, a vast majority of these printouts had been removed, presumably by the singled -out individuals (though I did see one kind boy rip down his roomate's profile for him), or by members of Yale Recycling or of the administration. The group who did it may face legal consequences, if they come forward.

First things first: we were not involved, though some seem to think this is the type of thing we condone (see one comment in the below post). When we have a problem with something someone said, we'll be sure to let the individual know what we think and that we (Sabrina and Della) are disturbed. Believe us, we know how it feels to be attacked anonymously (just check out the comments section), and we find it counterproductive to the rational dialogue which produces change.

That being said, the red ink found some disturbing things. The facebook.com is a space laden with misogynistic, homophobic, and (let's not forget) racist and classicist ideas - and the fact that some quotes were taken out of context is irrelevant. The particular profiles chosen were just a small (if somewhat problematic) sample. Additionally, activists of all kinds have a tradition of making public, anonymous statements that attack certain individuals. Holding people accountable in this way can be powerful - just look at the buzz on campus about the printouts. For a far more cogent explaination of the value in the posts and the complications involved, check out Loren Krywancynk's editorial in the YDN.

But publicly slandering particular individuals within the Yale community anonymously is not an effective response to rampant -isms. Such attacks only put people on the defensive and make them far less willing to engage in a meaningful and productive dialogue about the implications of their words (Morgan Locke's letter to the editor is an example of such a response), and we at Broad Recognition have learned this the hard way (just check out our October archives). The benefit of being part of a college community is that we have the time and the safety (most of the time) to have real discussions and real disagreements. Think about it: a blog like ours would have no place at a high power law firm in NYC or even a large non-profit. So let's take those printouts as tangible testiments to the fact that we live in a homophobic and sexist world, in a homophobic and sexist "liberal" university. Let's face it; anyone who thought those things didn't happen here has obviously not been paying attention. But let's also affirm that this is not the way we seek to produce change.

Rather than bickering about what happened on Wednesday, we should ask what we're going to do about it. How do you get someone to face up to what those statements say about women, what they say about men, what they say about sexuality and violence, and what they say, most importantly, about them as individuals?

Talking to each other, face to face, is where we need to start. It requires patience and it requires distance. Of course, it's personal and, of course, we're tired of having to explain time and time again why something is so blatantly wrong. But we have to - because obviously people still don't get it. We need a new medium; the facebook and printouts outside of the post office will not suffice.