...why this makes me so angry?
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.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Thursday, October 05, 2006
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!