Friday, December 9, 2011

A Victory in Trans* Legitimacy

When you’re not part of a marginalized group then there are certain things that you may take for granted; things that may seem commonplace or trivial, but really aren’t if you have certain kinds of identities that restrict your access to those “simple” things.

One of these things is safe and accurate healthcare. Do you ever have anxiety about a doctor’s appointment because you don’t want to deal with potential discrimination? What if they’re dismissive about a problem that you bring up because they don’t “understand” it? I mean, how do you know they’ve been trained to handle someone with your identity?

This week, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement addressing these fears from the trans* community and pushing for doctors to provide adequate services for individuals with these identities. Part of the reason for this improvement  is a discrimination survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that found “nearly 30% of transgender and gender-nonconforming patients postpone care due to discrimination concerns.” The ACOG is now expecting its doctors the be knowledgeable of the health issues  that trans* individuals face. A Denver ob-gyn  sums up well what type of impact these changes implicate: “[b]y increasing the number of ob-gyns providing care to transgender patients, we can help improve the overall health of the transgender community.

by Che J. Hatter

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Power of WMST - Reflection by WMST 202 student Faith Benson

I have always been interested in women's studies and issues, so taking the class was a no brainer. And it's true, most people who set foot in the center are people who are already feminists or aware of women's studies. However, taking WMST 202 last year with Prof Loe really changed me so I can't imagine what kind of effect the class can have on someone totally indifferent to the subject. So I asked Prof Loe to refer a student in her class this semester who experienced just that:

I enrolled in Women's Studies this semester largely because it was the only class I could get into during registration. My attitude towards feminism has always been passive at least, if not strongly anti-feminist. I was dreading a semester full of man-hating women telling me to burn my bras, stop listening to Beyonce and (God forbid) chop off all of my hair. I did not want to talk about how men are the evil race or how my actions perpetuate sexism. As a matter of fact, I did not want to address that sexism existed at all.
However, as the semester progressed, Women's Studies quickly became my favorite class. I was able to candidly share my thoughts about what it means to be a woman, especially at Colgate, without feeling like I would be labled a man-hating feminist. I began working events at the Women's Studies Center into my weekly schedule, and they were often what I looked forward to the most during the week.
One of the major turning points for me during the semester happened around midterms in a different class of mine. The class was having a discussion about the role of a woman in one of the texts we read, and I was very outspoken (as I always am) about the ways in which she was oppressed by the patriarchal society that was present in the storyline. After class, one of my classmates approached me and said, "Wow, Faith, I didn't know that you were such a feminist until now." I had a minor mental breakdown after that - what was happening to me?! Was I really stepping to the bad side and standing with the feminists?
After this experience, I was home for Thanksgiving break and spending time with my six best friends from home, all of whom are male. I told them what my classmate said to me and how I was terrified that I was being converted to feminism. I thought that they, of all people, would be able to feel my pain. However, they all seemed extremely confused. They told me that they had all thought of me as not only a feminist, but an OUTSPOKEN one since second grade when I made them read the chapter in our history book about women's suffrage. They then proceeded to recount every incident in our lives that proved me to be a feminist. How could these six men know more about what feminism truly is at the heart than I as a woman did? They made me understand that I had been so blinded by all of the stereotypes surrounding feminism that I couldn't see how I was defining it for myself. Taking a class in Women's Studies made me realize that it isn't feminists who are wrong, but instead their false portrayals; most people would sympathize with the feminist fight if they only knew what it was.
I am now proud to say that I can call myself a feminist without feeling at all guilty or ashamed, and I am working on building a Center for Women's Empowerment in South Sudan through my non-profit called The Women's Worth Project. Taking Women's Studies at Colgate has truly changed my life.

by Faith Benson

- posted by Catherine Yeh

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12/6 BB Response: Body Talk: Messages Behind Mainstream Dance Moves

Today's brown bag was certainly different than most others, taking place in Ryan 212 instead of the Center.  Instead of a presentation per se, the attendees participated by doing dance moves as instructed by Tehmekah MacPherson '02 to show how we use our bodies to communicate and the gendered aspects of these communications.

As a trans woman, I'm very aware of body epistemology: what do we know about people and how from the way they are bodied and physically oriented?  Tehmekah had everyone demonstrate either a hyper-"masculine" or hyper-"feminine" image to show what physical cues we associate with those genders, with the implication that there are other cues that are less explicitly gendered, and therefore there exists language-- body language-- outside this binary...a transgender body language?

A bit of a stretch? (oh look a pun!) Perhaps.  But that was the explicit goal of this workshop: to create body language (a "body vocabulary") that does not explicitly rely on normative gender assumptions.  Although the message of the final dance was explicitly feminist due to the inclusion of lyrics (adding another epistemic layer), the process of deriving the dance steps was narrative (descriptive, not normative) in nature; we charaded emotions, then stylized them into two-beat motions, then strung them together, refined the transitions, and threw in verbal and musical epistemic layers.  The dance was a translation of experience into art in a gender-neutral way; people across the gender and body spectrums participated and made no explicit reference to gender archetypes physically.

One participant said she found herself adapting the moves to her own experience, trying to make them sexy or more feminine.  I found this an interesting observation.  Is it possible, or even advisable, for dance to be gender-neutral?  The dance itself is, but it's performance depends on the particular bodies performing it, each of which have a different gender positionality.  Thus the same dance had feminine flares in some people, masculine in others; some made it sexier, some funnier, some more technical, some more artistic.  In this way the gendered was melded into the dance on a particular (personal) level, and not imposed upon the subjects by the dance's nature.

Xavia Publius

Monday, December 5, 2011

WMST Party!

This year’s Women’s Studies Department party will be on Thursday 12/8 from 8PM to Midnight in Donovans Pub. Hosted by students from WMST 202: An Introduction to Women’s Lives and Beyond, this celebration will feature catered desserts and multiple performers from Poetically Minded, Spoken Word artists, and musically talented students. Celebrate the end of the semester with your fellow Women Studies enthusiasts! A guest DJ will be spinning the jams all night for those of you who love to get your groove on. All faculty, staff, students, community members, and age groups are invited to Come As You Are! 

Last Brown Bag of the Semester

Join us for this semester's last BROWN BAG. In a change of scenery, this brown bag will be held in RYAN 212, but still on Tuesday (December 6th) at 11:30am.  This week's title is "Body Talk: Messages Behind Mainstream Dance Moves" and is co-sponsored by OUS (Office of Undergraduate Studies).  Our presenter is Tehmekah MacPherson, who graduated from Colgate in 2002 and is currently a professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Syracuse University.  She will be performing and discussing popular dance movies today and the messages they give off.  As always, there is FREE LUNCH and EVERYONE is welcome!

Rape Education...And Why it's Terrible

Since I seemed to be the only person who didn't love Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (i.e.: the most stressful show on Prime Time television) I decided this semester to start watching with my nifty Netflix account (thanks mom!). Since starting season 1 only a few weeks ago, I've officially gotten through 8 seasons (holding off on starting season 9 until after finals because the cliffhanger was just TOO good. those writers are GENIUS.) of the incredible crime fighting duo that is Detectives Benson and Stabler. I've always loved crime shows and police procedural dramas, but something about SVU is particularly appealing to me. SVU is one of very few successful crime shows that accurately depicts police procedure and our justice system. It's not always pretty and it's not always clear cut. That is especially true in the special victims unit where they deal with sensitive issues like rape and molestation. It's a running motif in the show that the SVU detectives are somewhat of pariahs within their professional community because they don't prefer their victims dead or because they choose to deal with heart breaking cases about dead children and mutilated sexual assault victims every day.

During the season when Benson was undercover with the FBI (read as: Mariska Hargitay on maternity leave),  Stabler got a new partner who was a rookie to the SVU. In one episode in particular, Stabler and his new partner were talking about a rape victim and they had a disagreement. His female partner was essentially asserting that women need to be aware of their surroundings so they don't become victims of rape and Stabler, an 8 year veteran of the SVU, took that as "victim blaming." She argued that this was not true, and I don't exactly disagree with her. I say this because of the way rape education is taught in our society. While telling someone to be aware of their surroundings so that they don't get mugged is one thing, telling a woman to be aware of her behavior so she does not get raped is a different thing entirely. Rape education is always targeted at women and generally goes as follows:

"Don't walk home alone at night."
"Don't wear revealing clothes."
"Don't lead him on."

Rape education for men goes as follows:


Why don't we tell men anything about rape?! It infuriates me that we teach the potential victims of a crime how to avoid it, but we don't tell the potential perpetrators anything. Not to say that all men are rapists and that all women are just sitting around waiting to be raped, but I can't think of any other crime that is discussed in this way. We encourage children not to steal just as often as we encourage people not to waive their cash around on a busy New York City street. College campuses are unfortunately overrun with sexual assault, but universities often think that a power point presentation during orientation is a deterrent. There is SO much more we could teach about rape that we simply don't. Many sexual assaults on college campuses are fueled by alcohol. Rape education makes men seem like unbridled monsters with no degree of self control. Let's give them just a little more credit. Don't lead him on? That's ridiculous. While I think that women need to know their boundaries before they put themselves in a situation where signals may get crossed, that's NOT AN EXCUSE FOR A MAN TO RAPE HER. No one wants to be raped. If you wanted it, that pretty much disqualifies it from being rape.

As easy as it was to make that power point telling women to live their lives looking over their shoulder, you could add a slide that lists all the things that don't count as consent like alcohol, short skirts and one's previous sexual activity...or we could continue this rape "education" that results in low reporting of assault because the survivor thought she asked for it.

-Renyelle Jimenez

Friday, December 2, 2011

How do we encourage positive sexuality on campus?

Recently, there was a Brown Bag where a some members of Colgate's Conduct Board discussed the role of the Board. The panel included students, professors, an administrator. The Brown Bag's topic coincided with a project I did this semester for Professor Darby's Language and Gender class (Prof Darby was also one of the panelists).
For this Colgate Workplace Gender Styles paper, I had interview someone who works at Colgate and discuss how language and gender is related to their work on this campus. I interviewed Kim Taylor, Dean of the Sophomore Year Experience, also a panelist.
My initial focus of the project was strictly focused on the language of Colgate's Policy on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment and the issue of "what is consent?" However, talking to Kim, she raised a very interesting idea that I believe is key to effective consent and prevention of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
Kim talked about her experience being involved with Yes Means Yes, a positive sexuality discussion group. She described a group of mostly women discussing sexual desire saying that "I really don't know, I've never really felt that way, I've never felt a single desire, I don't know what that means, I just know what I'm supposed to do." Kim connects the issue that this lack of talk about sex to sexual misconduct by saying that "you can't give good consent if you don't know what it is you want."
To know what it is you want, you need to be educated about it, and education requires talk. But before we think about how we talk about sex, we need to figure out how make it safe and comfortable for people on this campus to talk about sex.
Culturally and socially, there is a taboo around sex. Nobody really wants to talk about it because it is very personal. And amongst college students, and especially incoming freshman, peoples' experiences and personal beliefs about sex and what is appropriate to discuss varies greatly. Being involved in Yes Means Yes before, I found the experience really enlightening and liberating. However, everyone who participated were more or less already interested in gender, sex, and sexuality. This culture of positive sexuality needs to spread beyond those who take women's studies classes or go to women's studies Brown Bags, it needs to permeate throughout the whole campus.
Besides posters and pamphlets people don't usually read and You Decide during freshman orientation, what else can we do that is perhaps more effective? I don't really have any solid answer but one idea I really like is that at some other colleges, there are peer sex educators/mentors, students who advise other students. I see the benefit in this that students are more likely to listen to other students who have experiences they can relate to or students who understand what the campus culture is like.
So what do you think, how do we encourage positive sexuality at Colgate?

- by Catherine Yeh

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Behind the Scenes of the Student Conduct Board Reflection

The Student Conduct Board Brown Bag on November 29th was more informative than emotional; it was nonetheless very useful. It became clear in the beginning of the panel discussion, that hardly anyone in the audience knew what the Conduct Board did let alone what their responsibility was on campus. People only seemed to understand that one was in “trouble” if they had to meet with the board. To help the audience understand more of what the board did, faculty, staff, and students on the board talked about what they did and what happens when the board meets to discuss disciplinary violations. They discussed how the room was configured, what types of questions they ask the violator, and how they decide on sanctions. It seemed that the case they get most often pertains to plagiarism, but they also talked about how the setup would be different if it was a sexual misconduct case. Overall, the audience walked away with a greater understanding and appreciation of how disciplinary cases are handled in the Colgate community.

During the second half of the discussion while talking about sexual misconduct, Dean Taylor mentioned the TIP form. Every year, colleges and universities have to report how many cases of sexual misconduct occur on campus to government officials. Colgate derives its numbers from the TIP forms. However, almost no one in the audience had ever heard of this form, so this is my attempt to get that information out there.

After Dean Taylor hears about sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, bias-related conduct, possible or planned crimes, law/policy violations, and/or other crime information, she is required to fill out a TIP form online or call campus safety and inform them of the incident. It is as anonymous as you want it to be and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are pressing charges. However, Dean Taylor isn’t the only one required to fill this out, EVERYONE should do it. All you have to do is identify the TIP as either sexual misconduct, harassment, theft lead, weapon violation, etc. and also provide details/description of the situation or incident. Optional information includes name, phone, email, and other helpful information. This is simply a way for Colgate to track what is actually happening on campus and possibly address repeated offenses. Thus, I encourage everyone to take a look at the form and get the word out to others about this option. Here is the link to the form. 

-Michelle Van Veen

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Difficulties of Fitting In and Being Yourself

This week’s blog is centered on the story of a sophomore woman, Alexandra Franklin, at the University of Alabama.  The article, “Part of a Whole, but Still Me” focuses on her reluctance to be anything but a feminist.  She was not the stereotypical young girl interested in ballet or being beautiful.  She remarks: “I remember my mother chasing me around the house with a tube of coral lipstick, begging: ‘Don’t you want to feel pretty? Don’t you want to look nice?” (Franklin 2011: 1).  Alexandra told her mother that she didn’t care about such things but she actually did.  She just did not want to have to choose between being smart and pretty.  She wanted to be Alexandra.  When she met her boyfriend, she felt as if her feminist strength had been diminished.  Then she felt that she reclaimed that strength through anorexia and bulimia.  This led to more challenges in her life and relationship.  However, her boyfriend stuck by her side and continues to be a valued confidant in her life.  He helped her during her darkest moments and helped her come to terms with her disorder.
 I think that this story caught my attention because eating disorders are not always talked about at Colgate University and it is important to discuss this condition since it is one of the leading causes of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 24.  This article helped me realize that we are not as alone as we sometimes may think.  It also makes me realize how detrimental categorizing people can be.  Alexandra just wanted to be herself, but she felt pressure to conform to gender stereotypes and expectations.  Thankfully, Alexandra was able to be the individual she wanted to be as well as a girlfriend.  She realized her full potential and all of these things helped her continue to heal.  I encourage everyone to read this and find some type of solace in being who they are.  
                                                                                                          Natalie George

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Global Effort to Lower Maternal Mortality

             As Morales states in her essay “The Feminization of Global Security and Violence”, to educate a boy is to educate that human, but to spend the time to educate a girl is to ensure the education of the generations to follow.  Women have an incredibly important role in the upbringing and wellbeing of the generations for which they care.  This is why it is crucial that all women receive adequate education.  The United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Development Goal Number Five addresses this issue in the importance of educating women about reproductive health and safety.  Without keeping women alive long enough to impart wisdom upon those they look after and interact with, they cannot pass down what they know to their child(ren). They also do not have the right to choose how many children they have and how.  As women around the world are generally relied upon and expected to raise children into responsible and respectful adults, they deserve to avoid the tragedies of maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health services/care.
            The Fifth Goal aims to achieve two things: A reduction by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, of the maternal mortality ratio, as well as to an achievement, by 2015, of universal access to reproductive health.  According to the U.N. , more than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, with 99% of these deaths occurring in industrializing countries.   The vast majority of these deaths are avoidable, as they are common and able to be handled medically, and the rates are unacceptably high.  If women were to have the care they need and learn how to family plan, these death levels would undoubtedly go down.  An integral part of meeting this goal and of reducing maternal mortality rates is education, but from where does this education come?  Industrialized countries are a large part of this education, but have also done negative things to women of color through birth control testing and sterilization. Globalization is a huge factor here, as the United Nations is kept alive by countries working together. The question we are looking at in a more general sense is how is globalization impacting women within the Global South? .  When did globalization come into play for the women of industrializing nations and what has happened since then?  If the world came to work together, can we meet Millennium Development Goal Number Five by 2015?
             Our group plans to look into the lives of women and the health and safety of such women in three regions of the world: the United States, West Africa, and Southern Asia.  These regions are important to look at as the United States is often looked to as the standard for industrializing nations, though for an industrialized country, it still has an unacceptable rate of maternal mortality and is number 41st in the world for the lowest amount of maternal deaths.  There is still a constant argument as to what reproductive health strategies should be taught to young people in the US and the education is not universal.  West Africa and Southern Asia are also vital to research when looking into the achievement of Millennium Development Goal Number Five because the numbers of skilled health workers in these regions remains low while the maternal mortality is high due to lack of education and access to resources and facilities.  Can globalization improve this?  Can the countries of the world, including those that are developing and those that are developed, work together to achieve Millennium Development Goal Number Five?

Written for SOAN 354 by students: 
Breanna Pendleton (
Caroline Anderson (
Samantha Williams (

United Nations Millennium Development Goal Number Five:

Tuesday's Brown Bag: Behind the Scenes of the Student Conduct Board

This week's brown bag, Behind the Scenes of the Student Conduct Board, will be facilitated by Professor Meika Loe, and will attempt to give students a better idea of what happens at the Student Conduct Board.  Professor Margaret Darby, Dean Kim Taylor, and students Janna Minehart ('13) and Evan Chartier ('14) will be panelists with experience on the conduct board.

The panel will run through hypothetical cases, such as a DUI, plagiarism, and sexual assault, to describe how things play out with each case, including deliberations and sanctioning.  After this, the panel will answer broader questions and cover gaps regarding what was left unsaid through the demonstrations. As always, there will be plenty of time for questions!

Come check out this brown bag to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of the Student Conduct Board and get your questions answered.  As per usual, we will be in the Center for Women's Studies (Basement of East Hall) on Tuesday at 11:30 am with FREE FOOD!

Breanna Pendleton

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BB 11/22/11 Introduction: Women in Education Forum

This week’s brown bag features the students of EDUC 312: Women and Education, taught by Barbara Regenspan.  The catalogue says that the course is “an examination of the structure, content, and expression of school curriculum to reveal ways that gender identity is formed as a moment in the general process of the reproduction of cultural consciousness. This course is of particular interest to those interested in the ways in which questions of gender should inform classroom practices and institutional structures.  The students will be demonstrating what they’ve been doing this semester, including participating in speak-outs and recording women’s memoirs.  A particular focus will be placed on these memoirs-- how they were collected, successes and failures, what was found in these memoirs, and perhaps even some excerpts.
                Student presentations tend to be very interesting to witness, and I’m always excited to hear what other students are doing.  The brown bag will take place, as always, Tuesday at 11:30am in the Center for Women’s Studies, and there will of course be food provided.  Come check it out!

BB 11/15/11 Response: The Lives of Tajik Women and Their Contributions to Folk Art

                It is not often that we in Women’s Studies get to talk about the peculiarities of a specific ethnic positionality of women, especially with an expert on the area, so Larisa Dodkhudoeva’s visit for Tuesday’s brown bag was a refreshing and intriguing look at the lives of Tajik women.  Speaking stereotypically, Americans are frightfully unaware of the world around them, so to hear of the lives of the women of Tajikistan was an interesting exposition of a relatively obscure part of the world.
                I was fortunate enough to have heard her speak in my POSC class a few days before, so it was nice to receive her insight in multiple contexts.  I was particularly interested in the realities facing Eastern Europe and Central Asia following the collapse of Communism, and the gendered aspects of this collapse.  Unfortunately, I don’t think she understood my question, but I wondered at how gender was a factor in the building of an independent Tajikistan.  Having studied the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war that ravaged the Balkans in the 1990s, I have often run across mass rape as an instrument of war in interethnic conflicts.  Rape has a long history as a tool of wartime oppression, but few areas saw such systematic usage as the former Yugoslav republics.  I wondered if the ethnic tension in Central Asia (caused by Soviet rezoning of the area across major ethnic centers) caused a struggle with a similar usage of rape as a weapon (which affects women much more prominently, although people of all sex/genders can and have been raped in wartime).
                Perhaps her inability to conceptualize my question provides my answer; perhaps gender was not so important in the building of Tajikistan.  These areas had never been independent before, so nationalism was probably not such a driving force as it was in Yugoslavia, where it was a major justification of the rape of the Other.  As far as other gendered political implications however, the rural nature and strong Islamic influence do not prove conducive to women’s voices in creating Tajikistan.  Nonetheless, the modernization of the region due to Soviet influence has provided women with artistic outlets, which can have political implications, and I wish she had touched more on the folk art aspects, which is clearly her expertise.  All in all I was overjoyed to experience Professor Dodkhudoeva’s presentation.
Xavia Publius

Friday, November 11, 2011

Has Feminism Died Out?

            My recent reading of Sharon Jayson’s article “As NOW marks 45 years, is feminism over the hill?” (Jayson 2011: 1) made me think about feminism in a new light.  I never felt weird saying that I was a feminist or a supporter of feminist causes.  However, I was not ignorant of the stigma attached to the word.  The article makes the opening statement: “For a movement so vocal when it began, feminism is largely under the radar of most younger Americans today, except maybe from gender studies classes or history books” (Jayson 2011:1). I think that this can be applied to Colgate University but I feel as though that is quickly changing here.  Personally, I see and hear about more and more people at Colgate University thinking and talking about feminist issues.  It goes without saying that the Women’s Studies Center has been a very popular place to be this year.  Everyone at the Center has thought of creative ways to make the Center a fun and comfortable place.  All of the Brown Bags and interactive opportunities help feminism seem more tangible in our lives.  Moving outside of the Colgate bubble, other students my age think: “…it’s a bit unattractive for a girl to be talking about things like that all the time…you get a little stigmatized, like ‘pushy’ or ‘problematic’ or ‘troublesome’ or ‘a lot to handle’” (Jayson 2011:1).  Well, I sometimes get called these things without talking about feminist issues, but I think that it is sad that anyone expressing their opinion would be stigmatized or chastised for doing so.  Another opinion in this article is that women in the past have won everything for us; therefore, we can do anything we want.  This is just an optimistic statement because there are still obstacles to overcome even in 2011.  There is still apparent gender inequality in our society and the world as a whole.  Overall, I think that we as a community can do more to make people proud to say feminism or feminist.  What do you think? Read the Article Here!!

                                                                                                       Natalie George

“Mothers, Daughters, and Sexualities” Brown Bag Reflection

Author of Your Daughter's Room: Insights for Raising Confident Women, Joyce McFadden stopped by for a brown bag this week along with her fifteen year old daughter, Olivia, in order to discuss expanding honesty within mother/daughter relationships.

To start, McFadden talked about her study, which was conducted online. She read from a survey that was submitted by a Colgate graduate that dealt with feelings and practices surrounding masturbation. While the surveyer was very positive about masturbation, they admitted feeling a sudden guilt for it but could not explain the origin of that response. McFadden found that many woman-identified individuals were uncomfortable with their sexuality and that these women had not received positive attitudes surrounding sexuality from their parents.

From here, there were many different facets to discuss - from the disappearance of fathers in their daughters lives once they hit puberty to how mothers pass down their shame about their own sexuality to their daughters when they refuse to discuss it openly. The audience engaged in dialogue about how their own parents had or had not addressed sexuality in their lives, and how this affected their relationships today. 

Olivia, although a bit shy or distracted when addressed with a question, was very honest about the relationship between her and her mother, saying that talk about sexuality or the body was simply a normal part of the household. She said something along the lines of not knowing any other way to be raised so it was difficult to say whether discussion about sex had made their relationship closer. But, given the examples that McFadden uses in her book, there seems to be a knowledge that any question asked (and in whatever context) will be answered honestly.

It is this kind of freedom that McFadden advocates in her book and believes can be enacted in any child/parent relationship.

By Che J. Hatter

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Politicians, Sex Scandals, and Biology... Oh My!

Living in the Colgate bubble, I have found it difficult to keep up with the news and current events. Without a TV and no time to read a newspaper, I rely on The New York Times application on my iPhone to send me updates on breaking news and headlines of the day. Recently, my phone has been buzzing frequently due to the recent sexual allegations involving the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party, Herman Cain. For those of you who also live in the bubble, over the past few weeks several women have come forward and accused Cain of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances. What fascinates me most about these recent events is their striking similarity to the Anita Hill hearings about Clarence Thomas in 1991. This shows that very little (if anything) has changed with regards to sexual harassment in the workplace, especially among men in power. If one looks at the past year, sex scandals are becoming more common and even expected from men in power (Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger, Edwards, etc.). Why is this happening? What drives these men to believe that these actions are okay?
I was prompted to write this blog post in response to an article I recently read titled The Real Reason Men Cause More Sex Scandals Than Women by Michael E. Rice. Coming from a background of psychology, Rice proposes that these men act this way due to their biological makeup. He explains his theory by saying that we are a product of evolution and evolution’s goal is to reproduce. An individual’s goal in the game of evolution is to pass on their genes to future generations. Women are guaranteed to have their genes passed on (if they choose to have kids). Therefore, because women invest much more time and effort in the raising of a child, they are choosy when picking a mate. On the other hand, men are not guaranteed to have their genes passed on and their parental investment is not nearly as demanding. Thus, men tend not to be picking when choosing a mate, but rather in order to maximize the chances of their genes getting passed on, they try to have as many mates as possible.  This is a biological explanation as to why men prefer having more sexual partners than women. With this biological explanation in mind, Rice continues to explain why powerful men are especially more likely to pursue more sexual partners. Due to the fact that these men in power are seen as “catches” (financial security, power, etc.) they find themselves being pursued by more women than the average man. Driven by evolution, these men find it hard to turn down these opportunities. Thus, Rice argues that powerful men are expected to a certain degree to be sexually unconstrained.
I believe that this argument lets these men off the hook too easily. The idea that “boys will be boys” is not an excuse. While I do believe that genetics and biology do play a role in people’s actions, there are plenty of men in power who are not involved in sex scandals (as far as we know). Clearly there are also some environmental and social factors that come into play. Maybe these men are having more partners to assert their masculinity? Does the media/social life encourage men to push the limits on sexual advances? Rather than point the finger and say these men’s actions are simply due to genetics or due to social pressures, I think it is much more important to think about how these two factors work together. Like many problems, this one is rooted in many different places and thus in order to fully understand this phenomenon and ultimately change it, we need to analyze them all. 

-Michelle Van Veen

Introduction to 11/8 BB: Joyce McFadden

Today at 11:30am, the Center for Women's Studies will host Joyce McFadden, MSW and psychoanalyst, for a talk on "Mothers, Daughters, and Sexualities."  McFadden is the author of Your Daughter's Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women, which explores how mothers can support their daughters to be comfortable and aware of and with their sexualities.  Her research is based on the Women's Realities Study, in which 450 women between the ages of 18 and 105 responded to questions about relationships, motherhood, and mental health.  In the study, respondents' emphasized the importance of daughters' relationships with their mothers and how that influenced women's sexual well-being and confidence throughout their lives.  

She will be here to discuss her book and findings today, along with her daughter, and we are very excited to have her here.  We'll continue the conversations later this evening at 8pm in the Center for Women's Studies during an Our Bodies, Ourselves Consciousness Raising session in which we utilize our own experiences and Our Bodies, Ourselves as a guide.  We hope to see you at both of these fantastic events!

By: Kimmie Garner

Thursday, November 3, 2011

BB Reflection: Daily Double

This week I had the pleasure of going to both of this week's WMST brown bags. (SPOILER ALERT: They were both awesome.) The first one was on Tuesday and was a celebration of Dia de Los Muertos. Fun, fun fun all around! It was a wonderful afternoon where we contrasted the American idea of mourning the dead to the Mexican idea of celebrating life. We celebrated the lives of several incredible women all over the world who were significant and extraordinary in their own right. We heard the work of Caribbean poets and African activists heard the story of a Syracuse woman who's death was a landmark case in the persecution of hate crimes in the state of New York and the United States. After the presentations from interns (myself included), faculty and students, we ended the brown bag on a positive note with arts and crafts. There were rooms for skull and matchbox decorating, mask coloring and COOKIES! It was an overall great time and I'm glad I arranged my schedule so that I could attend.
I'm currently posting LIVE from today's brown bag: Same-Sex Marriage and the Limits of Equality. I was unable to go to Anne Pellegrini's lecture last night, but if it was anything like the current conversation I definitely missed out! Pellegrini is actually discussing a side of LGBTQ issues that people often do not consider. Many Americans see religion and sexuality as mutually exclusive ideas, but it seems like Anne Pellegrini and I disagree with that.
I think it is unfair that everyone should have to be governed by the religious ideals of one particular religion. I am a Christian, but I know that everyone is not. I am also an American who supports equality for all Americans regardless of their lifestyles or what they believe. I do not think that these 2 parts of my identity have to go to bat with one another.
Pellegrini also established that tolerance cannot be the moral language in the United States. This really struck a chord with me because it is something about which I feel very strongly. I agree with her point that the idea of tolerance is just a way to exacerbate oppression and domination of a majority group. The rhetoric of tolerance implies that there is one way that things are supposed to be and if something is different, it can exist only because it is allowed to by those doing things appropriately. I disagree with this mentality. I hope that one day (in a perfect world) other people can understand that there are ways for us to peacefully disagree with one another without stripping others of their humanity.

- Renyelle Jimenez

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The new/old consciousness rasing

I was recently passed along a link about a consciousness raising project called "A Feminist Tea Party" (link the the project is at the end of the post). It actually took me a while to wrap my head around the concept of this project that was started by Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe. Without reading their description of what the project is, I immediately thought, "what kind of tea party are they actually talking about? The 50s kind where women sit and talk about weather and health? Or the Tea Party?" The first tea party made more sense because tea parties are considered very feminine but the second made sense for its political implications.
Rueter and Stroebe joined the two very different interpretations of tea party and this is how they explained their project:
"We wed two conceptions of a tea party: (1) the tea party as historical referent and site of political debate (think: the Boston Tea Party or the Beck/Palin “Tea Party”) with (2) the tea party as a gendered and highly-stylized ritual (think: 4 o’clock tea). Provoked by the Tea Party protests, our project recasts the “tea party” as a playful, progressive, inquisitive and inclusive space."
While I have never seen/took part in this "feminist tea party," I'm very interested by what it might imply about feminism being more acceptable when it is toned down or "feminized." This consciousness raising encourages discourse in a setting that is less intimidating and even slightly humorous, but I wonder if it suggests that people don't feel comfortable talking about feminism or taking part in it if it does not hold some characteristic of femininity.
Sure, feminism doesn't always have to be serious and I would probably enjoy a good consciousness raising in a very different/gendered kind of setting, I am just a little worried that if in real life, people won't take part in consciousness raising if it isn't in a setting that was not feminine.
To learn more about the Feminist Tea Party

-by Catherine Yeh

Friday, October 28, 2011

MVP Brown Bag Reflection

This week’s brown bag was facilitated by members of Colgate’s chapter of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Bystander Program. This group of students, faculty, and staff concentrates on the ways that bystanders to instances or potential instances of sexual and physical violence can be fundamental in shifting the campus climate by intervening in these situations. By providing ways that people can step into and create enough pause in potentially dangerous situations, an environment where it is clear that sexual assault is not acceptable can be fostered. The focus on bystanders is intentional, and a way of saying that those who are outside of the situation but observe it happening still have an obligation to fulfill in insuring the safety of others. So, there were quite a few “what would you do?” scenarios presented during this brown bag and discussion started from the audience’s answers of how they would deal with a friend in a compromising situation or a stranger - would it be different if it was happening in your dorm? or in someone else’s dorm? what about a neutral space like The Jug? An overwhelming majority of the audience agreed that they would find a way to step in to rescue a friend, although there was a fear of creating awkwardness (what if your friend actually wants to engage in this activity?) and seeming condescending in that situation (who am I to tell someone to take a step back?). There was much conversation about what would give a bystander hesitation in those situations, but not much solution to be found on how to overcome that. I think it is already the case that people believe they should stand up in those situations . . . the problem is that they don’t. And talking about why they don’t act seems more like an opportunity for people to justify inaction rather than an opportunity to correct those hesitations. What do these preparations look like? Do you plan with your friends beforehand to come up with some kind of signal that says “get me out of this situation, please?”; do you rehearse how you might stumble into someone else’s conversation to make the situation less dangerous; do you role play situations so that it’s less awkward when the real thing comes along? Some of these suggestions might seem silly, but I think this is because a lot of students have the attitude that “this won’t happen to me” even though it does happen to a large portion of the campus population. This is why I think part of violence prevention is understanding how prevalent violence is on this campus and in other communities, because why prepare for a problem if you don’t believe it’s an actual issue?

The MVP group is still fairly new and looking for ways to impact the atmosphere on campus. But I left the session worrying about how to apply their logic outside of Colgate’s campus. Because, although it’s easy to get Colgate-centric about these conversations, sexual violence and domestic abuse is overly plentiful in the “real world,” and there didn’t seem to be much discussion of how to translate this bystander obligation outside of the Colgate bubble. Some audience members brought up instances of not knowing how to step in when observing spousal abuse or violence against children and how those instances where there are much more significant power dynamics at play effect the bystander’s power to intervene. Because these are instances of violence that need more than a moment of pause, they need immediate response and legal action as well. So, it seemed that the MVP model was only applicable to campus-specific instances of violence where it is still possible to build a “zero tolerance” community. That doesn’t make it irrelevant in the least; it is still important for people to be able to step in when a friend has obviously had a bit too much and might be getting him/her/hirself into a dangerous place. And because MVP is a group that is just beginning on Colgate’s campus and looking for ways to make its mission relevant to the campus community, it makes some sense that this brown bag discussion was very Colgate-focused. But preventing violence necessitates a wider scope, since it is such a widespread issue.

by Che J. Hatter