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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dia de los Muertos Brown Bag!

This week's Brown Bag is the most interactive one of the semester and should be a ton of fun.  As November 1st is "The Day of the Dead", this Brown Bag is titled "Dia de los Muertos: Remembering Beloved Women" and will help everyone to celebrate important women who have passed.  As Dia de los Muertos is more of a celebration of the lives of those who have passed instead of a mourning of their loss, this occasion will be cause to celebrate all the women in our lives and around the world who have inspired us.

The Brown Bag will start with a panel of 1 professor (Carmen Serrano, Spanish Professor) and 5 students (Renyelle Jimenez, Crystal Sawh, Xavia Publius, Christine LaBoy, and Michelle VanVeen) who will read poetry and talk about the women in the poems, or the women who wrote them. Then the Brown Bag will break from the traditional discussion - students will be able to go around the center making crafts, such as decorated matchboxes to add to the shrine, decorated skull cookies, bookmarks, and clay skulls.  There will also be tissue paper flowers to make and to add to the shrine, as well as candy to eat! 

This is one exciting Brown Bag that you won't want to miss! As always, it will be in the Center for Women's Studies (Basement of East Hall) at 11:30am and there will be FREE lunch. I hope all can attend!

-Breanna Pendleton

Sunday, October 23, 2011

BB Introduction 10/25: Mentors in Violence Prevention Bystander Program

Tuesday's Brown Bag is a student panel presentation facilitated by Dean Brown and Mark Thompson talking about the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Bystander Program.  The MVP model was conceived at Northwestern University in 1993.  From the website:

The [MVP] Model is a gender violence, bullying, and school violence prevention approach that encourages young men and women from all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to take on leadership roles in their schools and communities. The training is focused on an innovative "bystander" model that empowers each student to take an active role in promoting a positive school climate. The heart of the training consists of role-plays intended to allow students to construct and practice viable options in response to incidents of harassment, abuse, or violence before, during, or after the fact. Students learn that there is not simply "one way" to confront violence, but that each individual can learn valuable skills to build their personal resolve and to act when faced with difficult or threatening life situations.
With all the hubbub going on around campus surrounding bias-related incidents, this certainly promises to be a relavent and insightful brown bag.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Support for Move to Broaden Defintion of Rape

I am not sure if any of you have seen the recent movement to broaden the definition of rape.  Many police officials and women's organizations have pressured the FBI to change the antiquated definition by which officers classify rape and sexual offenses.  The current definition is 80 years old and states that rape is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”.  This definition does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal, oral, or penetration with an object as well as those who are drugged, under the influence, and men who get raped.  For example, the New York Police Department reported 1,369 rapes but only 1,036 fit this narrow definition of the F.B.I's annual Uniform Crime Report.  As of right now, the government has decided to broaden the definition to include anal, oral, and rape of male victims.  The decision still has to go through a full advisory board that meets in December.  Everything looks promising at this point.  It is a step in the right direction and will help past and future victims. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

BB Introduction: A Change of Heart

Holly Near, born in 1946 in California, started singing publicly at the age of eight. She has appeared on stage, on television and on film. Near decided on a career in the music industry in order to connect with audiences about the social conditions of the world. She chose to do this by starting her own independent record label, a very unusual career move for artists at the time especially women. She used this label as a medium through which to produce and promote politically conscious music and artists. She is considered to be one of the founders of the "women's music" movement. With her years of music and social activism behind her, I'm sure tomorrow's Brown Bag will be informative and inspiring.

Renyelle Jimenez

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wanted: Gender Outlaw for Crimes Against Attribution

                In honour of coming out week, and in continuation of my story, which I shared at the coming out brown bag, I wanted to talk about the opposing force that necessitates coming out: attribution.

                When you first see a person, you automatically take in their attributes and compare them against your framework for identifying people.  This is natural, stemming from the nature of our conceptual faculty.  From there, you draw conclusions about a person based on how you’ve experienced these categories.  You interact with the new person on the basis of these conclusions.  This is problematic to the extent that these conclusions are false for the new person.  This is the epistemic basis of racism, sexism, etc.

                The problem of being transgender/transsexual is not even that people draw false conclusions; it’s deeper.  It is that people don’t even conceptualize me properly, and when it comes to people, if the premises are false, the conclusions are necessarily false.  I can’t clear my face every day, because it irritates my skin, so I will often go through my day with facial hair, which outs me as male bodied.  Because I’m male bodied, it is assumed that I’m a man, and since I’m attracted to men, I’m a gay male.  This is my gender attribution.  For most people, gender attribution and gender identity match.  Mine doesn’t.

                Because I’m attributed as a “guy”, I therefore have to come out as—well, what?  I’m not a woman either.  And these are the only two categories most people recognize.  My project is even harder than just passing as a woman; I have to revolutionize the very conceptual framework that says there are only two ways to present your gender.  I have to come out as a gender outlaw every time I carry a purse when I haven’t cleared my face.  Every time I wear a skirt and sing tenor; every time I talk about my past as a gay male; every time I talk about the straight boys I’m crushing on,  I fight against every tide of attribution that says I shouldn’t exist.

                And so here I am, out and proud: a gender outlaw.  Catch me if you can.

Xavia Publius

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Coming Out Brown Bag Response 10/4

What does it mean to “come out”? As one of the panelists of Tuesday’s “Coming Out Stories” Brown Bag asked, what do people come out of? After “coming out”, do people then come in to something? In our culture, coming out typically means letting people know one’s sexual orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or queer. But this begs the question: why don’t heterosexuals come out? I don’t know about you, but I never had to endure the terrifying and potentially life-altering moment of letting my parents know that I was heterosexual. It was just assumed that I was heterosexual unless proven otherwise. This demonstrates how a simple phrase, “coming out,” is a part of our language that supports the heteronormative assumptions of our society. One thing I think it is important to understand how language can be used as a tool to oppress groups and silence the voices of many because of the lack of dialogue. Our language supports categories of people (whether appropriate or not) and doesn’t leave much room for those who don’t belong in those strict classifications.
However, this panel gave voices to several queer students, a staff member, and a professor. They demonstrated that although they don’t fit into specific culturally constructed categories, their stories and lives matter. Specifically, there was a girl whose story was particularly interesting because it is a story we don’t hear very often. She is a self identified straight(ish) girl who is dating a transsexual. She talked about how people didn’t understand her decision and automatically identified her as “bisexual.” However, she did a lot of research and reading and came to the conclusion that she was straight and that her relationship was difficult (even impossible) to explain. This highlights how the binary and restrictive categories surrounding sexual identity and preference isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t belong into any category but our language doesn’t recognize this. Although gender-neutral pronouns are slowly integrating themselves into our language (ze & zir), there is still a lot of work to be done (given Microsoft Word doesn’t even recognize these gender-neutral pronouns or the word heteronormative) to make our language more inclusive and less oppressive.

-Michelle Van Veen

Monday, October 3, 2011

Did Gender Equality Kill the Love Story?

First, if anyone hasn't read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, go read it. It's a fantastic novel about 70 years of family history that stems from Greece to Detroit and a hermaphrodite who was raised as a girl but becomes a man. The book won a Pulitzer in 2003.
Jeffrey Eugenides has a new novel coming out in a about a week that I'm really excited to get my hands on called The Marriage Plot. Since the book hasn't actually come out yet, I'm writing this based on all the reviews I've read but there was one particular review by the Wall Street Journal that really got me thinking. The title of the review was a question that was so interesting and so good that I just had to replicate it as this blog title: Did Gender Equality Kill the Love Story?
The Marriage Plot is about Madeleine, young woman at Brown who is writing about how gender equality has taken away the most important and common plot device in literature. Ironically, Madeleine is herself in a love triangle between two men: a brilliant but depressed biology major and a longtime friend. While I cannot speak to how the book is though from all the reviews I have read, it seems to be a great read, the question of gender equality killing the love story really fascinates me.
When I think of all the books or stories that involve love, marriage, or relationships (which is probably a good portion of books ever written), the status of the female character is very defined and a bulk of the story is often about who the characters are going to end up with. Take the classic chick lits like Jane Austen novels, most of her heroines are trying to marry up or marry someone they didn't think they could marry. A high school English teacher once told me that if I ever wanted to learn about why people got married, I had to read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Jane Austen and Anna Karenina are both mentioned in the review and interview. On the flip side, when I think of the novels I have read that do not involve the marriage plot, I can see that the idea of gender equality or feminism gets mentioned or played around with, Middlesex is perhaps a good example. And at Colgate, we all read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.
Perhaps an extension of the question of gender equality killing the love story is why is gender difference integral to a love story? And that brings me to an idea of everyday relationships, is it more difficult for stronger women or feminist women to have relationships?
To read the full book review and interview with Jeffrey Eugenides:

by Catherine Yeh

This Week’s Brown Bag: Coming Out Panel

In case you are unaware, it is Coming Out Week on campus. There are several events happening on campus surrounding this theme. In the spirit of that, our Tuesday brown bag will feature a panel of students, faculty, and staff who will discuss their own coming out stories as LGBTQ-identified or as allies to the queer community. Not sure what coming out is? Wikipedia - a well-known and well-trusted source - tells us that coming out (of the closet) is the disclosure of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. The purpose of Coming Out Week is to encourage individuals to be open about their identities, and also an attempt to create a safe environment for people to come out in. 

Also, this week marks the beginning of our brown bag bake sale in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. During all the October brown bags, we will sale an assortment of baked goods ranging from $0.50-$1.00. All profits will go to SHARE.

by Che J. Hatter