Tuesday, February 28, 2012

BB: Inclusiveness At Colgate

Today’s Brown Bag (2/28/12) was mainly focused on the issue of inclusivity on campus. The beginning of the Brown Bag was comprised of a panel discussion among several Colgate students who discussed their personal opinions about integration on campus. There were two football players who felt their athletic career was very diverse, whereas the others on the panel felt Colgate still needed some work in terms of integration. The second half of the Brown Bag was opened up to the audience about ideas of ways to make Colgate a more inclusive community. Here are some ideas people on the panel and in the audience felt would help integration on campus:
  • Housing
    • More Open Social Space on Broad Street  (Parties open to anyone)
    • Make off campus housing an easier option for upperclassmen (eliminate Greek life monopoly on parties)
    • Create themed houses surround a common interest (not just a racial difference)
      • Not just preexisting friends finding an interest
    • Make freshman rooming more diverse

  • Social Events
    • Have more events on the Quad/Whitnall that are inclusive
      • Future Brown Bag?
    • Donovan’s Pub is a good step in the right direction for casual drinking
    • More integrated nightlife options
    • Alana “mixers” with other groups on campus
    • Students running events as students (not only established groups/clubs)

  • Link Groups
    • Make link groups diverse
    • Force link groups to step out of comfort zone and attend different events
    • Mentoring: Mixing Class years together

  • OUS
    • Get the truth about OUS out there 

  • Classes
    • WMST/ALST course requirements
      • These classes are often the most diverse
      • Open dialogue within the safety of the classroom
    • Create a community within Majors/Minors

  • Getting People to step out of comfort zones (Social, Academic Events, Housing)
    • Break down stereotypes
    • Recognizing marginalization among all people

  • Changing the racial discourse on Campus
    • Right now it is very binary (black/white)

  • Student Groups’ Coexistence
    • Not based on a particular identity
    • Creating bridges between groups not solely based on interests
-Michelle Van Veen 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tomorrow's Brown Bag - February 28, 2012

Are you a multi-faceted individual with multiple layers to your identity? I bet you are! If so, it's only right that you come on over to the Center for Women's Studies tomorrow afternoon for our last February brown bag of the spring semester! Tomorrow's topic will include a panel organized by BaRack Little, of the class of 2012, and is aptly titled "Uniting Across Differences: Understanding and Respecting Intersectional Identities." Per usual, a delicious lunch will be served with our compliments at 11am. Join us!

-Renyelle Jimenez

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Personal Look into Women's Experiences Crossing the U.S.-Mexico Border

This week's Tuesday Brown Bag, entitled "Women's Stories From and Beyond the U.S.-Mexican Frontera", consisted of a panel of two students (Jessica Aquino '14 and Manuel Heredia-Santoyo '14) and our administrative assistant, Kimmie Garner.  The nearly 100 students, staff, and faculty attendants crowded into the Center were lucky enough to hear personal stories of Kimmie’s experiences working at a birth center in El Paso, Texas, and of Jess’ and Manuel’s moms crossing the border within the last 25 years. 

Kimmie started the discussion by telling of her experience at a midwifery school, training to be a doula, in El Paso, a city in Texas right along the Mexican border.  She talked about how many Mexican women crossed the border to attend the birth center for prenatal appointments, birth, and postnatal appointments.  This center gave the women a chance to have a safe, calming birthing area for less money than the expensive hospitals in Mexico.  She spoke a lot about how she felt privileged at this center as she could speak both English and Spanish and clearly had the positive privilege of being a white, American young woman.  This was hard for her because she was there to ultimately learn and help the Mexican mothers. 

Kimmie’s story sparked an informal interview of both Jessica and Manuel, both of whose mothers crossed the border into California in order to give their children the opportunity of growing up and being educated in the U.S.  Both Jess and Manuel are first generation college students and discussed how their mothers gave a great sacrifice to raise them in the U.S. to give them a better life.  After they told their stories, students and faculty asked many questions of the two panelists about how they deal with having two cultural identities and how they try to stay emotionally close to their mothers.

The Brown Bag was a very personal one and I am very appreciative, as I’m sure is most of the audience, of the panelist’s honesty and willingness to share their thoughts and feelings.  I learned a lot, and I thank all three panelists for their stories.  

-Breanna Pendleton '12

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tomorrow's brown bag is about: Transnational Women's Issues

Join us in the Center for Women's Studies, tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21 at 11:30am for our next Brown Bag: "Women's Stories From and Beyond the U.S. - Mexico Frontera!! Our three panelists are Jessica Aquino '14, Manuel Heredia-Santoyo '14, and Kimmie Garner, our WMST program assistant!  They will discuss Latina women's experiences crossing the United States - Mexico border.  This brown bag is co-sponsored with ALST and as always will have delicious, free lunch.  All our welcome for our panel and discussion time!!

-Breanna Pendleton

Domestic Violence > Any Other Crime Ever?

The 54th annual Grammy Awards were held 2 weeks ago and, per usual, the evening's wardrobes, awards and performances were front page news for several says after the event. This news coverage was helpful to me since I didn't get a chance to catch them while they were airing live. There was one story I read that struck a chord with me: Chris Brown threw a tantrum on twitter. He won a Grammy for Best R&B Album for F.A.M.E and was, understandably, excited. Many critics of Chris Brown were livid and responded with reference to his infamous domestic violence case with Rihanna from 3 years ago. Chris Brown (the way any professional adult would) took to twitter to voice his opinions. His tweets, before they were deleted, said the following: 

"strange how we pick and choose who to hate!Let me ask u this.Our society is full of rappers(which I listen to)who have sold drugs (poisoning)

But yet we glorify and imitate everything they do. Then right before the worlds eyes a man shows how he can make a Big mistake 

andLearnt from it, but still has to deal with day to day hatred! You guys who to hate!!! But guess what???

HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY. Now! That’s the ultimate F**K OFF."

While obviously not the smartest of moves to make, he did raise a good point for discussion. We know that Chris Brown physically assaulted Rihanna. He faced his trial and was sentenced at the judge's discretion. There are many other celebrities who have been arrested and charged with crimes in the past who continued to have successful careers. Lil' Wayne and T.I. were both sentenced to prison and saw their careers continue to prosper. One could even argue that their careers did better while they were in jail. Why is it that we can forgive some things and not others? Why is it that no one ever talks about the time Lil' Wayne spent in jail when he wins an award? Why is T.I.'s criminal record never a cause for outrage when he makes an appearance? Why is it always "Chris Brown, the singer who was arrested for assaulting Rihanna in 2008," and never just Chris Brown? Is it secretly because Chris Brown's crime is gendered and drug charges are not?

For the record, there is nothing about Chris Brown's actions 3 years ago that I agree with or condone in any way. My feelings, however, have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Rihanna is a woman and Chris Brown is a man. I don't think that men should abuse women, but I also don't think that women should abuse men either. Violence is violence and it is unacceptable. Period. While I may see things this way, there are many other people who see physical violence against women in a different light. These people see women as inherently weaker than men and as people who need to be protected in a different way, like in the way we protect children from abusive parents. Women are not children. Women are adults who are capable of being assaulted are also capable of assaulting others. We cannot pick and choose which crimes for which we're going to forgive people for especially if our views of these crimes are inherently sexist. Men who are assaulted need to be treated with the same care and respect as women who are assaulted and women who assault others need to be punished in the same way as men who assault others. 

Bottom line: If you're going to hate Chris Brown, hate him because he's proven himself to be impulsive and violent towards another PERSON. Don't hate him because he hit a girl.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reclaiming Words Brown Bag - A Great Discussion

Our most recent Brown Bag, entitled “Reclaiming Words”, consisted of two panel leaders and three students who had previously taken some sort of writing and rhetoric class.  The panelists and leaders (who happen to be the two co-directors of this year’s production of The Vagina Monologues) spoke in the beginning about reclaiming words and how difficult it is to actually come up with a word to label something so deep, such as sexuality.  This led to the discussion of the recent “Slut Walk” that happened in Toronto, where women tried to reclaim and change the power structure behind the word slut.  Although this is an interesting idea, one of the panelists brought up the fact that reclaiming a word marginalizes certain communities that still feel the disrespect that a certain word, such as slut, brings when said.  Questions were brought up here, such as who holds the power behind a word?  Who is marginalized?  Are actual institutions changed after a word has been reclaimed, or is this change on an individual level?

All of these questions opened up the panelists’ discussion to the entire group, about 90 people, and we all thought about how reclaiming a word works.  As one of the assigned panelists, who could not be there had said, reclaiming a word means someone is saying “you cannot shame me with this word anymore”.  Reclaiming a word lets people choose the words they want to describe them and some of the meaning/power behind these words.  This idea of choosing what some words meant led to another question from one of the panelists: words are for communication.  If we start changing the words’ meanings, how will we continue to communicate?  Who can use the reclaimed word and how will people know what it means?

Even if we take a word to be reclaimed and therefore, no longer offensive, we do not have the magic to alter our words’ meanings.  If we say something that offends someone, no matter how we try to explain ourselves, the offense has still occurred.  Why not just eliminate a hurtful word or choose a new one?  Either way you look at it, the changing of words that mean certain things take time.  The entire English-speaking community cannot hear of a word’s new meaning overnight.  Like everything, reclaiming takes time.  But this does not mean that reclaiming words, or at least discussing the reclamation of a word is a waste of time.  We may not have answered all our questions, but the Brown Bag led to a great discussion, and I have continued to think about what this all means since yesterday afternoon.  Maybe, with enough discourse, we can find a solution.

-Breanna Pendleton '12   

Monday, February 13, 2012

BB Introduction: Reclaiming Words

This Valentine's Day at 11:30am, the Center for WMST will be hosting a discussion on the meaning and impact of word reclamation. Panelists and former writing and rhetoric students Cal Crawford '12, Casey Hampsey '13, Kerry McGrath '12, and Macy Warren '14 will discuss what we mean by "reclaiming" words, why it's important to do so, and who it benefits, moderated by Christina Liu '13 and Dena Robinson '12. Words are one of our most essential tools of communication. But depending on how we use them, they can be either tools of liberation of weapons of marginalization.

This topic is of particular pertinence especially because the Vagina Monologues - performed and directed by Colgate students - will be taking place this Thursday and Friday @ 7pm in the Palace Theater. Come support us and celebrate vaginas!

- Christina Liu

Thursday, February 9, 2012

History in the Making: Leeander Alexander, the First Graduate with a LGBTQ Minor!

Today we celebrated history in the making as Leeander Alexander presented his Sociology Thesis and LGBTQ Capstone Research. The focus of his research was looking at Black LGBTQ students across gender identities, specifically at Colgate. He wanted to understand whether African American/Black LGBTQ students at Colgate felt excluded from the LGBTQ community, or any other social community on campus due to their race. 

The presentation started with some background as to why it is important to understand the intersectionality of different forms of oppression attributed to social identities. Historically and presently, LGBTQ movements exist within a white racial framework which thus excludes people of color who identify as LGBTQ. Leeander found this exclusivity in a specific group on campus as well. According to the people he interviewed for his research, one common sentiment was that the “Queers for Queers” group felt particularly exclusive due to the fact that the white identity was the dominant paradigm. The Black LGBTQ students felt like the group discussions lacked an intersectional framework which made them feel ignored and uncomfortable. 

However, on a more positive note, Leeander found that there are spaces and communities on campus that African American/Black LGBTQ students felt they could freely express themselves and discuss these important intersectional aspects of their lives. The first, and most surprising to Leeander, is the African American/Black community. Historically, there is a huge stigmatization of black homosexuality in the Black community which Leeander connected back to slavery. However, Leeander explained the acceptance of the Black LGBTQ within the African American/Black community at Colgate due to the shared experience of marginalization. It is no secret that Colgate is predominately white, and therefore students of color, whether LBGTQ or not, have a shared identity and understanding of what it feels like to be marginalized. Thus, Black LGBTQ students have found solidarity among other Black students on campus. 

Other groups on campus have also provided an inclusive space for African American/Black LGBTQ students. These groups include The Union, Winning Women, Rainbows, The Women’s Studies Center (!), and The Harlem Renaissance Center. What makes these groups and spaces unique is the fact that Black LGBTQ students felt comfortable to express themselves as well as they foster an environment which discussion about LGBTQ issues, race, and other forms of oppression and stigmatization can be facilitated. 

Although it is great that there are spaces on campus for discussions about the relationship between LGBTQ identity and race, Leeander ended with the message that there is still more progress to be done. He would love to see a physical LGBTQ resource center on campus that would provide a safe environment to discuss the complexity of LGBTQ identities. He also encouraged future research to assess how social class other forms of social oppression play into the lives of LGBTQ students on campus. Overall it was an insightful and informative presentation.

Great Job, Leeander! We are all so proud of your accomplishments. 

-Michelle Van Veen

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

BB Response: Non-Binary Genders and Trans* Rights

I love talking, and I especially love talking about myself, and I very much especially love talking about my gender and sexuality and the interesting ways my life intersects with the dominant culture.  Today's brown bag gave me and four other people who lie outside the gender binary-- "gender outlaws" if you will-- the chance to educate the Colgate community about who we are and why.  Unfortunately trans** issues are as diverse as the identities that term subsumes, so trying to get through everything in one hour is literally impossible.  So, I'm going to take this opportunity to throw some more information about trans* issues into the atmosphere.

Let's talk about sex.  The fun kind.

We all touched a bit on being read as male or female, and what that can mean in different situations, and some of us made reference to sexuality, but we didn't get to talk in depth about navigating sexual relations as trans* people.  I can't speak for anyone but myself, so I'll just talk about what it's like to be me and how I do.  I don't identify as homosexual or heterosexual (or bisexual, but for different reasons); I identify as androsexual.  The difference is that homosexuality and heterosexuality imply the sex of the object in relation to the sex of the subject.  That is, a woman who likes women or a man who likes men is homosexual, and a man who likes women or a woman who likes men is heterosexual.  But what if you're not a woman or a man?  As such, I define my sexuality only by the sex of my chosen object: men ("andros" is a Greek root meaning "man").  I also identify as pansexual, but that's a story for another day.  I identify as transsexual MTF, and as feminine, so for shorthand, you could say that I'm a straight woman.  It's oversimplifying my identity, but when it comes to dealing with guys who don't necessarily know the first thing about gender theory, it's helpful.  So how do I navigate a relationship with a guy in a climate that tries to destroy any hint of homosexuality in straight men?  Very very carefully.

Have you seen the "Shit white girls say" or "Shit black girls say" or "Shit white girls say to black girls" videos?  If I had to make one for "Shit straight guys say to transgirls", the number one phrase I'd put in there is "sorry, I'm straight", or my favourite phrasing, "sorry, I'm attracted to women".  ......really?  As Sojourner Truth would say, "Ain't I a woman?"  The amount of guys I was interested in who have said that to me is too large for me to care to remember.  In all but one case, my response to "sorry, I'm straight" has been, "me too." and I stopped talking to him.  The problem is that when guys actually know me, they know all of me, including the fact that I was born male.  Which means for straight guys, I'm off-limits no matter what.  My only shot at finding a guy who will like me back is one who doesn't know who I am.

Which is one of the few ways the hook-up culture on campus could be seen as positive, because it gives me the chance to be desired, to be read as a woman and sexually valued by men.  It sounds more than a touch anti-feminist, but at this point, I'll take what I can get.  Once, I was at the Jug (as we do), and I started hooking up with this guy on the dance floor, and it was fantastic.  Long story short (and sorry if this is TMI...oops!) he started trying to finger me, but obviously he wasn't going to find what he was trying to finger, and I'm sitting there wondering "how long is it going to take him to figure it out, and what will he do when he does?"  luckily, we got spotlighted and had to stop, so I didn't have to deal with that awkward situation, but from what I've heard when he was told the next day about what happened he was cool about it. 

The point is there is a fundamental ignorance about how to make love to a transwoman.  Because we equate sex and gender-- and say that all women are female and all men are male-- when a guy finds a transwoman he's interested in, if he gets to the point of having sexual relations with her, it might be really difficult for him to know what to do sexually with her, which completely destroys the masculine imperative to be more sexually experienced than his mate.  This is why we need to revolutionize sexuality in general; because this is but one symptom of a culture where we don't know to ask for what we want in bed.  And if we don't ask, we sure as hell won't get it.

Xavia Publius

* the signifier "trans*" will be used in this article as an umbrella term for all non-cisgender or non-cissexual persons

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Brown Bag Introduction: Non-binary Gender Identities and Trans* Rights

On Tuesday, February 7th, the Center for Women's Studies will be hosting a panel of faculty, staff and students who don't see gender as a binary, but rather as a spectrum. The panel will discuss how national policies and laws affect transgender healthcare rights and access to opportunities that many in this country take for granted. This brown bag is also a time to hear individual stories and learn more about people in your life who self-identify as transgender. Come to ask questions or come just to listen. As always, lunch will be provided.

The panel will be comprised of Jamie Bergeron (Assistant Director of LGBTQ Initiatives and CLSI), Andrea Finley '13, Caden Polk '12, Xavia Publius '13, and Kristy Watkins (Visiting Assistant Professor in Sociology)

-Michelle Van Veen

Friday, February 3, 2012

Are Ultrasounds Really Necessary Prior to an Abortion?

A recent article in the Washington Post reveals that the Virginia Senate passed a bill that would require women who wish to undergo an abortion to have an ultrasound and receive a picture of the fetus.  The majority of Virginia’s representatives were once more liberal, but now that there are more conservative representatives, they are trying to redefine abortion laws.  They justify this requirement as a health precaution to make sure that women understand what they are doing.  However, I feel that when a woman comes into a clinic with the intention of getting an abortion, one should believe that she has made the best choice for her life and body.  If she is required to get an ultrasound prior to the procedure, this might make the woman, who was confident with her decision in the beginning, rethink and doubt the entire procedure.  These lawmakers' actions denote that they want women to have an emotional breakdown from seeing the image of the fetus and then decide not to go through with the abortion.  It is insulting to think that Virginian representatives would stoop this low in order to impose their own beliefs on women.  The shocking requirements do not end there.  The bill also requires that women who live 100 miles away from their provider wait 24 hours to get an abortion. Those who live further will have to wait at least two days! The purpose of this bill is clearly not to make abortions safer, but to help deter women from getting them.  In a country where we constantly preach freedom, this bill will infringe on women's rights to make decisions for ourselves and our bodies. 

                                                                                                                                                     Natalie George