This morning, as I processed the events of last night, I had a rather surprising (to me at least) epiphany. For those who aren't well-versed in my personal life (and sorry if you really don't care), perhaps some background is in order.
Last semester I went to the Jug alone and started hooking up with this guy, R. We were going at it on the dance floor for like an hour before we decided to go back to his place. When we got there, instead of hooking up he went to the bathroom to vom, so I just waited awkwardly in the living room with his roommates to make sure he was okay. Now, whether or not R could tell my identity at the time, we'll never know, but his roommates clearly could. It was hella tense, and when R came out of the bathroom and passed out on the couch, I took that as my cue to leave and booked it out of there. I heard later from a friend that he was blackout and didn't know what was going on, and that everyone in his toho refused to talk about it.
Last night, I went to the Jug with a friend of mine and we found a bunch of our gurlfraands and had a good time. Suddenly, these two guys come up to us, and one of them, A, introduces himself to me (which is precedent-breaking in itself for me at the Jug) and asks if I want to dance. We start dancing together, and then we're making out, when his friends come over. They're patting him on the back and making cat-calls, and I'm starting to feel a little like a slab of meat. One of A's friends, Red Plaid Boy, then gets in front of me and starts grinding with me on the other side. He stops and goes around to A and tries to pull him off of me, saying "that's a man..." I hear this and panic, grabbing my friend and fleeing from the Jug.
Now, at the time, I thought of it only from my perspective. I ran like hell because I didn't want to get beaten up, which a lifetime in rural Pennsylvania has taught me is a distinct possibility. I thought, what the fuck? Why was it any of RPB's business how I was born? And worse, I was upset because I didn't really have the chance to justify myself, or to educate them that, no I'm not a man. I wasn't born female, but that doesn't make me a man. And it made me very depressed, because it feels like everytime I get close to a guy, my gender identity gets in the way. As I transition and I'm able more and more to pass, it gets harder and harder to explain my identity, and the stakes get higher and higher.
And it occurred to me this morning that part of the problem was that I had stumbled into a realm of dubious consent. If we look at the Colgate Sexual Harassment Policy (apologies if I haven't quite precisely named it), there is a section that says that hooking up with someone without disclosing any STDs you have violates consent. I am NOT comparing transsexuality to an STD, but I am taking the spirit of that clause to mean what we call in the social sciences "informed consent". If your partner doesn't have all the possibly relevant information, ze may consent, but it's not very informed consent. There could be a piece of information withheld that had ze known it to be true, ze would not have consented. STDs are one example. And it occurred to me that perhaps my identity is another example. If R or A had known from the get-go that I was born male-bodied, would they have hooked up with me? To what extent do I conform to the popular conception of the entrapping Shemale? The gender outlaw in me thinks that that's bullshit, and that it shouldn't matter what's between my legs; if you're attracted to me, you're attracted to me, get over it. But, I have to recognize the fact that for some guys, that is a hang-up, and not giving them the chance to provide informed consent, or run away screaming, is not fair.
The hook-up culture is not designed for me, and it's certainly not designed for consent. As a senior (shudder), I think it's time I grew up and started looking for a guy that isn't only saying yes to what he sees, but who takes the time to get to know me and says, "yes, yes to ALL of this".
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Friday, September 21, 2012
Tuesday's brown bag focused on the experience of Latinas in higher education, featuring a panel of three students from LASO: Gabriella Cortes '13, Rose Quispe '13, and Charity Whyte '16. They discussed what it's like to be a first-generation college student, the stigma against higher education for Latina women and the cultural pressure to start a family instead, and the Dream Act. The brown bag also began with a video from a speech before the DNC given by a student who is here illegally dealing with her persuit of an education. It got me thinking about how the internal cultural pressure to go straight into the workforce or the home compounds with the place allotted Latina/os in the American economy, where these are the positions they are expected to obtain, and not higher education or its associated jobs. The American image of Latina/os seems to be exclusively presentations as "the help" or in hard labour, and the assumption that they are always already illegally here. There is no real cultural presentation of well-educated Latin American people, especially Latinas, and this can make it difficult for Latina women to break into academia as respected students and teachers. And if such a person is here illegally, it is assumed they have no right to pursue an education here. I can only imagine the toll this adversity takes on one's focus and participation in an educational context. I wonder however if this experience of incredibility as an educated subject is unique to Latina/os, though I recognize that the specific circumstances creating this stigma are unique. Nevertheless, I'm sure that other people of colour and similarly assumed classes have a shared experience of obstacles to feeling respected in education.
On September 17th, 2012, the Center was graced with the presence of Colgate alum, Teresa Delgado '88. She is now an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College. Teresa sat down to a nice lunch with interns, Kelsey, Che, Stephanie, Christina, and me. She told us all about her experiences being a Colgate student during this time. We spent a lot of time talking comparing Colgate’s environment in the past to today’s culture. A big topic was the fact that there was not much diversity in terms of people and even education. Imagine there being no Women’s Studies OR BROWN BAGS!!!?!? The horror!! But, in all seriousness, there were not many spaces where one could express what we so freely talk about everyday on campus. I think that this was one of the most shocking aspects and made me more grateful to be part of Colgate in this particular time period. There were also some sad points where not much has changed since the time she went here, such as sexual assaults, intolerance of women and some various groups. There are definitely improvements that need to be made in order for our campus to become a safer space. Teresa recommend that we keep voicing our opinions and make sure to firmly stand up for our beliefs because people will listen. There was also a story of hope and she said that a boy who threatened and tormented her later became an environmental activist, is Pro-Obama, and has passionate liberal beliefs. She was shocked because of all people, she did not think he would have had any of these beliefs. People can change and life takes us all on an interesting journey. This is why we must all never be afraid to be ourselves, express our opinions, and be open to new and exciting things. The Center and Colgate thanks Teresa again! We hope to see you soon.
The Brown Bag on 9/11/12 was about Colgate’s Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policies. The panel included Sheila Johnson-Willis, Lyn Rugg, Kim Taylor, and Jen Servedio. The brown bag was necessary because it allowed communication between the administration and students about bias, sexual assault, harassment, disabilities, and such. The conversation was fluid and people seemed comfortable and were more concerned about whether or not the school would take their complaints seriously. The panel did a great job in quelling the misconceptions and apprehensions people have toward filing complaints (which can be done anonymously). However, much of the topics discussed dealt with harassment. Professor Loe brought up an incident of harassment where a woman was encircled at the Jug by a group of men, who were chanting for her to expose her breasts. This led to a heated and humorous discussion about environments like the Jug that foster harassment and other practices. I think that people were able to express that they do feel uncomfortable at times on this campus and the panel was very receptive to these concerns. I think that we have come far from when I was a Firstyear; however, I think that there are resources that still need to be made available to Colgate students. I was shocked to hear that the Hamilton's hospital and Colgate's Health Center are not able to administer a rape kit test. A survivor of sexual assault would have to be bused to Syracuse. I think that if Colgate could work on getting more resources for survivors closer to home then this would maybe encourage more people to come forward. What do you think???
To read more about Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policies, Check out these links:
Even MORE Info!
Monday, September 10, 2012
On Tuesday, September 4th, Joan Mandle, Executive Director of Democracy Matters, and David Butler ’13 facilitated the Brown Bag about Women and Politics in 2012. David started off the discussion by reading off statistics about female representation in our government. One of the most prominent figures is that women are 51% of the population and yet only 17% of Congress is comprised of women. In a government designed to represent the people, the numbers clearly do not support this ideal. News flash: As feminists, we are not okay with this.
The conversation quickly turned into why there is a lack of female representation in our government. The most well known reasons are the glass-ceiling and what is expected of women/mothers in our society. Joan Mandle offered another explanation as to why women are seriously underrepresented in our government. Thus far in the presidential election, Barack Obama has raised $348,413,128 and Mitt Romney has raised $193,373,762 totaling around half a billion dollars. (If you like more information about the breakdown of the money I would recommend browsing opensecrets.org.) It is important to note that none of this money comes from federal funds, only private funding. Joan suggested that in this day and age, getting elected president isn’t based on the policies, but rather who can raise and spend the most amount of money. This leads us into why women are seriously underrepresented in government. Generally when women have children they either drop out of the workforce or take on a part time job thus decreasing their annual average income. In a political system where election is heavily influence by supporting a candidate financially, women have very little say compared to men. I’m not saying that women will automatically vote for any female candidate, but it is more difficult for women to support a developing female politician. Thus, as with any feminist issue, the lack of female representation in government is not one-dimensional. A variety of factors as the individual, social, and institutional level contribute to the serious gap in female representation.
Democracy Matters aims to “get private money out of politics and people back in.” Thus, Joan advocated that we, as students, really needed to register and vote for the upcoming election. Our voices do matter even if we are broke and have no financial contribution. However, if students become invested in politics, we can turn around politics and make it less about the money and more about the policy. So, long story short, REGISTER TO VOTE!
-Michelle Van Veen '14