Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Response to

(This is an article written by Christina Liu which will be posted in the final Maroon News of the semester)

Last semester on October 27 hours after the opening of my show This Is Not A Play About Sex, I received an anonymous email from a self-proclaimed “anonymous douchebag fratboy” using a “throwaway email address” who shared with me some of his thoughts on the hook-up culture at Colgate. He refers particularly to the monologue “Pleasure Party” where a female character who spent her Colgate career negotiating body issues, self-esteem problems, and the imbalance in what she perceives as a male-dominated hook-up scene wonders aloud why it is that women  have to expect to be treated like shit by men on this campus. Here are some of fratstar69’s thoughts on the matter, and here is my long overdue response:

Dear Christina Liu,

Great job on the play…I'd like to offer my perspective as one of those 'douchebag fratboys' that [the monologue] is referring to.
…It seems that every girl complains about guys not 'wanting' to commit, but what it comes down to is - if we show signs that we want to commit, you'll lose interest in us… I used to be that guy my freshmen year. The girls that I were interested in, I treated them with respect. When they were blackout, lost, and confused, I walked down the hill to find them, bring them safely back up to their dorm, get them water and food, and made sure they passed out in their bed without taking advantage of their state of mind - even when they asked me to.  I never got anywhere with those girls.  I didn't realize until joining a fraternity that that was not what girls were actually attracted to…

It really sucks having to pretend to be someone who I'm not to get attention from women that I'm attracted to.  I'm with an amazing girl right now… But to get to this point, I had to be an asshole to her, play with her emotions, and destroy her self-esteem from time to time. It feels terrible having to hurt someone you truly like and care about, hook up with her friends who I did not want to hook up with at all, blow her off to make her wonder what I was up to, just so that she wouldn't write me off as just a friend. I really wish that I could have just asked her out on a date and be upfront with her, but if I did so, we wouldn't be together right now.

Sorry to everyone that I've been a jerk to. Sorry to everyone that I've kept wondering if I'd call back or not, if I'm interested or not.  I hope you'll understand my perspective and why I do these things. I don't know if my actions are justified or not, but the truth is, it does bring results.  I think that most guys here at Colgate will attest to the fact that being a dick attracts more attention and interest than otherwise.

Anonymous Douchebag Fratboy

Dear Anonymous Douchebag Fratboy,
            First of all thank you for attending my play, and thank you for so openly sharing your frustrations, your perspective, and your apologies with me. I’d like to begin by saying that I understand why you feel forced to play the role of the asshole. You have aptly noticed that the hook-up culture is the result of a double narrative where both genders (if we can speak heteronormatively for the moment) play a role in perpetuating it. This being said, I think you missed a crucial point.
You target women as the culprit, women who denied you in the past when you were nice, genuine, and respectful; they were the ones who forced you to play the role. I am similarly dissatisfied with this culture and, like you, I believe it does not foster healthy relationships and instead encourages people to let themselves be treated with disrespect. However, if we are going to speak about feeling victimized by this culture let’s also talk about what different degrees of victimization look like. Yes it does suck having to actively manipulate and hurt someone else when that’s not what you want to do, but it sucks more to be on the receiving end of systemic blows to your self-esteem. Yes it does suck to miss out on an easy hook-up with “blackout, lost, and confused” women, but it sucks more to wake up after a night of being blackout, lost, and confused not remembering the consent you did or did not give and wondering if this uneasy feeling is the result of an assault. It sucks to have to make a habit of tearing down a woman’s self-esteem just to get a date, but it sucks more to have internalized so fully your low self-esteem and oppression that you need the attention of a man in order to feel validated again. I hope it is clear that what is missing from your interpretation is that this culture is not about assholes, it is about power.
             I can see in your email that you are a thoughtful individual at heart, but what I am most troubled by is the justification of what sounds like “I’m sorry I am being forced to hurt you”. It is a displacement of responsibility for your actions which at best results in wondering why a text has not been replied to and at worst results in the current culture of violence we live in where every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in America.
            You say you do the things you do because it attracts attention, that being nice doesn’t bring results but I’d like to ask, why should we be rewarded for treating other people with dignity? Why is human respect dispensable when it doesn’t help you get laid? And why is the focus directed towards getting any someone rather than getting the right someone?
You asked me in your email to think about the men in my life and which ones I have friendzoned and which ones I am attracted to. Here it is. The type of man I am attracted to is one who is strong enough to interrupt a culture he does not agree with, one who can keep me interested not by making me wonder whether he will text or not but by his character, his wit, his passions, his talents, and one who does not have to rely on the hook-up scene as his only means of interacting with me. Find me someone like that and I can assure you he will have my attention.

Christina Liu

(For further questions/comments:

Monday, April 22, 2013

“Supporting Survivors – Oneida’s Victims of Violence Program” Brown Bag in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On the 16th, the Center for Women’s Studies honored this awareness campaign with a Brown Bag focused on supporting survivors of domestic and sexual assault. Emily Khazaee, Volunteer Coordinator and Advocate at Victims of Violence in Oneida, NY, Joanne Smith, Community Educator and Advocate at Victims of Violence, and Val Brogan, Colgate University Campus Safety Investigator discussed statistical realities of violence in Madison County. One of the panelists bravely shared her story of experienced childhood physical and sexual abuse. Another panelist explained the services that Victims of Violence offers. Val Brogan explained how Campus Safety and Victims of Violence intersect and work together in order to assist students who have been sexually assaulted. Val lent the powerful message that all Colgate students should feel safe on our campus, and encouraged reporting sexual assault incidences because an attacker can compromise this safe environment for the victim.

The COVE also supported the April Awareness month by hosting a Brown Bag entitled, “SVU: A Day in the Life of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).” This panel consisted of two female medical staff from the Oneida Healthcare Center who explained to the group how evidence is collected for a rape case – whether or not the victim decides to press charges – in the form of interviews about what the patient experienced and feels, as well as samples coming from the physical body.

I was particularly moved by a story that one of the panelists shared that explained where her motivation for this work initially came from, and why she pushed her hospital to offer these specialized resources for rape victims. One day while working at her hospital, she noticed that a young woman had come into the waiting room. It was a particularly busy day, and the young woman waited and waited, and when she was finally called in to the doctor’s office, she said that she had woken up in a strange place and “just felt weird down there." Because she was unable to describe any concrete event of violence or tangible/visible symptoms, she was sent home without treatment. This story is just one example that demonstrates the extreme importance of sexual assault nurse examiners. SANEs, like the two panelists, play an enormously important role in acknowledging the victim’s struggle, affirming the victim’s dignity, understanding the nuances and seriousness of the sexual assault, and examining the patient in an informed way that will hopefully lead to answered questions for the victim.

Throughout this month, and afterwards, I challenge you to think critically about sexual assault on our campus…acknowledge that it happens, ask why it happens…and then act – shine a light on acquaintance and date rape, open your mind and heart to supporting friends and peers who are survivors, and stand up against practices and behaviors that encourage rape culture and an unequal social climate.

More food for thought:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Naked Truth About Homosexuality in the Caribbean

                Tuesday’s Brown Bag was titled “The Truth about Homosexuality in the Caribbean” and was co-sponsored by LGBTQ Initiatives. This talk was organized by Colgate’s Caribbean Student Association, a club aimed at spreading and celebrating awareness of Caribbean culture and history. The panel was led by Asabi, an international student from Trinidad & Tobago, Andrew, a student who grew up in Trinidad, and Aisha, a student of Jamaican heritage.  The panel touched on the stigma surrounding homosexuality and the degree to which traditional gender norms are entrenched in Caribbean societies.The issue of sexuality is not one that is talked much about in the Caribbean because of religion and politics. Oftentimes, religion is used as a means of rationalizing homophobic sentiments. One thing that I found particularly interesting to learn about is the use of anti-gay language in Jamaican and Soca music.
             Andrew discussed the small but visible LGBTQ movement in the Caribbean, the ripple effects of President Obama’s announcement of support of same-sex marriage, and the lack of resources available to gay youth. He also touched on the topic of the Trinidad pride festival being one of the few public spaces for performance where LGBTQ identified people can express themselves. I found it interesting tbut not surprising hat this is only acceptable because of the performance aspect. We then got an overview of discriminatory policies on homosexuality and laws in Jamaica and the first gay organization in the country.I think a key part of understand the history of discrimination in the Caribbean is understanding that the disparity between perception of gay men and women has its roots in slavery. Slave owners used the denial of masculinity as a means of control and after the era of formal slavery, former slaves built a culture on grounded in the development of masculinity as identity to retake the freedom that was once denied to them. I think this information really  illuminated the part of the reason behind the stigma on homosexuality. The panel was later joined via video by students from the Jamaica study group who  spoke about the experiences in and out of the classroom on the topic of homosexuality.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Susan A. Patton's Op-ed in the Daily Princetonian

On March 29, 2013, the Daily Princetonian published a letter to the editor from alumna Susan A. Patton urging women at Princeton to snag a Princeton man before graduation. If you haven’t yet heard about the letter, here is a bit of context: Patton had attended a Women and Leadership conference on campus featuring a conversation between President Shirley Tilghman and Wilson School professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of the much talked about article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” While these women focused on fundamental issues such as work/life balance and leadership, Patton preferred to focus on a much different issue in her letter. Patton’s letter to the Princetonian argues that women are no longer interested in career advice after having repeatedly been bombarded with it. Patton writes:

You girls glazed over at preliminary comments about our professional accomplishments and the importance of networking. Then the conversation shifted in tone and interest level when one of you asked how have Kendall and I sustained a friendship for 40 years. You asked if we were ever jealous of each other. You asked about the value of our friendship, about our husbands and children. Clearly, you don’t want any more career advice. At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.

After establishing a perceived need for relationship advice, Patton proceeds to argue that women, specifically Princeton women, must make finding a husband a priority while at school. She claims that Princeton women need men who are intellectually equal to them in order to foster a happy marriage. She writes, “For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.” Further, according to Patton, the earlier a Princeton woman finds a Princeton man, the better, since, she believes, the pool of available partners dwindles as time goes on.
            I could go on and on to recount the other numerous things Patton says in her letter, but, for the purposes of this blog, I think you can pretty much get the point. The letter has received a ton of media attention for the problematic nature of its content. Many argue that Patton is promoting the 1950’s idea of an MRS degree and others point out the problematic nature of Patton’s assumptions that women at Princeton necessarily want to get married, nonetheless get married to men. I agree with many of the critiques of the letter that highlight the issues with what Patton says. She does assume that all the women in the audience are heterosexual and that they necessarily want to get married, and I do see the issues that go along with that. She obviously promotes a traditionalist and heteronormative ideal that consistently pervades our culture; an ideal that I do think needs to change. I do, however, kind of get what she was trying to say.
            After receiving backlash for the article, Patton has gone on to defend her letter. She claims that what she meant by what she wrote was that intellectual compatibility is important in a relationship and that women should take advantage of their four years at school where they are completely surrounded by intellectually compatible mates.  While I do think she could have phrased this much differently (aka phrase it the way she did when she responded to the backlash), I do want to say that she does make somewhat of a valid point. I don’t necessarily think that anyone needs to rush into marriage, nor do I think that it should be a priority when you're between the ages of 18 and 22 (for the most part), but I do think that college is a time when people foster some of the most important relationships of their lives. In order to foster these relationships, however, we need intellectual compatibility. We, as college students pick our schools in order to surround ourselves with equally intelligent people for a reason. I know many of you can think of a time when you spoke to someone who wasn't "on your level" and how irritating that was. It's true. We need intellectual compatibility, but not just for marriage, we need it for friendships and every other type of human interaction. So, even though Patton pigeonholes this necessity for intellectual compatibility to just marriage, if we think about it on a broader level, she does in fact have a point. 
          Also, I would like to point out that Patton never mentions anything about women solely using college to find a husband, nor does she ever mention that women should stay at home after getting married. As a member of the women’s pioneering class at Princeton in 1973, I don’t think it is fair to say that she is an anti-feminist. Yes, maybe she didn’t go about it the best way, but I don’t think she necessarily said or meant what many have gone on to interpret from her letter. I feel as though many are ready to attack those who do not adhere to either, for lack of better terms, traditional or progressive ideals. What is happening with Patton actually reminds me of the backlash Sheryl Sandberg has received (which I could go on about as well). Yes, it is our job as feminists and as members of society to view our actions critically, but maybe sometimes we should be less quick to attack and more willing to listen.

-Ariel Rivera ‘13