Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection: Art from a Feminist Lens

            In all seriousness, I was one of those kids with massive art skills in Kindergarten. In fact, this past summer I visited my kindergarten teacher who happened to have some of my artwork that she’s been saving for the past 15 years or so. But somewhere along the way, art and creative expression was devalued and developing reading and writing skills was prioritized. I feel like I lost all of my creative and artistic skills as I grew older. Which is why it is great that people like Melissa Gamez and Jess Aquino have retained their artistic skills and that they shared some of their art with us during last Tuesday’s brown bag.
            One of the topics that came up during the Q&A was the fact that artists create works of art to depict something, whether a thought, emotion, or memory, yet they still have to explain their piece using words, which seems counterintuitive. A response to this question was that having some background to an art piece could deepen the meaning of the work. I’m not an art historian, but I find that knowing a bit about the artist’s life, social circumstances or thoughts helps me to appreciate and better understand their art.
            A common topic throughout the brown bag was the idea of looking at art through a feminist lens, although this may not have been the intention of the artist. I think that having a feminist perspective changes art and gives it a different meaning to the feminist viewer. What are some of your favorite art pieces? How do you view them? How would you view them through a feminist lens? Please feel free to share!
            These speakers have definitely inspired me to take an art class in the near future. I would love to develop my untapped artistic skills and create some feminist art. What could be better than feminist art?
            Sophia Wallace depicts her feminist art through her Cliteracy project in which she uses different forms of art to educate people about the clitoris. Many people do not know about female genitals and female pleasure, and Wallace visually demonstrates what we all should know. As Wallace portrays, art can be a form of activism, especially when viewed from a feminist lens. Click the link bellow to learn more about her project, and let me know what you think.

-Valerie Garcia ’15

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reflection on Lecture by Jackson Katz

On Monday the 28th of October, the Center for Women’s Studies hosted Jackson Katz, a well known anti-sexist activist,who gave a great lecture on men's involvement in sexual assault that I wish a lot more people could have attended. Katz talked about sexual violence against women and how up till today, sexual assault has been seen as a women’s issue which gives a lot of men an excuse not to care about or give sexual assault the attention it deserves. Not until men start to see that sexual violence is an issue that affects them too as the key perpetrators of sexual violence, only then will change occur. Katz went on to talk about how sexual violence is all about power dynamics and because this notion of being powerful tends to get to men’s minds, thoughtful dialogue between the sexes does not take place. Men should stand as allies for women and this dialogue should not be a battle of the sexes. It's a naive and problematic way of thinking and continually perpetrates sexual violence.
Katz went on to talk about how we have done a lot of awareness creation about sexual assault and it’s high time we moved on to action! This is the part I loved the most! There’s a tonne of information out there about sexual assault that many of us are aware of but the bigger question is, what are we doing about it? Blaming the victim? This does not get you anywhere. The question that should be asked is: Why is it that men are assaulting women? Why is rape such a prevalent problem? These are the kinds of questions we ought to be asking and not: What was the woman wearing? Was she sober or drunk? Was she giving off signs that she was interested? NO. That needs to stop. More men need to understand the meaning of consent. Only when she gives you that YES is when you should proceed with your actions but if not, let it go and perhaps try again next time. You never know what luck you just might have. This point can never be stressed enough.
Therefore, what role can you and I play in ending sexual assault here on our campus or even elsewhere in our other communities?
In college, change needs to happen at an institutional level. Yes, students may create awareness on the campus with clubs, activities and events but this usually attracts the same crowd, those that are interested in this kinda stuff. So, in order to attract groups of people that are either unaware or not so interested, such talks like Katz’ lecture and even workshops should be incorporated into the students’ curriculum. How can one graduate from a prestigious institution claiming to be learned but unaware of what feminism really is, and not the uninformed definition that it’s all about women bashing men. NO! Students ought to know better than that. Once these feminism classes have been incorporated into the students’ curriculum, then shall we see action being taken by more and more people.
At an individual level, in whatever social circles we belong to, we ought to stop those derogatory and demeaning stuff our friends say and respectfully call them out on that kind of language. They’ll then be more aware of what they say and eventually stop.
So, there you go-you can start with those few suggestions and together we shall create change within the community!

-Gloria Kebirungi '15

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are Women in the Senate "Good" ?

         If you haven't heard, the government shutdown ended October 16th, 2013 (day before the beginning of the debt ceiling fallout) thanks to... women! Hurray! But wait. The problem I have is the condescending nature of the language some men on the senate have taken to saying which is "Women in the senate is a good thing," which was stated by Senator Mark Pryor. I might add he said it in a tone that meant women in the senate is actually a good thing. There are two ways to think about the statement. One way is that there still really is an issue in government if they believed that women in the senate wasn't good thing or perhaps there presence made no difference. The other way is what does it matter that the people who came together across party lines to settle an agreement on the budget and debt ceiling debate were women. There seems to be an assumption that women are the only people capable of cooperation:"Klobuchar said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday that the friendships the Senate women have developed will help them work together to craft a long-term budget without the counterproductive barbs that some politicians throw at each other when they don't agree (Bassett)."  This type of thing suggests not only that men are incapable of exchanging ideas in a manner where they can compromise, but also that women are capable because they are assumed to be more gentle and not as aggressive. Women disagree all the time about many things. I argue that it is indeed coincidental that the solution came from women. The solution came from people who took the lives of suffering people and perhaps the potential political benefits they could gain into consideration to solve this issue. They stand to gain more politically on both sides of the aisle solving this issue than continuing this childishness they "firm leadership." So in other words, smart, considerate, and open minded individuals solved this issue. In my opinion, being a woman was not a factor.
          This language brings to light the lack of recognition women are getting in the United States senate today, which is quite similar to the student government at Colgate where not only are the women not recognized and their voices silenced, there also aren't very many women to begin with in comparison with the men in the SGA.
        The lack of women or lack of different gendered voices other than men is quite concerning. I am not asserting that there should be more women than men. Similar to the debate of the affordable care act presented issues for women's health, the lack of different voices( race and gender) in the SGA actually risks dividing the campus even more. Without the recognition of the successes of women and their ideas, not only do we miss valuable perspectives, you leave out the lives of almost half the university. However if we adhere to the second thought process of thinking about gender, I must correct myself by saying its not just women's ideas or "their" ideas. They are good ideas that just so happen to come from women. No matter the school of thought you choose, the "Government Gots' Issues."

What do you think of this issue?
I recommend you look at this article and the video attached here.

Bassett, Laura. "Men Got Us Into The Shutdown, Women Got Us Out." The Huffington Post. 16 Oct. 2013. 17 Oct. 2013 <>.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection: Coming Out Stories!

Coming is not limited to the moment you tell a friend, parent, or perhaps even stranger. It seems to be a journey of discovery, re-creation, and/or redefinition.  On Tuesday, C The Colgate Center for women's studies along with LGBTQ initiatives continued the tradition the Coming out stories brown bag. This year we had the opportunity to learn about the "coming out" journey's of James Vigilante, Chantel Melendez, and Rabbi Dena Bodian. Each one offered great and different perspectives on sexuality, labels, and language.
       James Vigilante told the story of how very young he knew he was " different" per se and was attracted to men (gender or phenotypical sex was not clarified). After a rumor in high school started about him participating in sexual activities with men spread, he became the subject of  ridicule. In order to cope and counteract these statements, tried to represent the society's image of masculinity by getting a girlfriend. Although he cared for very much, he knew the relationship could last. He "came out" during his college years when he  felt comfortable and found a very supportive and welcoming community and family in LAMDA and Colgate Dischords. James chose to identify as Gay.
       Chantel Melendez offered a pan-sexual perspective by explaining that her attraction to a person is not determined or based on sex or gender. She explained the difference between Bi-Sexual and Pan-Sexual by saying bi-sexual was attraction to men or women while pan-sexual identified person don't necessarily restrict  to only those two gender identifications. Pan-Sexuals can be attracted to many different genders in between as well. Chantel also brought up a good point by changing the language of "coming out" into "sexual debut" to  not negatively stigmatize the experience  and be inclusive.
          Rabbi Dena Bodian offered the audience a historical perspective by saying things were much different then it is now. Before, same sex couples could not own houses or property together, as well as not get married, or file taxes. Rabbi Dena elaborate don her experience being a lesbian identified Rabbit and how many times people would not let her participate int their church or speak on the basis or her sexual-orientation. Luckily, she has a found a welcoming home in Hamilton.

Monday, October 7, 2013


        I hope you were all one of the over 600 people that went out this weekend to see a performance of “This is Not a Play About Sex” by Cristina Liu ’13.  This was my second time seeing the show, and just like last year, I came away with amazement on so many different levels.   The show is not only provocative and funny at points, but the most meaningful part is that it was taken from real life experiences of Colgate students.  With the help of a University Studies grant last year, Liu was able to interview students on campus and make her transcriptions into monologues for a senior project.  She interviewed 28 students and had over 300 pages of transcriptions, which she used to create the monologues for her show. 
      I was so excited to learn that the play was being put on again this semester, as I truly believe that every Colgate student should see it since it hits so close to home.  Additionally, it was great that the play was shown earlier in the year, as many first-years and new sophomore members to Greek life were able to see it and take something away from the performance. The show has helped to further the positive sexuality movement at Colgate that first originated with the Campus Climate Survey in 2009, and I trust that people will continue to talk about this play and work to keep its legacy going.
      Of course all of the acts were fantastic and significant in so many different ways, but I would like to highlight two that struck me the most.  “Afterhours” at first starts off comically as cast members set themselves up to look like they are sitting on a bus and one person walks by with a sign reading “The Cruiser” which rightfully garners giggles from the audience.  Various characters make their way onto the bus, as the audience sees some drunk students stumbling around or falling asleep on the seats and others flirting it up with those around them.  A couple walks onto the bus and sits together discontentedly.  The woman is telling what appears to be her hookup buddy or potentially boyfriend that she wants to go back to her room alone and go to sleep.   Interspersed with their argument are the comicalities of the other Cruiser riders eating Slices and drunkenly chitchatting with each other, but then the scene takes a more serious turn as the guy says, “Stop being such a cunt!” He moves to the back to sit away from her and yells for the whole bus to hear how she is such a cunt. He just keeps repeating what in my opinion, is the most offensive word in the English language.  The scene ends at this point (without anybody on the bus even batting an eye at such an atrocious word!), but it is the audience’s reaction that really shows whether or not they have understood the deeper message. Last year I remember people laughing and not getting that this part was not supposed to be funny but rather it was supposed to be taken seriously.  This year, I was upset to still hear snickers in the audience.  I would have hoped for people to have understood it better this year, but I guess I was proven wrong. 
      “Los Conquistadores” is the second act that I want to highlight.  This monologue involves the stereotypical frat boy character who at first talks about the bond between him and his brothers. He garners some laughs when he talks about the typical Colgate girl as being “blonde, and preppy, and wearing rain boots whenever there’s a fucking cloud in the sky.” As he continues, he reveals that coming to Colgate shocked him as he had never had so much power and so much social capital until joining a frat.   About halfway through, he looks at presumably Cristina who was the interviewer and asks almost rhetorically, “This is anonymous right?!”  Once he receives that affirmation, he opens up even more so about how absolutely screwed up the whole social scene.  He reveals that sometimes all he wants is a real relationship with a girl, one that isn’t so utterly backwards.  In the end, he hopes that this is not what “real life” will be like once he leaves Colgate.
      Overall, the play deals with so many social intricacies on campus that are not typically talked about in group settings.  One of the themes of the show is the fact that so many students at Colgate feel that they lack not only deep sexual relationships, but lack meaningful interpersonal relationships as well.  The hope of the play is that students will learn to better communicate with each other and learn to value each other on an individual level, and not just as what they appear to be on the outside.  Our four years at Colgate are surely “real life” as I know I haven’t been living in a dream!  Not only do we need to start treating our time here in that way, but we need to be sure to treat others as “real life people” as well.
-Lindsey Skerker ‘14

P.S. I would like to resurrect this post by Liu in response to comments she received last year from fratstar69…if you haven’t seen this yet, take a look.  Let’s hope the message and the legacy of TINAPAS eventually sinks in and resonates with all of the people on campus.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Students Make Pilgrimage to Seneca Falls

          On Saturday, September 14, the Center for Women's Studies hosted a trip to Seneca Falls, NY and nearby sites to visit iconic monuments of the early Women's Rights Movement in the US and other socially significant sites from the time period.  The trip was divided between a morning visit to Seneca Falls, NY and Auburn, NY in the afternoon.  
          Seneca Falls is home to the Wesleyan Chapel, which was the site of the first Women's Rights Convention in July 1848, as well as Elizabeth Cady Stanton's family home during the crucial years of 1847 to 1862.  These sites have been gathered under the Women's Rights National Historic Park, which was established by Congress in 1980 with the goal of preserving these sights and opening them to the public.  The park now includes a visitors' center that pays tribute to First Wave feminists whose contribution to the women's rights movement is perhaps best signified by the achievements of the first Women's Rights Convention.  
          Auburn, NY is home to Harriet Tubman who is known for her courageous efforts to liberate slaves in the South through the Underground Railroad.  In Auburn, we also visited the house of William Seward, the illustrious Secretary of State under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.  Seward obtained Tubman's home where she spent the rest of her life after the Civil War.  The Tubman and Seward homes are both on South Street in Auburn, and these two homes stand as a testament to a friendship that exemplifies the era's spirit of cooperation.
          This trip organized by the Center for Women's Studies gave students interested in women's issues a chance to explore these historic sites and pay their respects to these iconic forebearers in the cause of women's rights.  Students participated in guided tours provided by the National Park Service and the organizations that maintain the Harriet Tubman House and William Seward House.  The accompanying Colgate faculty and staff members facilitated a scavenger hunt of the visitor's center of the Women's Rights National Historic Park and further discussion of the sites on the bus as the group traveled between sites. 
          The first stop was Elizabeth Cady Stanton's home in Seneca Falls where she lived when the first Women's Rights Convention took place in 1848.  The Stantons named the house "Grassmere" after the Romantic poet William Wordsworth's home that inspired his "poetical dreams."  The tour guide also informed the group that the house was known as the "center of the rebellion" and was the place where Stanton held her "war councils."  Here she met with leaders in the women's movement, especially her close friend Susan B. Anthony and together they planned strategy.  The house also featured the desk where she penned her landmark 1892 speech "The Solitude of the Self" and her autobiography, Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences 1815-1897 While the house paid tribute to her accomplishments, it also stood as a symbol of some of the restrictions placed on her activist by the duties of motherhood.  A placard in the house quoted her as saying, "I am bound hand and foot...with a baby in my arms and four boys revolving round me as a common centre...Woman must ever be sacrificed in the isolate household."
          The tour then continued to the site of the Wesleyan Chapel and the adjacent visitors' center of the Women's Rights National Historic Park.  The Wesleyan Chapel was a powerful monument to the achievements of women at the first convention there 165 years earlier even if it was sparse in accouterments of the actual event.  All that remained from the Wesleyan Chapel was some of the original brick and plaster from the first structure that had "witnessed" the first convention and was now exposed for viewing.  New brick was put in to create a structure around this material that matched the chapel's design.  Before the National Park Service obtained the building in 1980, it had been a car dealership and laundromat among other things, and the specifications of the original configuration of the building had been lost to history.  The empty brick structure approximating the original thus stood as the best place to envision and feel the energy of that early and exciting moment in American women's history.
         When we walked into the adjacent visitors' center, we were immediately greeted by a bronze sculpture of life-size First Wave Feminists. Figures of the movement including Elisabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass appear as they would have looked during that revolutionary period in their full stature.  A scavenger hunt encouraged the students to explore the exhibits on display.  Students discovered which individuals were responsible for organizing the National Park and learned that Hilary Rodham Clinton was highly involved. Furthermore, they also learned how religious revivals in New York State or the "burned-over district" helped to inspire the women's movement.
          The final destination was to Auburn where the group visited the homes of Harriet Tubman and William Seward.  The tour of Harriet Tubman's house gave her extraordinary biography as a freedom fighter working to free slaves.  We toured past the original house and barn where she once hid slaves on the Underground Railroad and took them into the second house where she later lived and operated a home for the aged.  The tour then traveled down the street which led to Seward's house.  The museum at his house emphasized his achievements as a prominent statesman and a man of culture and learning. Overall, students returned back to campus inspired by their journey through history.

-Tom Wiley, Graduate Student

Seneca Falls Field Trip

          The chill of an early September morning awoke the group of forty of us, comprised mostly of college students and a few faculty and staff members from the Center for Women's Studies.  As we made the drive on the coach bus towards Seneca Falls, NY, the birthplace of the women's rights movement, I recalled my last visit to the small Upstate New York town.  I had last seen the homes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriet Tubman on a Girl Scout trip in the fourth grade.  Then too young to quite understand the importance of these women, all I remembered was the disappointment I felt as I walked through those small, old, unfurnished homes.  Upon hearing that our Women's Studies class was taking a field trip to this same location, I could only recall those lack-luster rooms.  I thought to myself, I understand we've been learning about these women and have read a number of their works, and I respect the progress they made, but those houses are not much to see.   However, what I did not consider were the changes that had occurred in my own life since then.  Now I am a young adult, far more aware of the prejudices and social conventions that surround me.  In addition, since taking Intro to Women's Studies, I have also become more educated on the struggle for women's rights.  This is a movement and a history that is sorely under appreciated, and in my opinion, not taught enough to young students.
         We entered Stanton's home and stood in the living room where Stanton first met with other revolutionary women of her time and began to plan a convention that would forever change the lives of women in the United States.  It was then that I realized the intention of us going on this trip, for however early we woke up and however much homework we all had on our minds, there was nothing more empowering and humbling than being in Stanton's house and imagining all of those women who we are forever indebted to.
          It is not always about the sights, the smells, the largest paintings hung on the walls of a museum, or the size of a gift shop.  What it really comes down to is immersing yourself in history and applying it to your life, for one must consider what these ordinary people sacrificed in order to better the lives of others.  That is when true understanding and appreciation can occur.

-Natalie Krause '17

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection - ReThinkPink: Moving Beyond Breast Cancer Awareness

Yesterday’s Brown Bag, “ReThinkPink: Moving Beyond Breast Cancer Awareness,” featured health activist and medial sociologist, Gale Sulik. Dr. Sulik, is the author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, an active blogger, and founder of the Breast Cancer Consortium. Her presentation was educational, enlightening, and provocative in which it focused on the history and evolution of breast cancer awareness campaigns in America.
In terms of how it all started, what began as a disease that no one wanted to talk about, eventually turned into movement of female empowerment. As breast cancer became more widely recognized and awareness grew, corporations capitalized on the campaign and branded the pink ribbon campaign. In essence, the ribbon turned into a corporation advertisement strategy by increasing pink consumerism and raising billions of dollars for a “good cause.”  Dr. Sulik argued that the consumerism of breast cancer has undermined women’s lived experiences and obscured controversies surrounding research, diagnoses, and treatments. By turning the Pink Ribbon into a logo, it ignores the reality of what living with breast cancer is really like and undermines women’s health.
An important question that Dr. Sulik raised was, “Why breast cancer?” When looking at the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death among women in the United States is: 1) heart disease, 2) lung cancer, and 3) breast cancer. Not to diminish the impact on breast cancer in America, but why aren't there campaigns as commercialized as the pink ribbon campaign against heart disease and lung cancer? Dr. Sulik believes that our fascination with breast cancer is because it pertains to the breast. In other words, Dr. Sulik called it the “sexy” cancer. When taking a step back, it is easy to see why corporations have capitalized on the pink ribbon campaign. It’s as simple as “Sex Sells.
In essence, Dr. Sulik challenged us to question the goodness of the pink ribbon campaign. Not to totally reject awareness and fundraising campaigns, but to ask the tough questions. Where is the money actually going? Who benefits from awareness raising campaigns? Can corporations become health advocates without some underlying benefit?  Which awareness-raising campaigns continue to objectify women and hold them under the male gaze?  Is the information you are getting from these campaigns truthful or accurate? Asking questions is what being a curious feminist is all about (Enloe). These questions may not be easy, or always taken well, but they expose the often well-hidden truth. These are the tough questions that Dr. Sulik, as a health advocate, pursues. 

- Michelle Van Veen '14

Brown Bag Reflection: Dear Colleague and Title Ix Compliance

For all of you that missed last Tuesday’s brown bag, be glad I’m here to tell you about it!

Let’s start with definitions.

What is Title IX? It is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on one’s sex, in educational programs and activities that receive federal funds.

What is the Dear Colleague Letter?

It is a letter rendering responsibility of institutions of higher education "to take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.” The letter illustrates multiple examples of Title IX requirements as they relate to sexual violence, and makes clear that, should an institution fail to fulfill its responsibilities under Title IX, the Department of Education can impose a fine and potentially deny further institutional access to federal funds.

Civil rights organizations maintain that "when students suffer sexual assault and harassment, they are deprived of equal and free access to an education." Sexual violence is a crime and should be dealt with accordingly.

So, the key question here is, what is our beloved institution- Colgate, doing to adhere to these laws?

During this brown bag, we had a panel of resourceful campus staff- Val Brogan, Meika Loe, Nancy Ries, Lynn Rugg and Kim Taylor that discussed the different levels of sexual misconduct simply to shed more light on the different kinds of assault creating more awareness and understanding of this issue. Any sexual activity in the absence of consent is harassment and should be reported immediately. This group of people are here to help us all. Sexual assault happens on this campus and should you be a victim or a friend of a victim please speak out. The school has various resources on how to get help in case you have been abused, or how to help a friend that has been abused. You can even fill out an anonymous tip form if you do not want to disclose your identity. Make sure to check out Colgate University sexual assault resources for useful information on how to deal with sexual assault at Colgate.

Finally and most importantly, we as individuals need to know what consent really means. If we all understood what it was then sexual violence would be a problem in the past. Making sure that an individual clearly and voluntarily agrees to participate in a sexual activity makes consent valid. So if you receive but’s, maybe’s, sorta, kinda type of responses from the other party that means no and therefore do not proceed to try and have sex with them. You can be hopeful and try again another time but really, no means no. It can wait. Silence does not give consent.

Gloria Kebirungi '15