Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Supporting Survivors @ Colgate and Beyond: A Short Guide

As more and more of the Colgate Community is looking to better support survivors, we thought we'd post a guide created by Sexual and Gender-Based Violence intern Rachel Drucker '17 and WMST PA Allie Fry for an event that took place back in September. We hope you learn something!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Don't be a Douche: Tips for Caring for Your Vagina

Have you ever wondered about ways to keep your vagina clean and healthy? Read this list of some helpful tips!

Cleaning your vagina

Douching: Don’t do it! Your vagina is naturally acidic (PH levels around 3.5 - 4.5), and has a multitude of helpful bacteria that contribute to defense against infection and a maintenance of a healthy PH level. Douching can negatively affect PH levels and promote bacterial infections. If your vagina has an unusual, concerning smell- instead of douching, see a doctor! Douching can remove the smell, but cannot fix the problem.

Soaps: Don’t use harsh soaps, shampoo, powder, deodorant, or bleach on the vulva or inside you vagina. Like douching, these cleansers can negatively impact the PH levels of your vagina and increase your risk of getting an infection. Remember, your vagina can clean itself with small secretions/discharge. To assist the cleaning of your vagina, you could use a mild soap on your inner thigh and groin area (away from your vulva), and rub water on the vulva.


Your underwear choices should keep your vagina clean and dry. Go cotton or commando. Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University states, “Cotton breathes and absorbs moisture, it’s the ideal way to clothe your [genitals]”. Avoid wearing thongs, tight fitting pants, and extended wearing of wet bathing suits or sweaty exercise clothing; they can increase heat and moisture and may contribute to certain infections. Do not wear pads or panty liners when you are not on your period, due to increased heat and moisture, and increased likelihood of infection.


To keep your vagina happy and healthy, eat a balanced diet and drink a lot of fluids. Some foods have even been found to help treat or prevent vaginal infections: cranberry juice and yogurt (with live cultures- not the hyper-sugary kinds) are examples. Soy products can increase lubrication, therefore decreasing vaginal dryness. Certain foods may even affect the way your vagina smells and tastes. Eating more leafy green vegetables, fruits (pineapples and strawberries), cinnamon, and cardamom may produce a taste that is sweeter, while eating red meat and dairy may produce a taste that is more bitter.


Utilize safer sex practices. Use a condom .Condoms helps maintain of the PH level of your vagina, which helps keep the beneficial bacteria inside your vagina which prevents infections. When transitioning from oral or anal sex to vaginal sex, change to a clean condom. Not doing so can cause harmful bacteria to enter your vagina. Use lubrication. If not enough natural lubricant is produced during arousal, use a synthetic water-based or silicone-based lubricant. Do not use oil-based lubricants, they can cause tearing or breaking in latex condoms and can promote harmful bacterial accumulation and infections.  


The three common types of vaginal infections are: yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. Yeast infections are caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida, which causes itching, swelling, or burning of the vulva. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by the growth of certain bacteria in the vagina, which causes unusual discharge, itching, burning, or irritation of the vagina. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the transmitting of a parasite.

Doctor Visits

Regular visits to the gynecologist are very important! Every person with a vagina should have a gynecological exam either “by the age of 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active”. Gynecologists can detect and diagnose diseases and disorders of the vagina or reproductive system and can discuss ways to keep your vagina at its healthiest!  

Photo from http://www.scribd.com/doc/254757422/The-Vaginatastic-Coloring-Book-of-Vulvas


Erin Diguglielmo '17, Women's Health Intern

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Fun Home

On November 7th, I had the opportunity to get out of quiet and mundane Hamilton to see Fun Home, which was based on Allison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir, on Broadway. Getting out of Hamilton felt amazing. Not to mention, later that day, I was able to eat real soul food, which warms my heart. I was so relieved to be off campus, I almost took the R train back to my house. Yet, I realize that if I disappeared, you, my endearing fan base, would be exceptionally sad. Also I came to the conclusion I’ve worked too hard to not get this piece of paper this institution claims is a credible degree. So here I am, entertaining you with my thoughts of Fun Home.

Overall, Fun Home was a great musical that had a compelling cast. The play follows Allison Bechdel, who tries to make sense of her life, sexuality, and relationship to her father by reflecting on the events she experienced as a young girl. During her college years, Allison becomes comfortable with her sexuality and her work as a comic artist. She falls in love with a confident lesbian named Joan, who helps her to become comfortable with the fact that she is a lesbian. Even with her newfound confidence, Allison still seeks approval from her father. This is evident when Allison waits for her father’s response to her coming out letter only to be met with disappointment when her dad says he is glad she is “experimenting.” It is clear that often there is a disconnect between her and her father, yet there are certain moments where they seem one in the same. Allison wholeheartedly tries to build their relationship and make her father happy. A scene that stuck with me is when younger Allison was drawing a picture and her father told her it needed more structure. After her father has an outburst, Allison pleads with him. Even though she didn’t agree she did what he wanted anyway, saying, “Daddy, I’m sorry, I want to do it your way, I like the way you did it.”

Allison’s father, who is exceptionally hard to please and is manipulative, is troubled and conflicted throughout the play. There are times when he seems to love his family, and then, minutes later, he is revolted by everyone and everything. Allison’s mom and her siblings are often just backdrop in the play; once in awhile, they will speak and sing, but that’s it. There isn’t much character development going on for anyone who isn’t Allison or her dad.

As the play progresses, my disdain for Allison’s father grows, with almost every single scene. This was disheartening because when the play started I really wanted to like him. He is inconsiderate, abusive and projects his feelings onto Allison. This is evident when he  tries to force Allison into gender binaries by explaining if she doesn’t fit them people will gossip about her. Allison points out that this is ironic, since he is not your typical “rugged” portrayal of a man.

The audience also witnesses Allison’s father flirting with underage and younger men, whom he employs to work in his house and whom he teaches. Allison’s mother even tells Allison that he has gotten in legal trouble because he served alcohol to a group of young men to coerce them to have sex with him. After hearing this, Allison believes that now her and her father are connected through their homosexuality. However, I find this lens she uses to view her father troubling. Bruce Bechdel targets young men and provides them with alcohol, so there is the question: is he gay or is he a pedophile? Those two things are not synonymous. I wonder if Allison ever grappled with the idea of her father being a pedophile and just did not mention it in the play because of the way he dies. (Oh, yeah, he dies in the play, but I won’t tell you how so you can remain surprised.)

All in all, I really enjoyed it and would give it like 4.5 stars out of 5, which might not mean much because I’m a twenty-year-old college student and not a theatre critic. However, I figure if you didn’t value my opinion you wouldn’t read my awesome blog posts!!!

Although I did not cry, one of my best friends who prides themselves on avoiding sad human emotions did cry. So you should probably carry some Kleenex just in case.

 - Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural and LGBTQ Affairs Intern

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Conversation with Christina (Poppy) Lui '13

A graduate of the class of 2013, Christina (Poppy) Liu was a senior during my first year at Colgate University. I was blessed with the fortune to witness her finish both of her thesis projects throughout the year, and even luckier to get to know her personally in the spring semester. Poppy continues to be an inspiring force as she explores the world beyond Colgate. Now, three years later, as a senior beginning to look at life beyond Colgate, I was able to ask Poppy a few questions so that others can hear some words of wisdom and might better know the amazing artist, actress, and human being that she is.

How were you involved in WMST/feminism at Colgate? How does it apply to your life now?
I was a Women’s Studies (WMST) major (double major with theater), directed The Vagina Monologues twice, and interned at the Center for WMST for three years. I also wrote and produced an original play, This Is Not A Play About Sex, in my last two years of my time at Colgate. WMST and feminism applies to every aspect of my life: the way I choose roles I want to perform as an actress, the way I took no bullshit from men while I was a bartender in the city, the way I practice communication with my partners, the types of communities I immerse myself in, the way I watch films, everything.

What are you up to now?
I’m rehearsing for three shows that are all geared for full production in the winter and spring of 2016 (The Gambler with Phoenix Ensemble Theatre at The Wild Project, Double Falsehood with Letter of Marque Theater Company at Irondale, and BODY with Blessed Unrest at The New Ohio Theater). I am also building the theater company I founded called The Collective Sex, the project that birthed out of This Is Not A Play About Sex.

What advice would you like to give current WMST concentrators?
Stay soft, stay loving, stay tender. This work can be challenging, and it can make us hard or bitter. It takes lots of courage to stay in your softness. Love is the strongest choice. After you have moved through anger, through pain, through judgment and injustice, right as you are about to think "Ugh, is this how it's always going to be? Why bother?" right at that moment, choose love instead.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for students at Colgate and/or seniors who are graduating soon?
My biggest piece of advice is to not give a fuck what people think about you. For real. Measure yourself by your own internal value system. Build your own internal value system. What things do you love? What do you have tons of passion for? What is stopping you from doing those things? To hell with what people expect of you or think of you. We waste so much of our energy worrying about how we appear to the outside eye.

Learn to find peace in the fact that everything changes. You won't be doing "one thing" after you graduate so don't feel a need to answer, "What are you doing when you graduate?" The answer is everything. Just start somewhere. The secret is it really doesn't matter where. What did I first do when I graduated? I made it an adamant part of my "plan" to start bartending in NYC. Period. I got a bartending job eight hours after I moved into the city. I spent all of my other free time figuring out what I loved about this city, sponging in as much as I could, and when I found threads I wanted to follow, I did.

A few more words of wisdom:
  • Spend some time with yourself. You learn so much in solitude.
  • Surround yourself with the type of person you want to become.
  • Adopt a pay-it-forward attitude.
  • Don't have a plan, have passion.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously.

- Monica Hoh '16, Information Technology and Resources Intern

Monday, October 19, 2015

Me, Bree, and some Knowledgeable Tea: What's the Point of Being Scared?

“I guess if I’d had any sense I’d I’ve been a little scared, but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.” - Fannie Lou Hamer

Hey everyone!!! It surely is I, your new favorite blogger. Two weeks ago, Bree Newsome was on campus. She spoke at a Brown Bag at the Center for WMST and later that day had a larger discussion in Love Auditorium. She was amazing, of course, and spread revolutionary knowledge. Guess who got to interview after the Brown Bag? Just guess. Your new favorite blogger, Me! (Everyone should be proud of me because I did not faint or hyperventilate and my hairline is still intact.) At first, I was extremely nervous to be interviewing such an icon, but Newsome was refreshingly down-to-earth and was just as enthusiastic to share with us, as we were to listen to her.

WMST and LGBTQ Interns meet with Bree Newsome.
(Ashleandra is in the 2nd row, third from the left. Bree Newsome is to Ashleandra's left.)

Ashleandra Opoku: It seemed like the world got familiar with you this summer, but you were doing work prior to taking down the Confederate Flag. Could you speak more on the work you were doing prior?

Bree Newsome: I got really involved in activism full-time in 2013, starting off with Moral Monday, after NYU Tisch. I was at Tisch from 2003-2007, did a short film, traveled doing film circuits and everything. In 2012, before I was back in North Carolina, a friend down there that was an organizer went down to Florida when the Dream Defenders were occupying the State Capitol. An organizer is an activist that builds. I started doing freelance activism. When I started working for Ignite North Carolina, I became the western field organizer. Basically, you have an issue going on and I come in and help you organize to get what it is that you want. That has been since the summer of last year, so I’ve been an organizer for about a year.

AO: You spoke about how in your family there are things that aren’t spoken about. How was it to tell those stories right now during our Brown Bag and reliving the racist terrors that happened to your family?

BN: I knew I had an uncle that had been lynched, and what I found interesting is after I took down the Confederate Flag, all of the sudden, there were all these older Black people, not just in my family, but like my grandmother’s neighbors and all these other people from that generation, suddenly started telling me all these stories from the past that they had never shared before. I think it was something probably really liberating for them in that moment, seeing us go after that flag, because even though the action is symbolic, that flag has always represented you’re not welcome here; it’s a warning sign that represents all the violence that accompanies anyone who stepped out of line. My uncle’s son handed out papers on this corner and was making good money. There was a white man whose son wanted it and they refused to give up the spot, so the white man just came and shot my uncle. It’s kind of similar to Trayvon Martin where there is a murder and everyone knows who did it, but there is no follow up or anything. It was really interesting to me to see because you can be aware that there is silence, but it’s not until everyone starts speaking that you even become even aware fully of just how silent we’ve been. It’s like what went on with the protest; everyone knows that these issues are here, but when people really start speaking out about it, you become aware about how silent we are about the things that we know and see every day.

AO: I noticed that you work with young students and you recently visited Phelps High School. What got you interested in working with young students about activism?

BN: Growing up, both of my parents were educators, and my mom did a lot of work on closing the achievement gap. So when I look back on it, that probably had a much deeper impact on me than I realized at the time. Our dinner table would be conversations about the inequality students were facing, so I grew up seeing a lot of focus placed on young people and students. I probably internalized that value in a lot of ways. I think that a lot of times when we’re trying to change things it really does begin with the youth, honestly, because they’re the most open. Because they are young, they haven’t been fully indoctrinated or taught you must accept everything as is. They’re much more willing to question and challenge. So for that reason, I really like talking with young people.

AO: How do you take on the task of constantly educating yourself?

BN: You have to be a constant student. What’s really interesting if you look at any revolutionary leader, in their biographies, they all have some period of time where they just study ferociously. That’s really what I want to do, and I’ve been writing to other people to just give me a list of books that I need to read. As cliché as it is, knowledge is truly power; that’s the fact of the matter. That’s why any time you see any oppressive force come to power, one of the first things they do is they burn the books and attack the schools; they make it harder for you to be students. They come after professors. We see these same things happening right now with the attacks on education because it’s the access to knowledge itself.  It’s not just because of what you learn; it’s the skill of thinking critically. Teaching you to think critically, to question, is in and of itself it a threat to the dominant power. Students are always targets, and universities are always a place of great political struggle.

AO: How do you deal with tensions that happen within social movement, such as respectability politics?

BN: I’ve seen a lot of tension go on between social movements. I really try to remind people that disagreements amongst allies does not make them your opposition. Disagreement in the movement is not the same as opposition, but I think it feels like opposition because we are around each other the most; we interact with each other the most, and the debates can feel very intense. But when opposition shows up you’re going to know very quickly the difference between your disagreement with allies and your opposition. I do work with NAACP, and we absolutely bump heads on a lot of things. There are a lot of groups out here that are allies that I work with, and we don’t agree on everything. We don’t always agree on tactics or on approach, but what I try to remember is that we are still moving in the same direction, and we can’t afford to tear each other apart.

AO: Women and LGBTQ people have been in movements since the beginning of time, but they are often denied credit and erased from history because they don’t fit into the dominant narrative. How does your gender plays a role in your activism?

BN: I’m so accustomed to being in spaces where I am a minority that I don’t always think about it. I am just so adjusted to it, but to the extent I am aware of it, I do recognize the importance of Black women seeing a Black women be the one to take down the Confederate Flag. That is why I volunteered to do it. I recognize the importance of being a woman in a position of leadership within the movement. That in and of itself is a form of activism.

There is still a lot of tension within the Black community of not recognizing patriarchy as a thing. I don’t get to wake up and say, “I’m going to deal with sexism or racism this morning.” I don’t get that option, it is just something I constantly have to do in all these spaces I go into. I’m just going where I want to go, even with film I didn’t say “Film is not diverse enough, so I’m going to be a filmmaker.” I did not want to be a filmmaker to help it be diverse; I just said this is where I want to be. This is the space that I feel natural to be in and I’m going to demand space in there.

AO: What do you do to de-stress?

BN: I have to completely unplug sometimes from this movement, and it is hard. I had to delete twitter off of everything because it was such a habit. I didn’t even realize how automatic it was. I would go on my phone, see what’s going on in the news, be stressed out, and repeat. I really had to learn it’s okay to take a step back for a number of reasons. First of all, for my own health, and also I like to step back and see where everyone that’s not in this movement is at. The movement can become very insular, and sometimes it’s important to step back and say, “Oh, they are speaking about a rat eating a pizza.” It’s okay to have fun, enjoy yourself, and enjoy life. I know it’s fucked up, but you can still have joy in life.  My pattern typically had been going, going, going until I burn. I’m realizing I need to take time, all the time, in between.

What I loved about Bree’s visit was how she focused everything around a cause. During a part of the interview she spoke to how she had to prepare herself to face death for this action and how she became okay with that because she knew if she died she would’ve died for a just reason. She stressed that to her it was important to take down the flag because that specific flag had been created during the Civil Rights Movement as a way to terrorize Black people. This flag was not left over from the Confederacy but rather was specifically raised during the 1960’s as a terrorist symbol.  She was also very honest and real about the work she has done and is recently doing. One thing she said that stuck out to me in the Brown Bag is that she would never ask anyone to do anything she would not do. Newsome mentioned this in reference to activism because she did not participate in activist work when she was a student at NYU and did not want students to feel as if they had to be a certain type of activist, especially while in school. Newsome also stressed on the essence of teamwork. In a video about her group called Tribe, I saw the other people involved in making sure that she retrieved the flag safely. I was able to see the planning and coordination that had to be done to achieve such a goal and realize that this fight for justice and equality is an effort we all have to make together. It is not singular or isolated but connected and can only be accomplished if we all keep our hearts and minds and spirits focused on our goal.

With that said, considering that Newsome’s demonstration was done after the Charleston shooting, I am going to leave you the names of those that lost their lives that day. Because it is important to remember them and remember why as activists, in every shape and form, we must push back against systems of oppression.

Myra Thompson
Ethel Lee Lance
Reverend Clementa Pinckney
Cynthia Hurd
Tywanza  Sanders
Reverend Daniel L. Simmons
Reverend Depayne Middleton- Doctor
Susie Jackson
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Rest in Power.

- Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural and LGBTQ Affairs Intern

Friday, October 16, 2015

Refections on This Is Not A Play About Sex

I recently had the honor of acting in This is Not a Play About Sex, an original play written by my dear friend and Colgate class of 2013 graduate, Christina Liu. Although I’m super excited about it, and I could talk to you for ages about why it’s a wonderful play, my enthusiasm was not always there (though this didn’t last for long). I remember in my first semester I saw the posters for auditions and performances, and I recoiled at the very thought of being a part of it. “It’s totally about sex! It’s definitely about sex! I can’t be a part of that!” I thought. It was not appropriate to what I thought theatre and activism should be. 

This, however, was a very short-lived opinion. It died quickly when I heard all the amazing reviews that the first few performances received. So I set out to see the film screening, which was its own trial. But when I finally saw the show, heard the words and felt all my many, many feels (I definitely cried by myself in Golden auditorium), I was in awe. I was amazed and honored to be seeing such honesty about this campus and this culture that I was joining in my first year at Colgate. Everything felt relevant and vital to my future experiences here at Colgate, and I felt like I just got an insider’s view on the campus as well. Seeing this show and talking with Christina set me on my own journey as a Theatre and Women’s Studies double major. 

Fast forward three years to the summer before my senior year at Colgate University and I’ve just been sent an interest email by the co-directors for this year’s production of TINAPAS. My excitement covered me head-to-toe, and I was so grateful to finally be able to be a part of this show. As school began and rehearsals commenced, I was struck by the energy that poured out of every single body that was present in Ryan 209 on that first rehearsal and at every rehearsal after.

The TINAPAS cast before the performance. Photo by Christina Lui '13. 

During one of our Q&A’s, someone asked how the cast got so close even though the rehearsal process was so short (it was literally a month), and my gut reaction is that we were all willing to be so vulnerable with each other. The entire cast desired this community, and we put in the conscious effort to make it a community. Our two fantastic directors, Charity Whyte and Providence Ryan, also facilitated the growth of this community, and it was one of their main goals for this cast. At meetings we were invited to share: asking what kind of underwear are we were wearing or imagining what pleasure meant or what a sexually enlightened Colgate campus would look like. We were challenged to rehearse our monologues as different animals and were dared to dance terribly -but joyfully- to music. But even with great questions and exercises, the efforts of the few can’t always reach the rest of a group. It was up to everyone to desire a connection, to actively seek out and create a supportive, trusting, and loving community.

And personally, I think we actually did.

- Monica Hoh '16, Information Technology and Resources Intern

Monday, September 28, 2015

Everybody Get Hyped: Bree Newsome Comes to Colgate TOMORROW

Tomorrow Bree Newsome, The Bree Newsome, will be coming to Colgate, and I’m so excited that I literally do not know what to do with myself and, more importantly, what to wear. If you somehow managed to live under a rock this summer, Bree Newsome is an activist from North Carolina that gained attention when she climbed up the South Carolina State Capitol flagpole and took down the Confederate flag after the mass murder of nine African-American worshippers by a white supremacist terrorist.

Bree Newsome EVENTS:
Brown Bag, "Rosa, Martin, and Bree: Civil Rights in 2015" : Sept. 29th @ 11:30am in the Center for WMST
Presentation, "Love in a Time of Revolution" : Sept. 29th @ 4:30pm in Love Auditorium

After Newsome came down from the flagpole, she and her spotter James Tyson were arrested on site.  Newsome’s brave act went viral, and every newspaper, blog, vlog, and magazine wanted a piece of Newsome.  When asked by a reporter on why she didn’t just wait for lawmakers to vote to take it down, Newsome perfectly stated, “What is there to vote on? There’s doing the right thing, and there’s doing the wrong thing. It’s time for people to have the courage. Everybody who knows what the right thing is to do, we have to step up in love and nonviolence. We have to do the right thing, or else it won’t stop. Every day that flag hangs up there is an endorsement of hate.” This then brought about dialogue of what does it mean that in this day and age something as hateful as the Confederate flag can still find a home in front of a state capitol? It also made me think about how sometimes we can become very complicit in inequality. Why did anyone  think it was necessary to wait for the government to decide to do what is morally correct, when it’s been pretty clear with the non-indictments of police officers that killed unarmed black people, that morals are not the government’s strong suit.

Bree Newsome, activist, filmmaker, songwriter
Newsome is not new to activism, but since her literal climb to fame, the activist has been very busy, she has recently spoken at Wesleyan University and Agnes Scott University. She was also on a panel, which included Melissa Harris-Perry, at Wake Forest University and in August she did an interview with Essence. It will be interesting to find out her insights about the Black Lives Matter movement and to see what she is up to now. I do not know about any of you but I am beyond excited and honor that she is going to the middle of nowhere to enlighten us.

Also, disclaimer: considering that Bree Newsome is the essence of Black Girl Magic, I might need someone to stand by and collect my edges, my life, and my composure when she takes them all away from me.

- Ashleandra Opoku '17, Multicultural and LGBTQ Affairs Intern