Posts Tagged ‘vassar’

Sodini scares me.

A lot.

I read his blog. I read it weeks ago. It reminded me of a number of things: The Game, het-cissie boys at my school, and my high school livejournal acount. Strangely all the things connecting the things it reminded me of are connected by Vassar. Neil Strauss was a Vassar grad, the het-cissie boys at Vassar, and me at Vassar.

You don’t generally speak Vassar and Pittsburgh in the same breath (Unless you and a bunch of people are planning to move there in a year). They symbolize very different things. But that’s the thing about misogyny, it is everywhere. A Pittsburgh suburb and an elite East Coast former all women’s school full of the upper crusties are both full of it.

Sodini scares me because there is a Sodini in my head. That twinge of entitlement. That flash of being upset upon rejection. Those are signs that misogyny is still manifest despite a shit-ton of feminist theory. I feel like it’s lycanthropy. Even the most wellmeaning gynesexual cisman suffers from it. Suffers in the sense that a lycanthrope suffers from lycanthropy. Suffers mostly in the harm he causes others.

So I’m trying to kill the Sodini in my head. There just aren’t any silver bullets.

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Because sex workers rights are workers rights

And because Workers Rights are Women’s Rights

Ok so kind of unrelated stuff but stuff to see all the same. Friction is a cool blog a member of my gender and social space shared with our class. The blog is articulate, well put together, and engaging. Peridot Ash is self aware and brings up a lot of issues as she attempts to detangle the messy world of the sex industry, with all of it’s contradictions.

And the second is an article about the rallies going down at Vassar. Awesome stuff, Über props to all involved! Everyone I’ve spoken with is in agreement, the energy was intense, and I know I’m not the only one pumped to see what’s next for the May Day Working Group. It’s time to activate!

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The past five Vassar Students Association Presidents have been men.

But today we wake up to a female president! Here’s to Caitlin! Hope she’s cool.

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3325145626_c58349526e_oIt ain’t easy being “obese” on a campus where the trend is to be a skinny hipster.  A place like Vassar should have so many happy wonderful women, and yet hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear some sort of comment come out of my mouth or a friend’s that has some self-hating laced with it, the vast majority of the time referring to weight and body fat. Even my professors who have been so formative in the development of my own feminism all seem to find themselves at the gym running on treadmills like hamsters on a wheel, claiming they need to slim down. It’s hard to find a balance in all of this. Sure we all want to be healthy and beautiful, but what if we already are?

For pretty much as long as I can remember doctors have been telling me I’m overweight or obese and that if I don’t do something about it there will be deadly consequences. Up until recently I’ve always accepted this as fact. And maybe in some ways it is. A lifetime of being the pudgy kid with glasses who gets picked last for kickball is certainly not the ideal healthy life style. And I do have to worry about health, as we all do for some reason or another. My mother has type 2 diabetes as did my grandfather. It’s in my genes, I’m at risk.

But after reading Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose and seeing her BMI Project, I’m starting to wonder just how seriously I should take my doctor’s warnings. Confession: I’m 5′ 6” and a fairly steady 190 pounds, BMI 30-31. I know, it’s alarming. But before we get all fat-phobic on me, let’s think about what that actually means. Last summer I hiked up and down Cadillac Mountain with relative ease. When not at school I travel my hilly hometown nearly all by foot. In high school and for the past few summers when I worked at the school, I walked every weekday a total of roughly 2.5 miles because I don’t have a car. While I’m not very fast, I can swim for pretty long periods of time without too much effort. I take a pretty strenuous yoga class once a week and while I’m no yogi, I manage to achieve new strength and peace with each class. My last checkup alarmed my doctor, because wouldn’t you know I have excellent cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, despite being “Obese” according to my BMI. Everything about my health was normal or better than normal. But still my doctor pulls me into her office to have a “serious talk” with me. It’s time to take care of my health she says. If I don’t do it now I’ll regret it my whole life. But what if I’m actually healthier just as I am?

Could I eat more veggies? Of course, even as an aspiring vegan, I know I don’t eat enough leafy greens and too many french fries. Should I go exercise more? Sure, and so probably should you, dear reader of the interwebz. But maybe as a young non-smoking 20 year old I’m a lot healthier and hotter than I, and you, and my doctor give me credit for. And maybe we should stop freaking out that I’m so fat. Because in terms of health, the only thing really “wrong” with me is the amount of vertical force I exert as a result of gravity, which I’m just gunna put out there I kinda have no immediate control over. I’ve been to nutritionists, endocrinologists, therapists, you name it. Is it poor diet? Poor exercise? Thyroid Problems? High Testosterone Levels? After lots of worrying, shame, depression, and loneliness, I still have no definite answers, and I’m still exactly as I am. And It starts to become obvious that maybe no one can fix me because there isn’t anything really wrong with me, despite what doctors and society tells me. Maybe it’s time to stop the hatin’ and just love myself for myself. I know super rad, right?

So if you call yourself a feminist, stop playing into the patriarchy of the health profession, media, and whatever and start to love yourself, and all your womanly curves, lovely lady lumps, or whatever you want to call them. Love the woman at the heart of this fight–yourself.

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So Vassar offers mini-courses, small classes taught by any member of the college community who signs up and gets approved. Imagine my surprise when I saw this course on the list:

The Language of Ladies
Instructor: ———-
Thursdays 7:00pm- 8:00pm, Rocky 101, starting March 26

This course aims to take a critical look at dating across lingual/cultural barriers. Experts in each local will be brought in to the class for instructional purposes. Coming out of this class students should feel informed enough about different mating rituals to approach women of different national backgrounds.


I’m amazed that this got approved, but maybe I still have too much faith in my school, and common sense in general. A course for learning how to seduce women from different cultures, with experts? I guess it’s so when you go JYA (Junior Year Abroad) you can fuck a local woman no matter how different she is from you.

The use of the phrase “mating ritual” also gets me. It highlights a major problem: it’s not enough to want to have sex with women as objects, but you have to reduce them to an anthropological/biological object of inquiry.

Fortunately, I’ve heard that there have been a number of complaints.

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img_0341So I saw this in the College Center last night and of course I’m wondering, what the fuck? For those who can’t read what it says, (sorry it’s a little blurry) it’s an advertisement for Vassar College’s Rowing team who have their Ergathon, where they row for 24 hours straight as a sort of fundraiser. The flyer is about three feet by 4 feet, I would estimate, and it’s hanging as a sort of banner in one of the most frequented parts of campus.

I know, who would have guessed from that picture?

I have nothing against rowing, or the Vassar College Rowing Team, but I’m so tired of seeing flyers just like this one posted all around campus, from all different orgs.

Why do we feel it is necessary to objectify women, and to reinforce dangerous hegemonic ideas of what it means to be sexy, just to get people to give money or come to an event. What, just because I see a white, skinny, half naked girl, I’m supposed to contribute some money to your organization? Thanks but no thanks.

To be fair there was a smaller poster I saw later on which had a white, muscular man, wearing a kilt, with the same message, “It’s gonna be hot”. And with this I’m forced to wonder, what’s going on? Is this some kind of irony? Regardless I still think it’s reinforcing these hegemonic notions of what is “hot”.

And of course, even if skinny, white, and half naked is what “hot” looks like (which I wouldn’t agree with), who cares? Why is “hot” such a big deal? Why wouldn’t it be enough to simply say, come to the Ergathon and see women show their athletic strength!? Why isn’t that something that makes us get excited?

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One thing that always ticks me off is Vassar’s constant love of traditions that should have kicked the bucket 100 years ago. Some of Vassar’s traditions I love, others not so much, which brings me to today’s topic of discussion… THE DAISY CHAIN.

But what is the daisy chain you ask! I did a little research and according to the Vassar College Encyclopedia,

Every year, a group of sophomore women, chosen for their leadership skills, class spirit, and eagerness to volunteer their time, are chosen by a committee of the senior class council to carry a 150-foot chain of daisies and laurel, the Daisy Chain, at Commencement

Harmless enough, right? Well let’s see how do I become a member of this daisy chain?

Historically, “daisies” were chosen for both their “contribution to college life and their attractiveness,” making the early chains a kind of beauty contest, which apparently caused those not chosen much unhappiness.

Gee whiz, I wonder why, dear encyclopedia. Perhaps it’s because standards of beauty are rather subjective, unfair, and completely unrelated to the wonderful world of learning. But dislike for the daisy chain is nothing new. It caused such an uproar in 1912, that the New York Times did a piece discussing how the tradition, which dated back to the late 1800s would be stopped due to the “girls” all becoming extremely “envious” of one another, but apparently nothing happened and the tradition continued. But whatever, who wants to be in the daisy chain, anyhow right? I mean it doesn’t really mean anything does it?

The daisy chain became famous as a symbol of feminine beauty, mystique and even fertility, and also of the elite status imputed to a “Vassar girl”: if being a Vassar student was to be amongst the cream of the crop, then to be a “daisy” was to be la crème de la crème.

Yuck. Please tell me this tradition has gone away! Or at least radically changed, right? Well let’s look at some pictures:

In looking at these photos I have to wonder what has changed. Now I’m no expert, but I’ve yet to see a girl in one of these virginal white dresses that can’t be seen as traditionally pretty. Perhaps, I’m wrong here but in my research and from my memory I’ve yet to see a plus size girl out there. And what if you’re male and wish to be apart of the daisy chain, and wear a white dress? Sorry, you have to  wear “blue blazers, white pants, and purple daisy-print ties,” (because that’s super masculine) and get to “hand out programs and help guide relatives and other Commencement guests to their seats”. Notice the men don’t go parading down the aisles. I wonder why not.

And what does a “daisy” do besides carry a ridiculously long chain of daisies at graduation? Well they do many important things and activities I’m told, though it’s hard to find out exactly what. It’s something of a secret sorority. I do know however that they produce Mr. Vassar, a male beauty pageant. How fabulous, I can see so much has changed since those late 1800s, for instance, the dresses are now sleeveless, and they hire someone to make the chain, and now instead of only being objectified themselves, they help others to objectify men too.

And then of course let’s not forget the fact that the Daisy Chain has historically been (and dare I say it continues to be) racist? How many daisies of color are there, exactly? There is a separate group, the African Violets, who organize activities for seniors of color. The group which started in 1991 has only been permitted to walk behind the Daisy Chain at graduation as of 2005. Seriously? I wanted to find out more about African Violets, but of course, there is no entry for African Violets on the Vassar College Encyclopedia, apparently they are not one of Vassar’s celebrated traditions.

I’ve been told that the beauty standards have been dropped from the application process, officially anyway. And that one is able to apply to the Daisy Chain or the African Violets regardless of race or ethnicity. However, is it really such a wonderful tradition to uphold? Why bother keeping it? I like daisies as much as the next person. But why celebrate this exclusivity and historical sexism and racism? And one can’t deny the fact that it’s plain ridiculous in this day and age, to say okay, boys dress like this, and girls dress like this. Girls parade with flowers, and boys guide the way. Nice.

And here I thought I went to a seven sister school to feel liberated and to learn, not to be objectified like a flower and duke it out among my fellow “sisters” based on who was prettier, whiter, and more fertile.

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