“Your Ignorance Is Showing”

 Alternatively titled: “A Response to Cate Stewart and Lisa Lansio”
and originally posted here by Aida.

 

For those of you who don’t know, I’m one of the two co-leaders of SHEEC this year–a group with which I’ve been heavily involved since its inception in 2008/2009. I was at a conference in Colorado this week and sadly had to miss 3 of our events, including a showcase/open-mic in honor of Wear Purple Day/Spirit Day and Love Your Body Day that would benefit Sojourner House, a local domestic violence agency founded by Brown students in 1976. The Showcase featured 2 local poets, the Gendo Taiko (Japanese drumming) crew, Attitude (a dance troupe), as well as a few other performers (of the singing/acoustic-guitar variety).

 

After a set of great performances, the last two individuals who signed up for the open-mic portion took the stage and began to attack the event and the people who were in it, saying that having a campus pole-dancing troupe perform was “not respectful” and that “it just perpetuated gender roles and objectified women.” One said that “she came here expecting to be empowered, but that’s not what happened for her at all” and that we “need to stop singing about gendered things” (and I believe the example was getting kissed in parking lots? Which…what?).

 

The other added that “women need to stop playing the victimized role, stop blaming men for our problems, women bring it upon themselves” and that “women have the power just as much as men and are as much to blame for abuse as men, that women are not chained to the floor and can just walk away from abusive situations.” That same one mentioned some of the performers who talked about abuse or abused women and their mindsets have no right to speak issues that they were not physically a part of (which is actually inaccurate, but I’ll get to that later).

 

This is my response, not only as SHEEC’s Co-Chair,  but as an individual:

 

First of all, the controversial pole-dancing performance. I’m tired of defending and explaining this one, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Empowering women doesn’t mean desexualizing them. Objectification is only a problem if it’s not paired with due subjectification (read this post as well as the comments). Finally, we support a group of educated women who want to “stretch the boundaries of pole dancing as something far more than simply sexy,” who “want to create a place where people feel comfortable, athletic, and yes, sexy!” and who “consistently challenge the stereotypes that surround vertical dancing, and seek to bring together a wide range of art forms through experimentation and openness in [their] performances.”

 

We wanted to showcase individuals who would address the core of our event, who would speak to their relationships with their bodies via song/dance/poetry and would show us a bit of themselves through their art. This event wasn’t meant to empower every person, but provide a space so people could share what empowered them and talk about what didn’t. Sorry, Cate and Lisa, if this didn’t empower you personally, but that’s not what the event was for. We wanted to start the conversation and show the varied emotions people had regarding their bodies, trying to focus on the positive, but also trying to highlight the complexity and (thus billing it as something “silly and serious and complex” in our advertising).

 

Now, what I consider the most egregious part of this evening (again, from what I’ve been told) was the commentary around abuse and the power women do or don’t have.

 

  • As a CLASS of people, no, women do not have the same power men have. This, of course, is affected by the intersections of people’s identities and how they affect their place on the social ladder/s, but if we’re only considering it on the axis of sex, no. We are not seen as equal and we do not have the same power men do. Some individual women may have more power in specific contexts, but ask yourself–is that because they’re women or is it because of something else? And furthermore, think of the difference between winning a battle and winning the war. Few and exceptional individual cases of powerful women don’t erase the massive inequalities across society.
  • We are not blaming individual men for “our problems.” First of all, they’re EVERYONE’S problems. Second of all, what we *are* blaming is a system that in most instances, privileges men and masculinity and devalues or even punishes women and femininity (not that the two–m/m and w/f–are inextricably joined, but are often thought to be). It’s not the fault of individual men (or women) acting in a vacuum; it’s the fault of everyone taking actions that contribute to this system, and that’s why EVERYONE has to work against it.
  • “Women bring it upon themselves” is such a problematic statement, I don’t even know where to begin. My first reaction is to say “Your privilege and ignorance are showing.” I’ll call upon the words of S. Biko: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” READ ABOUT OPPRESSION AND POWER. Expand your myopic view. Your personal experience as a a woman and even as a victim/survivor of abuse does not qualify you to invalidate the experience of others, particularly women who have experienced trauma.
  • Abusive situations are DEFINED by a power and control imbalance, so NO, if the abusive partner in a male/female couple is the male, the female partner does NOT have the same power. She is also NOT TO BLAME for the abuse; no victim of abuse ever is. Read up on slut-shaming and victim-blaming to educate yourself on this. Intimate partner abuse is also often reinforced by other forms of institutional abuse/power; again, these things don’t occur in a vacuum. Context is important!
  • Many circumstances make it difficult for women (or any abused partner) to walk away from their situation, and the comment about them “not being chained to the floor” is offensive in its disrespect and flagrant ignorance. This an excellent resource that answers the “why doesn’t she just leave?” question so often posed to and/or about victims. Also check this  out for more information. I personally hate this question because it blames, shames, and disenfranchises victims, though I understand where it comes from (because I once asked it too).
I commend Jenn, Chay, Linh, and the other SHEEC planners that were there and handled this as gracefully as they could given the circumstances. Thank you for positively representing SHEEC and doing damage-control, for letting those two girls know that you respected their right to have an opinion and their desire to share it, but that they did not have to attack other performers to express them. I also want to thank the performers for weathering that storm and for reaching out to us after the event with very touching emails.

 

Having a conversation or constructive dialogue is not the same as being argumentative and rude. Debating a point is not the same as attacking a group of people and not listening to their defense. Constructive criticism is no the same as ignorant remarks made to shame others and devalue their experiences. Learn the difference, Lisa and Cate, and then try again. We’re willing to listen if you are.

 

SHEEC is a group that was made to address issues of gender, sex, sexuality, and all the things that go along with it. This means we aren’t going to shy away from difficult conversations, controversy, and tackling the taboos. In fact, it means we’re more likely to address them because we come from a place that sees addressing those topics as a PRESSING NEED instead of as something to be avoided. We want to make people feel challenged and productively uncomfortable while also nourishing those who need it and providing support for folks marginalized due to their sexuality or desires. If you are looking for a “safe” group that doesn’t push envelopes, this is not it.

Spoon Me, Fork Me: An Evening of Sensual Pleasures


(photo by Ben Fink, in The New InterCourses book)

Come to a delicious evening of sensual pleasures!

(PLEASE RSVP to brownsheec@gmail.com, though drop-ins are welcome. We just want to know how many people approx. plan on attending!)

Learn how to please lovers in bed with a workshop by Megan Andelloux focusing on the art of oral sex (a combination of Fabulous Fellatio and Female Sexual Pleasure), then partake in a delicious selection of hors d’oeuvres (based on traditional aphrodisiacs) and chocolate fondue to stimulate your palate. We’ll have a raffle and finish off the evening with a foreign film that beautifully synthesizes the magical qualities of sex, food, and sensuality (Like Water for Chocolate). Certainly an evening not to miss!

**OVERALL SCHEDULE**

8-10: workshop with Megan Andelloux **during which we’ll hand out the raffle tickets!**
10-11: raffle, food-tasting, and other magical wonders
11-1: Like Water for Chocolate movie screening

**WE’RE RAFFLING OFF**

**WE’RE SERVING**

Libations:

  • raspberry iced-tea
  • lemon iced water

Seductive Starters:

  • mini beef wellington with demi glace sauce
  • asparagus wrapped prosciutto and boursin
  • 5 spice duck on sweet potato cakes
  • onion tart
  • 3 mushroom pizza
  • fig, honey and goat cheese

Delectable Desserts:

  • chocolate fondue station
  • strawberries, bananas, pineapple, pretzels, marshmallows
  • sugar cookies and biscotti

**IMPORTANT INFORMATION**

This event is a collaboration between SHEEC, the Brown Epicurean Society, and the Gender and Sexuality Studies DUG. We also want to thank Fascinations (www.funlove.com) for donating The New Intercourses, Kama Sutra Closet for donating the Oysters & Chocolate book, and Intimate Organics for donating their body products.

We’ll have condoms available at the event, as usual. This time, the variety will include Sir Richard’s condoms–a new, innovative condom company and brand with a commitment to social justice.

Peg-Ass-Us

Peg-Ass-Us

  • March 15th @ 7:30 PM @ Rites & Reasons Theatre (155 Angell St.)
  • A hilariously penetrating look at queer sex for straight folks, complete with sing-a-longs, how-to’s, romance, puppets and soul-baring striptease. John Leo and Sophie Nimmannit have crafted perhaps the silliest, most heartfelt romantic comedy about anal sex imaginable. Build in their passionate lover’s quarrels that unearth the messy entanglements of desire, fear, the need for acceptance, the hope for a sexual revolution – and the duo bumbles to a climax where everyone gets off. Be forewarned–there will be some nudity at this event!

KinkForAll Providence 2

Ah, I remember the notorious KinkForAll [Providence] that began a slew of attacks on SHEEC, Sex Week, our presenters, and our Chair last year…attacks that continued this year (and keep cropping up at lovely times)…

Well, we’re having one again in the name of education, the right to free speech, and SEXUAL FREEDOM. It promises to be even better than the first, so don’t miss it.

KinkforAll Providence 2

  • March 19th @ Smith-Buonanno Hall, 1st and 2nd floors (95 Cushing St.)
  • KinkForAll Providence 2 is a full day of discussions and presentations centered on the intersection between sexuality and the rest of life, created by you, the event participants. Oh yeah, and it’s totally free. Take this opportunity to come listen in and/or present on topics you are passionate about! Please sign up on the wiki and read up about it. (There’s also the FB event)

Brown/RISD Erotica Contest 2011 [Updated]

Think Brown and RISD are…stimulating places? Write* your sexiest/kinkiest/funniest piece of erotica and submit it to enter our contest. The only requirement is that you title your piece with the name of a Brown (or RISD) course and draw clear inspiration from it. Get creative! Put those wacky course titles to use, or give us a new spin on a clichéd class name. Anything goes, just don’t include real first or last names or overly identifying details. Length can vary, but we encourage all shapes and sizes to be submitted!

Winners will receive a prize from one of our Sex Week sponsors and get their story posted (credited if desired) on the SHEEC website.

Send your stories to eroticasheec@gmail.com or campus box #2306 by March 17th. Sign them with your real name and/or your campus box # so we can contact you. Winners will be announced at our March 18th dance in the Kasper Multipurpose Room.

*If you are inclined to make art instead of writing something, go for it.

——————————————————————————-

WINNERS:

  • Alexander the Great and the Alexander Tradition by Rod Bonerski
  • Advanced Fluid Mechanics by E.S.
  • Set of 4 Pieces by Abe P.

No-Cost Birth Control

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently debating whether to make birth control available at no cost under the new health care law. Removing the economic barrier to birth control would have a major impact on young people’s lives. Distributing condoms already makes a huge difference — and increasing access to no-cost birth control would have an even broader impact.

Are you interested in helping get signatures? Email brownsheec@gmail.com!

Are you interested in SIGNING the petition? Email or comment with the following (FULL) information:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • State
  • Zip code
  • Email

Talking to Your Doctor About S-E-X! (March 9th)

March 9th @ 12pm @ Sarah Doyle Women’s Center Lounge (26 Benevolent St.)

Scared of the OBGYN? Don’t know what to expect from a prostate exam? Have NO CLUE what a visit to the doctor entails when it comes to sexual functioning? Join Justine Shuey, trained sexuality educator and board-certified sexologist, to learn how to be a better advocate for your own personal sexual health.

An educated patient is a healthy patient, especially because most doctors receive less than one week of sex-ed as part of their professional training regimen. It’s up to YOU to advocate for your health!

In this workshop, learn what to expect, and what questions to ask your doctor whether you are going in for a regular checkup or whether you have specific concerns about your sexual health. See instruments used in sexual health assessments and learn how they work. Learn to be more involved with your doctor and your overall medical well-being. We will also discuss kink aware professionals and how to find them.

Condom Carnival (Feb. 16th)

A celebration of Condom Week ’11! (Feb 14 – Feb 21)

Date/Time: Wednesday, February 16 · 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Location: Near Faunce/Campus Center

We’ll have games, condom flowers, free lube + condoms, and button-making!

*Lube-tasting station*
We’ll have an assortment of lube in pump bottles or little packets for people to taste! We’ll also have free lube samples you can take home, as well as info sheets about the types of lube available out there!

*Condom station with “Cockboard” *
A display of a variety of condoms so you can check them out before taking them home. Free condoms galore, as well as info sheets on the types of condoms available out there.

*Safer Sex Superhero Station* courtesy of SHAG & Health Ed
Condom Man and Friends materials including coloring pages and button making! Copies of the Little Brown Book will also be available.

*”Food For Thought” game station*
2 or 3 people at a time have a set number of fruits and veggies to cover up with condoms. The person who covers them all in the least amount of time OR who covers the MOST in a given amount of time wins!

A larger version of this will happen for Sex Week (March 13-19th), so be on the lookout for that!

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Check out our blogpost on Amplify.

Events with Sarah Dopp: Let’s talk about gender, labels, community, and the web!

“Labels Don’t Explain Me: How to talk about gender and sexuality with the ones who don’t understand”
Feb 15 @ Sarah Doyle Women’s Center lounge (26 Benevolent St.) @ 12pm

Gender and sexuality can be tricky topics with big messy-beautiful ranges of possibility. When the standard labels don’t describe who we are, how do we help the people around us understand? Heck, even when our labels ARE considered standard, how do we talk more deeply about them? How do we describe ourselves to friends and lovers? To classmates and coworkers? What about to our employers? Our parents?

In this discussion workshop with Sarah Dopp (creator of many amazing things, including Genderfork.com), we’ll discuss how to approach these subjects tactfully, with respect for our relationships and respect for ourselves.

Beauty in Ambiguity: Gender, Community and the Internet
Feb 16 @ MacMillan 115 (167 Thayer St.) @ 7pm

Curious about what it takes to rally online communities, especially when it comes to gender & sexuality? Want to learn more about harnessing the power of the internet and finding beauty in the spaces that defy and transform boundaries? Then don’t miss this talk with Sarah Dopp (sarahdopp.com)–tech professional & activist.

Sarah’s the founder of Genderfork.com, a supportive community for the expression of identities across the gender spectrum. She’s also addicted to rallying communities on the internet and trying to change the world. In this talk, she will speak about her adventures in online community organizing, how she taps the magic of the Internet, and what she’s learned about non-traditional gender along the way.

These events brought to you by SHEEC and the Brown Queer Alliance (via QCC).