The safety escort isn’t safe if we are afraid to use it.

10 02 2009

Is anyone else here afraid to use the safety escort?  First of all, most of the time the escort picks you up in a police car (embarassing).  Second, I have heard numerous people complain that the dispatcher or the driver was rude to them or acted overly annoyed at having to pick them up.  Thirdly, the escort is supposed to come quickly.  But in my experience, it can take up to twenty minutes to arrive.  Lastly, I have heard that in general men do not use the escort service.  This could be due to embarrassment, a male sense of self-sufficiency, and also the less perceived risk of rape and attack of males.

I used the escort service twice in my three years here.  The first time, the dispatcher acted very angry at me on the phone.  The escort took about 20 minutes to arrive, but the man driving the car was very pleasant.  The second time, the dispatcher was great but the driver was very rude.  The driver in fact refused to acknowledge my presence at all.

If people are afraid or embarrassed to use the safety escort, the service is not really doing its job.  I have heard of schools that have a continuous shuttle that circulates campus all night long.  These situations seem to work out better because more people use the shuttle and it does not require a phone call.

Please share your experiences with the escort services and any ideas for improving the service here at Tufts.  Thanks!

PETA: Are animals more important than people?

10 02 2009

PETA fights for animal rights, but in the process seems to throw humans under the bus.  The amount of racism and sexism in PETA’s demonstrations and ads is appalling.  I am a vegetarian who has always hated PETA for many reasons, but this one set me over the edge.

Is that the KKK?  Nope, it's PETA.

Is that the KKK? Nope, it's PETA.

PETA members dressed up as members of the KKK for a demonstration against the American Kennel Club.  The PETA organization claims that the AKC is trying to create a “master race” and therefore the KKK comparison is applicable.  PETA has made all sorts of overblown comparisons in the defense of animal rights, including comparisons to the Holocaust and to lynching of African Americans.  To me, these demonstrations are ridiculous and offensive.  Dressing up as the KKK is just not okay, no matter what the point of the demonstration.  These tactics do not foster support, but offend people and scare them away.

PETA’s ridiculous tactics don’t stop with overblown comparisons.  PETA’s ads are often racist and sexist.


Is this woman an animal?  Don't treat her like one.

Is this woman an animal? Don't treat her like one.

And this recent banned Superbowl ad was equally ridiculous.

Again, I believe in animal rights and I try my best to be a decent vegetarian, but watching scantily clad women practically have sex with vegetables doesn’t make me want to not eat meat.  But it does make me want to blog about how much I HATE PETA.

p.s.  Where the heck did they get those “studies?”

Lesbian Exploitation in Heterosexual Porn

10 02 2009

If you google image search “lesbian,” you will most likely be barraged by an overwhelming amount of pornographic material geared toward heterosexual males.  Porn for lesbians by lesbians most likely will not show up in your search.  True lesbian-for-lesbian porn is much more difficult to find, and is hugely different from the “girl-on-girl” porn to which heterosexual men are being exposed.

Lesbian women have been especially exploited in heterosexual porn for male arousal.  Modern pornography for heterosexual males often contains at least one “lesbian” scene.  In some countries, girl-on-girl porn for heterosexual males is considered a “fetish,” and is for this reason not included in mainstream pornography.  But many straight porn actresses have performed in “lesbian” scenes.  Why, if it is not for lesbian arousal, are girl-on-girl scenes so prevalent in heterosexual pornography?

Studies have found that some straight men are more aroused by depictions of lesbian sex than heterosexual sex. For one such study, click here.  But we must also note that studies can conflict, and the “lesbians” pictured in hetero porn are highly feminine-looking, heavily made-up, large breasted, most often straight women.  Hetero “girl-on-girl” porn is geared toward the socialized heteronormative opinions of what is attractive in women.  The actresses often look at the camera more than in true lesbian pornography, concerned not with each others’ enjoyment of the experience, but with the male viewer’s enjoyment.  The sexual experience is in fact not just between two women.  The viewer is included in the action.  

Many activists have been increasingly uncomfortable or angry with the portrayals of women in pornography.  Both straight and lesbian heterosexual-geared pornography have been the subject of debate among feminists.  Whether or not pornography in itself can be reworked in a way that is less damaging to women or the entire concept must be thrown out the window is unclear.  Pornography can be used to encourage sex-positivity, but also can be used to reinforce gendered power-hierarchies and male-centered sexual behaviors.  A reworking of the heterosexual pornography industry would be necessary in order to create erotic material that expresses female desire accurately and encourages equality in enjoyment for both sexes.  

The exploitation of lesbian women in heterosexual porn is despicable.  The portrayal of “lesbians” in heteronormative ways spills over into pop culture, television, and advertising, where straight women are portrayed in girl-on-girl scenes for male arousal.  The idea of the “lesbian” as an erotic idea for straight men is not representative of a true lesbian sexual experience, and is used mainly to arouse the viewer based on socially constructed and hetero-male-centered ideas of what is erotic.  I want to make it clear that it is not the male desire to view girl-on-girl scenes that I view as especially problematic, but the way that the idea of “lesbian” has become improperly represented as a mechanism for heterosexual arousal.  At least the term “girl-on-girl” porn acknowledges that these women in the scenes most often are not lesbians.  But the truth is that this genre is often referred to informally as “lesbian” porn and the very idea of lesbian women has become eroticized for male pleasure in society as a whole. The idea of heterosexual girl-on-girl scenes also plays into the idea of women performing for male pleasure instead of for their own pleasure or mutual pleasure.  Reclaiming (or destroying) pornography via feminism must include discussion of the negative impacts of the current porn industry not only on straight women, but on the LGBT community as well.

Chris Pureka at Club Passim, Cambridge

10 02 2009

Chris Pureka is coming to Cambridge!  If you don’t know who Chris Pureka is, you should.  This multitalented folk musician will be performing Monday, March 30, 2009 at Club Passim, located at 47 Palmer St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  But if you can’t make this one, no worries.  She will also be performing in our area on the following dates:

  • Smith College in Northampton, MA on Friday, Feb. 13th at 7:00 PM
  • Me and Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA on Friday, Feb. 20th at 7:00 PM
  • Wheaton College in Norton, MA on Sunday, March 29th, at 9:00 PM

Chris Pureka has released two albums, “Driving North” and “Dryland.”  She also released an EP in January entitled “Chimera,” which is a reworked version of her 2001 EP with a few live tracks and a cover of Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor’s song Wagon Wheel added.  A graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, her music has been praised by respected publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Billboard, and feminist publications such as Off Our Backs.  Her music is beautiful and honest and her guitar work impeccable.  

Pureka identifies as genderqueer, dresses androgenously, and is an ardent feminist.  But her music does not deal directly with LGBT or feminist issues.  Her songs instead focus on emotional relationships between people.  But even though her lyrics may seem apolitical, Pureka is a very political figure.  The non-specificity of the descriptions of interpersonal relationships in her music emphasizes the emotions and dynamics involved in any relationship, regardless of sexual orientation.

In an interview with Off Our Backs, Pureka said:

“I don’t know how any self-respecting woman could not consider herself a feminist. Yes, I believe in equal rights and opportunities for all genders, sexes, races, sexualities.. .Even though my art is not inherently political, I think that what I do is political in nature-being a gender-queer woman making music in what is still a male/straight dominated industry.”

Pureka is managed by Faux Pas Productions, a woman-run company in the middle of a male-dominated industry.  The company takes a grassroots approach and works with many independent artists.

For more information about Chris Pureka, visit her website at

V-Day 2009

10 02 2009

So V-Day is coming up very soon (and the Tufts production of the Vagina Monologues will be at the end of the month!) and I know that while many people have mixed feelings about Eve Ensler, I respect her and the work that she has been doing and continues to do. V-Day is a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls, and the V in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

Each year V-Day has a different campaign. Last year the campaign was dedicated to helping women of New Orleans and the Gulf South. This year the campaign is called “Stop Raping our Greatest Resource, Power to the Women and Girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Sexual violence against women and girls in the DRC occurs rampantly and rape is a weapon of war to systemically perpetrate violence against women.

One of the reasons why I love the Vagina Monologues is because not only does it give women a voice and a safe space to reflect on and share their (bad and good) sexual experiences, but it also celebrates female sexuality. Women are not supposed to be sexual. Sexual pleasure is not really a principle that we are taught to know about and embrace. Instead women are supposed to be the passive receivers while men are active sexual agents. While sexual dysfunction for men is medicalized and the subject of much research, there is very little research done about female sexuality or female orgasms.

The Vagina Monologues helps to break the shame, silence and the taboo around sex, sexuality, sexual violence, and sexual pleasure.

Reflections on academia

10 02 2009

Academic disciplines such as Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, Latino Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, etc. are such critical disciplines because historically, the production and teaching of knowledge has mostly been euro-centric and male-centric. It is important to hear the stories that we normally don’t hear, to see from a different perspective.

It is problematic that these disciplines are often pushed off to the side and considered “side dishes” that are separate and detached from the primary curriculum. These fields also attract only a certain crowd and may marginalize others. For instance, not many men enroll in Women’s Studies classes or declare Women’s Studies majors (it could be helpful if it were renamed as Gender and Sexuality Studies instead) perhaps because they feel that it applies to or invites women only. There is also a stigma attached to these fields and majoring in an ethnic study or Women’s Studies is less publicly perceived as valid or credible.

Since these programs/departments are already very small and have small budgets, they tend to get hit hardest by budget cuts. So given the state of the economy now, it is not surprising that cultural conservatives are using the economic downturn and budget cuts as an excuse to further reduce and even eliminate academic programs and departments deemed “unnecessary” or “irrelevant.”

In Georgia, House Republicans are fighting to eliminate queer theory classes in higher education because such a subject “‘is not considered higher education‘” and “‘this doesn’t belong in our universities.'” The full story is here:

Higher education, or education in general, should not be just a stepping stone to get a job after one graduates. While that of course is an important and necessary thing to do, education should be more than that. Higher education is about expanding the scope of knowledge which might mean covering more controversial and contentious topics, but that’s the point. You’re supposed to get uncomfortable when you’re confronting  your own prejudices.