This past weekend, I was in a production of the Vagina Monologues at our school for the second year. It’s a great experience and I had a fabulous time doing it.
Anyways, during the Vagina Monologues, something happened and I’m still not entirely sure what I think about it. Girls had changed into their lingerie for one of the monologues. We were all supposed to wear whatever made us feel sexy and/or comfortable. (Like, one girl wore footie pajamas.) But lots of us were in teddies and such. Some girls left the dressing room and some guys came and started taking pictures of them without asking. I was truly pissed off when I’d heard about it, but some girls were less angry and militant than I was about it (aka saying we should threaten to or actually call campus police).
The thing is that Vagina Monologues is supposed to be a time and a place to wear lingerie (or footie pajamas) in order to have fun and reclaim your agency and sense of body. It’s supposed to be a safe way to do this without worrying and to make people confront women’s sexuality and desire head on. The guys who took the picture didn’t know what was happening or what it was for, but I just kept thinking that being photographed in these clothes without consent was very much what this show is not about. Mostly, it’s just hard to know what to do when I know that being sexual may be empowering for me, but can also be taken as a commodity by someone else.
I mean, it’s hardly the end of the world. Our director ended up scaring these guys off, and I wore a bright pink teddy in front of tons of people. And I did a monologue about pubic hair which I would have been scared to do a year ago.
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If you haven’t heard, Titties at Tulane are out and about. The idea is for Tulane women to “proudly share” pictures of their breasts, tumblr-style. It’s all anonymous and based on Boobs at Bard. More information about it is available on the Hullabaloo, the T@T website, or the grapevine in general. I was a little shocked that this website came up. At first, I thought it was a ploy for college women to exploit themselves for attention. In contrast to a campaign like Save The Tatas, their seems to be no purpose or vision to showing your breasts. Like flashing at Mardi Gras, the exhibition lends itself less to self-expression and more for exploitation. At least they don’t have a “Like” button.
What I like about Boobs at Bard, is the artistic spin that they take on it. The photos treat boobs like objects of artistic representation, and the presenters clearly think about the way they want to portray the boobs. Does this lose sight of the B@B vision to present all boobs in all their original glory? Maybe.
Cocks on Campus: Tulane is iffy and gross. Every cock is hard, erect, and reeks sex. Can I please see a flaccid cock on the site? The sexual overtone diminishes its message and the message of the boob counterpart. The sexually assertive cocks on the Tulane version makes the viewer a partner in a sexual act, even unintentionally. Retuning to the Titties at Tulane website, a viewer’s perspective is tainted by the sexual explicitness. It transforms a possibly woman-positive site to one that encourages sexualization of boobs. The focus on boobs/titties on this website is that is a source of self-consciousness but not necessarily societally sexual.
According to the creator in an interview with Jezebel, “I wanted people to feel comfortable viewing these images in a variety of ways, from an appreciation of the female form to masturbatory purposes.” The question that needs to be asked is if the reactions to naked boobs is heavily one way or another and if a spectrum of reactions is elicited from an individual… does a heterosexual man appreciate the form before masturbating? Are boobs being judged by peers, men and women alike, for their quality?
The Jezebel article on these sites is enlightening. It provides a lot more context about this article, like that Bard already had a magazine featuring nudity, The Moderator, and that the website was in response to the magazine’s method. It clarifies the purpose, and describes an example of the ways the site is changing discussion about nudity. A highly negative response to the Harvard edition of Boobs at Bard and criticism of Harvard’s boobs elicited some proof that “there is still a certain aesthetic standard of “perfection” to which breasts are held” and that “displaying “normal” boobs gives women a chance to see examples of anatomy that does not fit a porn/Hollywood/Playboy ideal.”
As much as I’m wary about the sexual exploitation of the boobs posted at T@T, there’s also a need for body-acceptance on our campus. The pressure to look a certain way from a couple of thousand peers, drives many of us to extremes lows of self-esteem. Yet I also worry about the “cocky” female population of our school making it a breast campusacb. If the comments on the boobs on the Bard version are any indicator, there’s mostly just love for all of them.
- So, if you’re a Tulane student, are you going to post?
- What do y’all think of the Hullabaloo article on it?
- And is the website feminist? The Hullabaloo has a short response from Mimi to consider.
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I am very skeptical as to how effective the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event really is in curtailing sexual aggression at Tulane. The event is supposed to raise awareness of how men can address sexual violence, but I don’t think that they’re actually doing that. This is a “wacky way” (as stated by someone in the video) to symbolically stand up against sexual aggression and violence, but doesn’t actually address the root causes of sexual aggression – power. When asked about why men rape, none of the men in the video could answer the question. This is problematic because it shows that men at Tulane are not educated about this topic and might go to support the notion that this event does not actually teach men any skills or provide them with activism opportunities, but instead gives them statistics that they will soon forget. To me, it seems that this event is a way to say “I don’t like that this is happening,” which I would hope everyone agrees with, but doesn’t empower the men to do the right thing.
Furthermore, as the only male on SAPHE, Tulane’s Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education student group, it seems like this event is a type of thing that is more of a “makes you feel good” event rather than a long term lasting change event. I also believe that this is giving men a false sense of helpfulness because if these men actually cared about realistically reducing the number of sexual aggression instances, they would join a group like SAPHE to be educated about the myths and issues surrounding sexual aggression so that they may be qualified advocates against it.
Moreover, this event is within a heterosexist framework because there is only a brief mention of men being victims and survivors of sexual aggression. I understand that women are statistically more likely to get sexually assaulted by men, but this emphasis on women’s experiences uniquely undervalues and under-recognizes the sexual aggression experiences of men as victims and survivors thus continuing the cycle of silence around this issue because of the negative stigma associated with the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, and power.
Additionally, the use of high heels as symbolic for all women says that women are feminine because of the connotation high heels have with femininity. It tells us how a woman should dress. It oversimplifies these issues – rape, gender violence and sexual assault. Furthermore, I believe this event gives men a false sense of understanding. The title of the event suggests that by walking in women’s shoes then these men will gain an understanding of the experiences of these survivors of sexual aggression which I believe to be extremely misleading. No matter how empathetic one can be toward survivors of sexual aggression, it’s unlikely we can truly understand their experiences even if we are a survivor of sexual aggression because all people’s experiences are different.
How are these few hours during this walk going to impact the decision making of perpetrators during the rest of the school year? What exactly are these men that are walking in this march actually learning? Are the men marching actually the target audience seeing as they already are interested in reducing sexual aggression? I agree that we should put men back into the visible light for criticism, but I don’t necessarily believe this is the right solution.
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In a recent “Tulane Talk,” a daily email/newsletter that informs the Tulane community of Tulane events and awards, it highlighted Drag Queen Bingo, a Bingo event hosted by a New Orleans drag queen promoting sexual and alcohol responsibility. I was shocked when I received the email because I wouldn’t have thought that Tulane would highlight such an event. Being a southern university in a very conservative state, I would have thought that Tulane would try to be hush hush about these kind of things. I thought the administration would be scared to stir up prejudices within some conservative Board of Trustees or other very influential people. I’m glad they showed video of the event and promoted it because it shows that Tulane is somewhat inclusive of the LGBTQ community. However, I would argue this is the expectation to the norm. Rarely do I see institutionalized LGBTQ support on campus. This is supported by the fact that there isn’t an LGBTQ Director available in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. One was requested, but wasn’t approved because of the hiring freeze. This clearly shows the underemphasis Tulane has put on the LGBTQ community here. There is an LGBTQ student organization, but it is severely non-influential on campus. The organization as a whole has a lot to do in order for it to become the success I believe it could be. I ask myself, because it seems to me that there is a large gay community (specifically just gay men, not LBTQ), “Why couldn’t a LGBTQ student group on campus be successful and why hasn’t it been successful in the past?” I would also like to know whether or not Tulane has a non-discrimination clause including sexual orientation and gender identity. This is something I’d definitely be interested in looking at. I’d also be interested in looking at how inclusive Tulane policies as a whole are toward students, staff, and faculty. Furthermore, I feel that if anything is to be done to change LGBTQ people on campus need to get together and propose change as a unified group. Right now I feel like the LGBTQ community on campus is disinterested in each other.
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