Thursday, October 04, 2007

FAM Says No to Surrendering Booty

This Friday, Cook Commons will host "Surrender Your Booty," a pirate-themed dance party in Pearsons Lounge, from 10:00 p.m. to 2 a.m. On the surface, this may seem like your typical Johnny Depp-inspired party, but it has already caused a fair amount of controversy.

At issue is the "Pirates" sex video, the R-rated version of which will be playing during the party. (There was a little rumor going around that the first 200 guests would receive R- and X-rated versions of the tape; this is not true).

Enter the women of Feminist Action Midd (FAM).

According to Kolbe Franklin '08, FAM and its members object to the "Pirates" sex tape because "this video depicts women in sexually explicit scenarios, often portraying the role of the 'whore.'" Kolbe goes on to write, "We do not feel that condoning and naturalizing these types of dehumanizing depictions of women is the type of message that Cook Commons wants to send [to] the student body regarding gender roles and the treatment of women."

She adds, "FAM is also concerned about how this video will create a sexualized atmosphere that not only has the potential to make students uncomfortable, but acknowledging that many students will be under the influence of alcohol, also creates a dangerous environment for women and men alike."

FAM voiced concerns about the party to the Dean of Cook Commons, the Cook Faculty Head, the Dean of the College, the Dean for Institutional Diversity, "as well as numerous faculty members."

Most importantly, FAM contacted the Cook Commons Tri-Chairs: Rachel Lincoln, Chris Wearn, and H. Kay Merriman. The trio invited FAM, as well as Men Against to Violence, to the Cook Commons Council meeting last night at 7:00 p.m.

According to H. Kay, the theme of the part was discussed three weeks ago at a C.C.C. meeting. At said meeting, the council--at the suggestion of a Cook student-- decided to project the R-Rated version of the "Pirates" sex tape "on a red, blue, and white sail behind the DJ, without sound." H. Kay tells MiddBlog that "it was to be seen as a novelty, a unique, fun way to decorate."

At last evening's meeting, FAM and Men Against Violence spoke about their concerns. Ultimately, the members of Cook Commons voted "in favor if displaying the film under the same circumstances previously voted upon."

Another issue brought up at the meeting was the nature of the posters which advertise the party: they were considered to be "degrading to women." In turn, the group voted "to take down the ones with the pirate woman and replace them with the others . . . that were mostly textual."

Are FAM's concerns about the "Pirates" sex tape legitimate? Or, is FAM overreacting? Do you think that it is okay for Cook Commons to play this film during the party? Do you think it will create danger for men and women alike? Hit the comments; MiddBlog wants to know what you think!

Update 10:15 p.m.: Excellent prompt from one of the anonymous commenters: "Why would a commons sponsored event show porn, what does it add?" I hope that said anonymous commenter would like to answer this question, too!

Update 10/05 11:30 a.m.:: MiddBlog just spotted a poster in the library: "Don't Surrender. Shake your Booty. Boycott. Friday." Are there any MiddBlog readers out there who are participating in the boycott? (or not?)

Update 10/06 9:00 a.m.:: In an e-mail to MiddBlog, the tri-chairs described the CCC as "a completely democratically run council in which any Cook student is allowed to vote on any topic as long as they show up at the meeting." (emphasis mine) If any student is allowed to vote at any Commons meeting (as Rachel, a tri-chair, and Dean Matt have said in the comments), then all the Commons should send their e-mails out to all students, not just students within that Commons. It is unfair to blame the objectors on this blog for not showing up when the meeting was not adequately advertised to the entire Middlebury College Community in the first place.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that feminists sometimes seek to empower themselves by going against popular opinion purely for the sake of the rebellion and the attention it gathers.

Their argument that students are at risk while watching this film while intoxicated has nothing to do with the party or its theme. Students shouldn't be drinking if they can't control themselves, and if watching a movie like that makes you too horny to contain yourself then don't go and stop whining!

Anonymous said...

Wow they need to chill out. Shouldn't women be allowed to take any role they want? Even, dare I say it, the 'whore'?

Feminists can often be, for lack of a better word, very close minded sometimes.

Hallie said...

regardless of feminist issues, i think the whole idea is in bad taste, especially as an official commons event.

James Hexter said...

You know, if you really wanted to, you could theoretically hold a beer-soaked, debauchery-filled, grinding-laden dance party WITHOUT showing any sex videos, and you could still have a "good time" (in quotes because everyone's defintion of "good time" is vastly different). FAM is definitely overreacting, but they do have a point: They don't need to show this. Besides, what kind of message would Cook Commons be sending if they played sex videos at their Commons-sponsored parties?

Anonymous said...

I will say that if someone wants to throw such a party-- a private party, that is-- then that's their own business. However, as an event sponsored by the Commons (and implicitly, the College), it seems pretty tasteless, and I'm rather surprised that Cook Commons decided to go through with it.

Anonymous said...

it is a tasteless action and someone needs to speak up against it.

Anonymous said...

It is really disheartening to read some of the posted comments. As a guy, I applaud FAM for standing up for something that they (as well as I) see as an issue of concern. While I feel that it is a personal choice whether or not to watch porn, I do not feel that it is appropriate for the Commons to endorse pornography by sponsering this type of party. Keep up the good work FAM!

Anonymous said...

I think that the comment left about women choosing to play the "whore" is ignorant of the truth behind the porn industry. What little girl says, "When I grow up I want to be a porn star?" Not one, I would hope. Women in the porn industry often have a history of sexual abuse. No one starts out a "star" in the industry, they start out in cheap budget films for petty cash. These women need money and are in desperation. Their self esteem is low enough that they decide to objectify themselves and place themselves in danger and under the control of men. They do this because as long as men are willing to pay to see women naked or have sex, these desperate women can make money. They do it because they are under the misconception, most likely resulting from mental or sexual abuse by men, that they are not good for anything else. One boy at the meeting said "No one holds a gun to their head to be in porn." Well, perhaps you are right, sir. No one holds a literal gun; but I argue a metaphorical one is there. And if the members of Cook Commons cannot recognize the existence of that "gun" then we are in a sad state of affairs in this college. It is highly offensive and inappropriate to show women in such a light and I for one am appalled. The women of this college deserve better than that.

PS This is written by a MALE Feminist.

Anonymous said...

i think that the question on whether or not this party should have porn is being overlooked when the article asks if FAM is over reacting. the question should be why would a commons sponsored event show porn, what does it add?

Jessamy said...

First off, I think a woman who wants to play the role of the whore can do it easily enough without having Cook Commons conveniently show her the way via a big-screen projection of what whores do, and what men do to them.

Secondly, I'm very concerned about what kind of community this promotes at the college. What does it mean to be a woman in the classroom when you're portrayed as a whore on the weekend? What does it mean to be a man in the classroom when you're portrayed as a sexual predator on the weekend? What does it mean to 'have fun' in that type of environment?

Thirdly, and most importantly, why is this so necessary? Why is porn the only way Cook Commons can conceive of to party? What would be so bad about a pirate party without the porn? Pirate costumes, minus the rape...it's an idea.

Also, I'd encourage people to post their names with the comments. We're people, not ideologies. "The Feminists" so many people have referred to are people with names and stories--your classmates, friends, neighbors. Just a reminder not to continue the cycle of dehumanization. :D

Geli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Someone already said it, but I agree. There is no need to show porn at this party. Why not just keep the pirate theme and leave the film out of it? Seriously, other than shock value, what does the film add?

Cook Commons has me VERY dissappointed and am sad that I attend school with students who think so low of a community that they feel if someone does not like something, they can just "not go." We are a community and if a group of people feel uncomfortable at a party, we should see that and take action.

There is no VALID reason to show porn at this party.

Geli said...

I love to party and shake what my momma gave me. I'm on the dance floor literally every weekend. Is it sexual? Hell yeah. Am I sexual? Hell yeah. But, when I dance, it isn't to entice men to imagine what it would be like to hold me down as I give them head--which is what is shown in a porno. I don't represent that. I don't want to represent that! So, no, it isn't okay to have "dirty pirate whores" all around me while I do my thing. I love dancing AND I love self-respect.

Anonymous said...

why not show the pirates of the carribean...smae theme value...same amount of popularity...

Anonymous said...

If someone wants to throw a private party and show porn and do stupid shit like that, thats their issue. But showing porn at public party sponsored by Cook Commons (and thus the college itself) is unacceptable. I understand that if you have a problem with the porn film, then you shouldn't go to the dance, but its sending the wrong message. I might even go so far as to agree that it puts people in bad situations...and while people who can't hold their liquor shouldn't drink, most people do it anyway and get themselves into trouble.

Emily said...

I kind of resent the use of the word 'rape'. While I agree that porn doesn't belong at a college-sponsored event, collapsing the ideas of pornography and rape is a stretch. The porn industry at large may be degrading to women, but pornography as a concept (and sometimes as it's executed) is not an inherently shameful and degrading thing. Also, not all women in porn movies are desperate women with psychological damage. Many are, but some just like doing what they do and are very open with their sexuality and sexual practices; some women use pornography as a way of proclaiming their own power, not degrading themselves. Making snap judgements about things like this, to me, is just as bad as saying all women are whores.

Meagan said...

i know were in college and all, and the school is really good in general about treating students as adults and letting them make their own decisions, even if they are dumb ones...but a COLLEGE SPONSORED event that advocates gratuitous sex in which both partners are not equals seems to me to be going too far. Seriously, this is not a good example of how people should treat other people, men, women, whoever. porn can give people bad ideas about how either sex can be treated. watching porn is a personal choice, and not one that i feel should be influenced by the college's support.

and to the person who said "students shouldn't be drinking if they can't control themselves" that doesn't neccessarily mean that just because they shouldn't do it, they won't. I'd like to think that most people here are more considerate than that, but you never know...

Anonymous said...

I was personally very surprised when Cook Commons decided to follow through on their idea. I thought that someone had initially not considered the broad implications of showing porn at an "official College event", but when they didn't reconsider after hearing the full argument? While we are all intelligent Middlebury students and pride ourselves on our good judgment and ability to make responsible decisions in any circumstance, we have to have some humility as well. We are not immune to being influenced by ANYTHING! I would personally hate to dance somewhere with porn showing in the background. Sure- women should be (and are!) allowed to "take the role of the whore" if they wish, but does this mean we should set an example of behavior that is demeaning to both men and women? It's just not a good idea. I'm disappointed in the decisions Cook Commons made, so I won't go.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to point one thing out--cook isn't showing porn. Yes, they are showing an r-rated verion of a porn movie, but we watch r-rated movies all the time. FAM didn't get upset by the Free Friday Film last week which showed a woman going out, getting drunk and getting "knocked up"...and as for this party coming from the college, social houses throw parties all the time that could be considered worse than this--where do you think they get their money? It's from the college. I consider myself a feminist, but I also don't think every little thing has to be such a big deal. I'd love to see FAM taking on bigger issues that an r-rated movie at a party.

Anonymous said...

Proud of you FAM! Can NOT believe Cook Commons will do such thing.

Anonymous said...

It may be the R-rated version, but that only means the most graphic parts are edited out. The basic portrayals of women as passive sex objects serving the desires of men remain. I've heard there is a scene in the movie in which the pirates force women to have sex. That might be where that otherwise inflammatory word 'rape' comes in.

FAM was not out-of-line simply for raising the issue. It was their right to object. The fact that they are automatically considered a special interest, that it's assumed their actions are self-serving, should be looked at. This campus is supposed to be open-minded and progressive. We are supposed to take each other seriously.

I can't believe so much outrage has been directed at FAM and not the college for endorsing an irresponsible and tasteless decision.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm not on campus because I'm in studying abroad, reading this blog and other emails makes me wonder how this type of party which degrades people can be held as a official party. Haven't we learned from other incidents on this campus that in order to build a better community we have to think about the feelings that everyone has, even the men and women who would be ofended. Why are we degrading ourselves to stereotypes that we are trying to break? Isn't the whole purpose of current feminist to try and understand both the feelings of men and women? By having this party, women's opinions are being excluded from what it seems. If there were female students who have agreeded to this party, why is important to reflect self hate?
-Angelika

Anonymous said...

i think it sounds like fun. i don't think that showing the r version of "pirates" will change the atmosphere of the party one way or the other. it will be sexually charged no matter what theme or video it is. it's a college party, for pete's sake! i think that the movie adds some spice to an otherwise uninteresting weekend. and for the record, i am female, confident in my abilities to do what i want and not do what i don't want, and do not believe that "pirates" will degrade the status of women at this party.

Anonymous said...

its not right to say, you don't have to go...

Thats the same thing as having a ghetto party (as many colleges across the US have been doing in recent years) and telling black and hispanic students that they don't have to show up.

I think often when it comes to feminists and women issues, we brush their complaints (for lack of a better term) off, but whenever its something thats racial, or religious, we sort of know our place.

Now, I don't think Cook was wrong in making the initial decision, they went along with the opinion of the memebers present, however I think that the arguments made against FAM in favor of the party, were slightly harsh, as well as unnacceptable.
While personally I don't see the porn as a big deal, I think it is important to not begin a trend of initiating school sponsored events that are deeply offensive to some in this community, and brushing things off by saying "you don't have to participate".

Jessamy said...

Emily...I think someone said this already, but just to clarify: my used of the word "rape" was a direct reference to the representation of rape included in the film. Also, when we talk about pornography in the context of this discussion, I believe most of us are (hopefully) referring to a very specific example...if you were to have a conversation with me on the *idea* of pornography you might find some surprising similarities with your own. This is about a specific film, and it's about the college endorsing (implicitly) the pornography industry, which you acknowledge as degrading to women. I would also argue that anything degrading to women is degrading to our society as a whole, both genders included.

Saila said...

Sex is fun. I'm sure most people, including feminists, would agree. Watching porn can be fun too, for both men and women. It becomes problematic when you don't consider where, when and with whom you watch it. Sexuality is not the issue. It's the way we perceive it. Porn is not the best way to represent sexuality in a supposedly equal, unbiased and respectful community. Just the very fact that people have voiced their concerns and expressed that they will be offended (whether they go or not!) should be enough to ring some bells. It should encourage people to come up with different ideas in order to have a party where everybody can feel comfortable going to.

To respond to the anonymous comment: I don't see why FAM would have had an issue with "Knocked Up". Yes, it shows a woman going out, getting drunk and getting pregnant. Surprise! Women can get drunk and act irresponsibly as much as men can. Portraying them as objects in a college-sponsored party is a bit of a different thing.

FAM, thank you for doing this.

Anonymous said...

BTW: FAM *is* taking on much bigger issues than this! This is a very much unwelcome disruption of the general plan for the year...we're in the midst of planning a lot of very important events, discussions, and campaigns which you should look out for in the upcoming months

Anonymous said...

I think this party is in extreme bad taste. I also find it pretty heteronormative. What happened to equal opportunity? On which wall will they be projecting the GAY pirate movie? Cook should project gay porn instead. Then women are automatically not being treated as objects. Oh, and if some misogynistic men won't come because they don't want to see gay porn then no one is FORCING them to come and they could stay home. Look outside the box, boys.

3am junkie, Catarina said...

Middlebury students I've spoken to have a tendency to disregard any action coming from the feminist community as rash and prude; however, the concern about this party is not strictly feminist. The dissent is not because the party has elements of sexuality, this is not an anti-sexuality nor anti- party issue, but rather about the nature in which these things are put on campus.

The main argument for continuation of this event is the common "if you don't like it don't come", however, RAs are required to attend this event regardless of their views and the event is not being run out of one's personal pocketbook but rather that of the instituion itself. It seems the nature of sexuality conveyed in this particular porn is not only being allowed but condoned by the institution, even promoted.

Porn and one's right to porn is one thing and we can get into a huge discussion about "the woman's role in porn" however, this discussion is about ensuring an individual's right to define his or her own relation with sexuality on campus instead of having the institution pay for a projection that conveys one version "what sex should be like".

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain exactly what this video shows, and what 'counts' as porn in it?

Anonymous said...

Links for info on this film:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_%282005_film%29

http://www.piratesxxx.com/main.php?flash=true

The Cook Commons version appears to be the "R" version, but the question remains about 'how toned down' it really is, when the original film won awards like "Best All-Girl Sex Scene".

Anonymous said...

For me, the Cook Commons' party becomes especially disturbing when you consider that the Task Force on the Status of Women at Middlebury College is holding open meetings starting next week.

Anna said...

First of all, no matter the charged views on whether or not screening the film is threatening or sexually degrading, the choice to show it is poor taste. Pure and simply. And Cook Commons is exhibiting shockingly poor taste, and poor judgement, in doing so.

Whether you agree that porn reinforces threatening structures of male sexual dominance or if you like porn in private is irrelevant. The fact that the commons system, the same system that is there to create a supportive environment for students (with their fondue and their cookie-filled offices), is sponsoring the screening of something which is bound to (as we've seen just from this slew of comments) make students uncomfortable, is appalling. Take a moment to consider who primarily attends commmons sponsored parties. Since the senior social scene has mostly moved down the hill, the Pirates party is likely to be populated by a majority of underclassmen. I've been a JC. I speak from that experience as well as my own experience as an underclassman when I say that there is a great deal of insecurity and unease connected with sex at that stage in any Middkid's college career. Both young men and young women grapple with what they think the social community expects of them. Already, college kids fall frighteningly quickly into traditional gender roles. Why reinforce the expectation that women are sexual victims and men are predators? Why contribute to this by screening a film with, as several comments here imply, violent sexual representation?

Do I think FAM is right when they say the film may create a dangerous sexual environment? Perhaps that is going a little too far. Do I think the film will add negatively to an otherwise already confusing sexual self-image? Yes.

Samantha M. said...

I understand the attempt of Cook Commons to allow the freedom of self expression for the students at thier party but this is WAY overstepping the bounds of common sense. Having porn showing in a public place (and if its a commons sponsored event it IS public) is just totally inappropriate. Not only is it knowingly and willingly making a huge amout of people uncomfortable but its also BEGGING for people to enter a state of mind (especially with the assistance of alcohol) in which they might say and do something utterly offensive and degrading to someone else. I can just see it now: Guy is dancing with girl, holding a cup of beer in his hand and glances up at the porno and is inspired to say something along the lines of "hey! you wanna x my z just like the chick up there?" Is this such an unlikely senario? If you wanna have a private party where you invite a bunch of ppl why wanna watch porno thats GREAT, have fun. But to assume that "hey we're in college lets all watch porn together!" is everyones idea of a good time is senseless.

Also, for the people that think this is a totally appropriate way to have a public party, I think you would be hard pressed to show a great display of a lack of consideration for your fellow classmates.

FAM enthusiast said...

In response to the "Shake your Booty" boycott....

FAM is encouraging everyone to check out a fun alternative to the Pirate Party...

ISO Dance Party
LOWER FOREST (LoFo)
Friday
11pm - 2 am

Anonymous said...

i'm a woman who considers herself a feminist... but the girls of Middlebury who are angry about this are being absolutely ridiculous. You have no right to tell people what they can and cannot support, if girls want to go to this party, they obviously don't find it offensive, if you don't want to go to it, don't... that pretty much solves the problem.

I can tell you that there are worse things in the world than a party called surrender your booty.

Anonymous said...

crap did I miss something? FAM is requiring us to boycott!?

No, they are simply raising awareness and encouraging people to not go. don't lash out at them.

also, not going to it doesn't
"pretty much solve the problem". I suggest you read the above comments.

sylvia said...

I think that whether you do or don't decide to go tonight is a matter of personal choice, but it's good that we are actually talking about this, and I encourage more of it on campus. I am also appreciative of FAM for taking a position on this and standing by it.

FAM said...

At this point FAM is not trying to stage a massive, angry boycott to the pirate party this evening. The boycott posters were an attempt to encourage people to make conscious decisions whether or not to attend the party and not to just go because it is seen as what is expected or accepted at Middlebury. We are simply trying to engage in discussion regarding the ramifications of this type of party and the message Cook Commons is sending to the student body.

Pirate Party not for you? Check out the ISO dance party...11pm LoFo

Anonymous said...

I just want to bring up another issue which I think should be addressed. In many of these posts, people have referred to “the women of FAM” of the “girls of Middlebury” that are concerned about this issue. Besides the point that there are NUMEROUS men (students, faculty AND staff) that have been on board with this cause from the beginning, referring to these people as just a group of faceless people, make it easier to write them off as “radical” or “irrational”. Kolbe, Aaron, and the dozens of others who are spearheading this cause, are actual people, not just radical, faceless bodies. I feel that these individuals are often written off as self-serving attention-getters because of the stigma against the word “feminism” on this campus*. These individuals (male and female) feel that the screening of this tape is offensive and dehumanizing to them and feel that Cook Commons is sending the wrong message by publicly screening it. Based on the sole fact that this party is alienating a large group of Midd students, I do not understand how they can still justify screening it. One should consider if the Commons would have had a different reaction if this movie had offended a particular racial group and was contacted by a different student organization (ALC, AAA, MASO…perhaps).


*FYI…the definition of feminism is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men”…just keep that in mind next time you refer to a feminist as radical….

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the wrongs and rights and overstepping bounds or not, if FAM wants to prevent or alter the nature of this party, they are going about it completely the wrong way.

1. On the FAM protest posters they write, "Shake your Booty instead"...what does that mean? I don't think thats particularly the right message...

2. By making this a topic of debate, all FAM is doing is giving the party more publicity. I think all thats going to result from this is that more people are going to go to this party.


3. In the letter to the cook commons it was suggested that this would create an over sexualized environment...
Hold the phone, is FAM suggesting that in an environment of exclusively young, attractive hormone charge charged men and women, that all it takes is the screening of an R-rated movie to create an over-sexed environment? Hmm...for a moment there it almost sounded like we are in college or something.

4. And everyone, please try to keep this in mind - even if your opinion happens to be the "right" one, it is not the "right" opinions that predominate - it is the popular ones.

Anonymous said...

Have members of FAM been to any parties lately? Have they witnessed the girls dancing on the tables at Tavern parties? Why make a fuss about a r-rated pirate film party when the last party was called "Dirty Professors and Naughty school girls"? Furthermore, I'd be curious to know if FAM has even watched this film. Do they know what an r-rated "porn" looks like? Or are they making generalized judgements without specific knowledge?

Rachel said...

Hey guys- I am a Cook Tri-Chair and as well as a proud member of FAM. I just want to say that approximately 20% of you are Cook members. That means that when you write, "I am disappointed in Cook", it is not the Res-Life staff, it is not the Tri-Chairs, but it is 20% of this campus and the bloggers here.

The commons council prides themselves on acting as a completely democratic body. All decisions are voted on by any Cook student that shows up at the meeting. This topic, in particular, was voted on once, then objected too so we made it very publicly known that we were going to debate and open it up for a re-vote. When we held the re-vote, it still overwhelming stood that the movie was going to be shown.

Now, it is my job to facilitate discussion and in terms of this party, that is what we did and are doing, which is great! It is also my job now to take what the democratic body voted on and carry it out.

Thus, the real issue I have is I wonder where all of you were when we had this very open discussion and re-vote about it. If you had very strong objections, in our democratic system you should have come, even if you weren't in Cook, it was publically known that all were welcome to come and debate. There were some new people that did come, representing both sides, which was exactly what we were hoping for! But where were the rest of you that care so much about it now but didn't bother enough to voice it then?

The commons work in a democratic system and it was certainly not a few of us sitting around and deciding on this. If nothing else, I hope that this inspires you all to go to your commons meetings and vote on all future issues. Please.

Anonymous said...

How was it made publicly known that this was going to be voted on? If you sent out an e-mail to Cook Commons, then only Cook Commons students would have known about this, not the entire campus.

Rachel said...

In response to the previous blogger:

We sent emails out to all Cook students about the discussion and vote. We only have access to the Cook distribution list. Also, although all are welcome to attend meetings, only Cook students can vote. FAM was aware of the debate, and the creator of this blog was told specifically about the debate in the hopes of them spreading the word around to as many people as they had access to. We worked very hard to get the word out there in the short notice that we had about the debate occurring (24 hours), and the limited access that we are subject too.

Anonymous said...

People often complain about things, despite a general misunderstanding of purpose and intent. Middlebury College and Cook Commons obviously do not condone violence or the dehumanization of any gender/ethnicity/what have you, and to interpret their decision to decorate a dance party using an infamous pirate-themed movie as a derogatory statement is shortsighted. It is important to remember that this is NOT a screening of an adult film, but instead a dance party open to the entire campus without alcohol. In a crowded room of people, how much will people's decisions really be influenced by a R (again, R) rated film projected on a colored, waving, sail? Middlebury students are intelligent people, and it seems like relatively few of them would realistically make major life choices based on a party theme and/or decoration.
While FAM and other gender-awareness groups perform many wonderful functions for the Middlebury community, I can't remember the last time anybody raised an eyebrow about many of the beer-soaked parties thrown nearly every week. So the naughty school girls and dirty professors party is acceptable, but a rated R film is not? The commons is simply trying to add flair to their event and host a memorable night for the entire campus. Regardless of the funding or "condoning factor," statements and/or ideas about women and sexuality are harmful, despite the source. Not to say that this event has no sexual implications, but turn on the TV, there is far worse in the world than Cook choosing to decorate with a toned down version of an adult film. Has anybody even seen this version of the film? Probably not. Can you find faults in anything if you look close enough? Probably. Looking at the big picture, Cook is making an honest effort to provide a safe (hey, no booze) social event, which honestly provides a refreshing break from the norm. Calm down. If R rated movies with exceptionally poor acting aren't your thing, don't go.

Matthew C said...

As the Dean of Cook Commons, I am very encouraged to see the dialogue that has ensured as a result of this issue. To explain my enthusiasm, I would clarify that, in my mind, the fundamental topic underlying our conversation is not simply about the rightness or wrongness of “porn,” per se, but rather is one of process: that is, how does a diverse community with diverse opinions on controversial issues fairly, justly, and inclusively MAKE a decision about that issue as a community. I hope that participants in this conversation will recognize that Cook’s pirate party is a rather tidy paradigm of this question.

As you know (or perhaps you don’t know, which is a problem that I hope to remedy right now), every student on this campus IS a member of a Commons, and as such has a vote on their respective Commons’ Councils. As we as bloggers are learning in this conversation, Commons Councils are not simply “prom party” committees. They are far more than that. They manage and spend budgets (your money) of nearly $13,000 per year, and they raise and decide upon issues that – as we’re seeing here – affect not just individual Commons, but the Middlebury community as a whole.

As such, each Commons Council has great power, and with that power comes great responsibility: the responsibility of ensuring the opportunity to allow all voices to be welcomed, heard, and counted via the votes that they have by virtue of being a member of a Commons.

Simultaneously, as a member of a Commons, each Middlebury student has both a valuable and inalienable right AND A RESPONSIBILITY to engage in decision-making processes that affect not only their own lives, but the community in which they live. To shirk or ignore the opportunity to exercise that right and responsibility leaves one in the (possibly) unenviable position of feeling “put upon” by the will of others. In point of fact, however, as we all know, the decision not to engage a in community-based decisions is still a decision.

By way of history, the decision to show the R-Rated version of Pirates was made by the members of the Cook Commons Council who elected to exercise their right and responsibility as a member of the Cook community by attending the weekly Council meeting during which they discussed, debated (yes, there was much debate), and voted on the issue of whether to show the R-Rated version of Pirates in the background of a pirate-themed alcohol-free dance party in Pearsons Lounge. To be sure, in this particular case, the Council was NOT as effective as it could have been in taking steps to effectively inform all members of the Commons community of precisely what types of issues would be decided prior to that original meeting. In the future (as was done prior to this past Wednesday’s meeting), meeting agendas WILL be circulated prior to the meetings to that community members who may feel strongly about a pending agenda issue can be alerted when an issue is on the table about which they would like to make their opinion heard, and – most importantly – to speak with their VOTE. Additionally, anyone can add a topic to the Council agenda that is important to them, and are more than encouraged to do so.

I will not re-hash the history of the Cook Council’s re-opening of the Pirates debate as a result of FAM’s much appreciated input on the situation, as it is well documented in the comments above, but I would like to address a concern that I’ve heard questioning the fact that “students from one Commons should not be allowed to make decisions that affect the campus as a whole.” In response to that valid concern, it does seem to me – and I speak from experience from seeing the deliberation process at work – that Middlebury students, when deciding serious issues in a convivial and welcoming discussion forum that ensures an opportunity for all voices to be heard, do take into consideration the fact that their decision affect all members of the Middlebury community.

In closing, I would just like to note that in the future, when that when you as a student strongly disagree with an issue that is the subject of a public forum, debate, and vote, I hope that you will appreciate that the most effective course of action is to exercise your voice and the truly significant voting power that each of you as a member of a Commons has, and to EXERCISE that power as you see fit. After-the-fact discussion such as this is undoubtedly valuable in its own right, in that it may inform future debates and votes, but in terms of being an effective and determinative factor in decisions that affect not only your lives while at Middlebury, but ultimately in your lives as “citizens” beyond (in many countries) Middlebury, active civic engagement and participation will always remain not only the most effective, but also an inescapable reality of the community decision-making process. I very much look forward to your responses, and again wish to thank each of you who has taken the time and initiative to dedicate to this topic. –Dean Matt

Matthew C said...

ps. To expand upon Rachel's comment above, and as some general food for thoguht, while there are currently 48 blog entries on this topic, the total number of people who showed up to vote at last Wednesday's "re-vote" on the issue totalled approximately 25.

Anonymous said...

The complaint that FAM has not protested all of the parties and events that might be offensive or permeate the ideals of gender roles has been brought up several times in the comments. There have been many that they might have seen as provoking, this is true. However is it FAMs responsibility to police all of these events? This particular event, an event that not just Feminist have found tasteless, an event that is sponsored by a commons, a part of the school that includes a array of people, FAM found offensive and brought up there concerns. They did not barricade anyone from attending this event, they simply reminded people to think about the actions that we, as a student body have become numb to. Why is it that when someone lacks the general apathy to social issues on this campus are they condemned for their actions? I for one, would like to give kudos to the members of FAM, and any others who have chosen to look past what the popular response may be and don’t what they believe is right.

Anonymous said...

For the record FAM never interfered with anyone's freedom to attend the party last night. It didn't sabotage the event, or picket outside it, or otherwise interfere with the 'democratic process' that brought us the party in the first place.

In my experience (I have attended a couple meetings), FAM is neither naieve nor alarmist. Members had a genuine concern that the choice of decoration at this party sent a disturbing message about proper gender roles and the way men ought to treat women. Many people I've talked to, apart from FAM, question why the college would associate itself with dubious and degrading material.

Such comments as "calm down" are condescending and counter-productive. FAM members looked at this matter rationally and did their research. They did in fact watch the movie and listen to arguments relating to why it would be screened. They then contacted deans and began dialogues with students. What did the defenders of the party do besides dismiss FAM, shout them down, down a few beers, and tie bandanas around their heads on their way out the door?

FAM is aware of the social scene at Middlebury. Of course all parties here are to some extent sexualized, but why would party organizers choose to intensify the already present cues by screening porn. Why do so on the school's dime?

Finally, The fact that Middlebury students are smart and mostly liberal doesn't mean we don't need to talk about matters such as these. It means we should talk about them even more than other schools do. FAM doesn't think all men are pigs or that all women are incapable of handling themselves. Far from it. FAM believes in empowerment of both sexes, in the right of each person to make THOUGHTFUL decisons about his or her life.

I think, after this debacle, FAM must wonder how informed students are about gender relations and how willing they are to think about the symbolic potential of their actions. I hope we hear more from FAM as the year progresses.

Anonymous said...

As the profs say, this is a 'learnable moment', folks. The bottom line is that FAM is not a 'group for and about women'. Feminism is not just 'about women'. The idea is that the pattern of relationships among men and women is something that we should probably talk about, and that gender inequality matters because it affects ALL of us. Nothing makes me smile like seeing a guy wearing a "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirt.

fam said...

if you would like to continue this discussion outside the realm of cyberspace FAM is meeting tonight at 9:30 in chellis house. we welcome all.

on the books...