The long-awaited HEART Center opened this Sunday! Thank you everyone for welcoming this space with us. We hope that the HEART Center will be a place full of healing and learning for years to come!
Over winter break, I shadowed three neurologists in the ICU in a hospital in San Francisco. I enjoyed it so much and could not have been happier for this opportunity, except for the bitter taste of reality I had last Thursday. I had previously failed to notice significant gender disparities because the ICU usually seemed pretty balanced gender-wise, with a few more female nurses but not a disproportionate amount. However, last Thursday left me with quite an opposite impression. I attended a meeting with a few of the hospital’s neurologists and radiologists, where they discussed their patients and specific cases. I was among the first to enter the meeting alongside a medical student. Slowly, as doctor by doctor filled the room the gender disproportion sharpened more and more. I counted 11 people sitting around the meeting table: the only two females were the neurologists I was shadowing, and the rest were self-identified male doctors.
It seemed strange to me, where were all the female doctors I had assumed would be at the meeting? An hour prior, I attended a lunch conference on Infectious Diseases in the same hospital, yet that room was mostly filled with women. What was happening? I then realized that the women I had just seen were probably medical students and would not become doctors for at least 2, 3, or 5 years. It is important to keep in mind that the slow turnout rate from college students to practicing doctors is due to the long process of arduous training. In the last 15 years, female students have received much more encouragement to choose a STEM career, which would make sense for why a lot of these college students are just finishing medical school or graduate school. This coincided with the fact that the youngest doctors in the room seemed to be the two female neurologists, both whom had started practicing medicine 9 years ago. But still, women did not even make up 1/3 of that room! Something else stuck out to me too: excluding myself, there seemed to be only two racial groups present. I counted 6 white and 5 Asian doctors.* In terms of People of Color, Asian-Americans were well represented, but no Latino, African-American, or Middle Eastern doctors were present. The lack of racial diversity in that meeting astonished me. And this problem can be expanded from an 11 person meeting to the hospital. At the ICU where I spent most of my time, there were always people coming and going from nurses, interventionists, office staff, physical therapists, and neurologists. In my two weeks there I was able to see many different faces, to my dismay, most of them were white and Asian. I only met one African-American and one Latino worker: a male nurse and a female office worker respectively.
It’s interesting to see how even in 2015 with books like “Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer”** (the book in itself still manages to be sexist but anyway that’s a whole other discussion) and respected female candidates for top offices in U.S. politics, people still have a very gendered mindset. I have lost count of how many people have asked me, “Oh so tell me about your doctor, how is he?” To which I respond, “He is actually a she, and she is a boss.” I understand how hard and tedious being politically correct is because writing four more characters so ‘he’ becomes a ‘he/she’ is too strenuous, but it would be refreshing if once in a while someone surprised me with a “How is she?”
*These were just my observations and the way I identified some of these people might not correctly align with the way they self-identify.
Posted by Elika Nassirinia, Advocate
Feminism is a complex word, one that both divides and unites, empowers and alienates. The topic of the “Are Advocates Spooky” talk was chosen specifically to address how feminism is viewed, both in campus culture as well as larger society. During the talk, the question of what it is about feminism that elicits such strong reactions from people, whether positive or negative, was discussed. Why do so many people refrain from identifying as feminists, in spite of sharing ideals of equality and human justice that are very much in line with feminism? Why do feminists continue to be thought of as angry, man-hating, bra-burning women? Should the word “feminist” be replaced by “humanist” to better communicate the message behind the movement, or is opposition to the word “feminist” part of the larger problem of patriarchy the movement works against?
In addition to discussing feminism, attitudes towards Advocates on campus were discussed. Because of the nature of their work, Advocates are sometimes viewed as “anti-party” or “anti-fun,” making the group intimidating. Another common theme throughout the talk was that the role of Advocates outside of direct survivor support remains unclear to some students. While Advocates do provide direct survivor support, another goal of the organization is to create a safer campus atmosphere for all individuals by holding events that raise awareness about rape culture and sexual violence. Advocates hold supporters project trainings in order to provide students with information that will allow them to support a survivor should a survivor disclose to them. Advocates also hold talks, usually on Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning at 9 pm, about a number of different issues, such as sex education or intersectionality, and all individuals are welcome to participate in the talks and share their opinions. These talks often involve collaborations with different student groups on campus to ensure that a wide range of perspectives are represented. Other events put together by Pomona Advocates, often in collaboration with different student groups, are the Take Back the Night march and the Clothesline Project, as well as bringing different speakers to campus to discuss issues relating to sexual violence.
posted by Goeun Park, Advocate
TW: video contains references to sexual assault
Perhaps you’ve seen her on the news. Emma Sulkowicz is a senior at Columbia University who was sexually assaulted as a sophomore and is now protesting against her school's subsequent action (or rather, lack of action) towards her assailant when she filed a report earlier this year. Not only is she challenging the administration as an attending student, Emma dedicates her senior art thesis, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)” to carry out her activism. To use the capstone of her college education to critique the college speaks powerful volumes. Her Asian American identity also brings to light the often taboo topic of domestic violence and sexual violence in API communities.
I have a lot of feelings on many of issues that Emma is currently bringing to national attention—anger at the culture that allowed (and continues to allow) such crimes to happen, disappointment at the administration for not acting swiftly nor justly, despair for the thousands of men and women who had their rights taken from them. But I also feel hope.
I am hopeful that Emma’s activism will bring awareness to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. I am hopeful that this is a step towards healing for both survivors and their supporters. I am hopeful that these conversations on consent culture and anti-violence activism will continue.
Come to The Talk this Wednesday (Oct. 8) at the AARC at 9PM. Let’s keep this conversation going.
This is the third in a series of blog posts on the ways joining the organization has impacted individual members of the Pomona Advocates. We are currently accepting applications, which can be found here, and hope sharing our personal experiences with the organization encourages people to apply!
posted by Anonymous, Advocate
TW: sexual assault
I was scared of Advocates.
There, I said it, now I can relax. It seems pretty silly now that I’m a part of the organization, but when I applied to Advocates I could barely convince myself I had something to offer to the group, let alone that anyone else would value my opinion. Visions of judgmental Gender and Women’s Studies majors laughing at (or worse, ignoring!) my poorly worded and insecure feminism mocked me as the Advocates application deadline approached.
My experiences with sexual assault weren’t particularly violent, I hadn’t screamed for help or tried to fight back, and I was not black out drunk. I had slept with this person many times before those nights and none of our many shared friends would have ever suspected that the “great guy” I dated could ever rape me, the “self-identified nympho” (a mutual “friend” once claimed I said this). Besides, he was my best friend and “the only one I could trust” (his words and mine), which is why we broke up and got back together so many times.
For months I refused to believe he had sexually assaulted me. He loved me, so how could he have? Despite my ongoing depression and dealings with trauma, I reasoned it wasn’t sexual assault because it didn’t fit the “normal” narrative of rape I had been fed all these years. As my denial gave way I yearned to reach out to other people including the Advocates for support, but my own assurance that I was a survivor was shaky at best and I worried others would claim I was overreacting. After an excessive amount of late night drunk tears and enough bad poetry to fill an entire notebook, I had gained enough courage open up as a survivor to some trusted friends and apply to be an Advocate.
I went into my application interview expecting to have to prove my knowledge of sexual violence and that I am a survivor; I came prepared with a mental checklist to combat any assertions to the contrary. To my surprise the interview went well; the Advocates were—gasp!—nice people! Indeed, as I became more involved in the organization it became clear that a vital part of being an Advocate is reserving the judgment I was so worried about and providing the best support to a survivor on their terms. Most of us are not in fact Gender and Women’s Studies majors and learn most of the feminist vocabulary and theory after joining the organization. I joined a group of people eager to welcome and listen to anyone willing to help, recognizing that we all have a stake in the work that we do. Without even knowing I am a survivor, my fellow Advocates provide me with support and the comfort of working with people who are as passionate about changing our culture as I am.
To this day the only Advocate who has asked me to prove I am a survivor was myself.
This is the second in a series of blog posts on the ways joining the organization has impacted individual members of the Pomona Advocates. We are currently accepting applications, which can be found here, and hope sharing our personal experiences with the organization encourages people to apply!
posted by Niyati Shenoy, Advocate
TW: References to sexual assault
At the heart of the matter, I am a pretty clueless person. Before I came to Pomona, my activism (if you can call it that) around systems of violence and oppression usually involved putting myself in danger without even realizing I was doing so, often with bravado and scorn. I had very little of the vocabulary I have today, and even less understanding—back home in India, as with most places, gender and identity-based violence is never named for what it truly is. Last winter, when one of many, many horrifying sexual assault cases gained an international spotlight due to its extraordinary barbarity, I was one of many people who were shellshocked by realization. It was as if a giant bucket of water had been thrown in my face—I saw for the first time that powerful forces collude to keep us ignorant, indifferent, or fearful of upsetting social hierarchies that enable the routinization of violence against people of all genders. ‘Why should you be at the vanguard of social change?’ my mother demanded. ‘You’ll be targeted and raped, and no one will step up to support you. How is that helpful?’
But it is helpful—not just to others, but to me as well. Making a commitment to help end sexual violence meant learning to trust my own instincts, learning to recognize that these messages society sends us are toxic. Slowly but inevitably snowballing through our generation is the realization that activism about issues of sexual violence is not some kind of fringe concern—this stuff matters. Visibility matters. Openness matters. Dialogue matters. When I joined Advocates in my sophomore year the people around me were an incredible resource in helping me understand that sexual violence is connected with many of the other forms of injustice I’m passionate about combating. And that’s not a depressing concept at all to grasp—it shows us that the way forward is solidarity. Advocates deal with heavy and distressing issues. But we are the opposite of negativity. How could we not be, really?
The gardens and walkways of Pomona College are not like the streets of Bombay. And yet, there are many things about our campus that contribute to silencing victims of violence, most of all the fact that some of our stories and voices are forced to the periphery of college experience. I am still pretty clueless, but knowing there’s so much to be done helps me accept my mistakes and the gaps in my knowledge and just let myself be an Advocate. It’s more empowering than I can describe.
This is the first of a series of blog posts on the ways joining the organization has impacted individual members of the Pomona Advocates. We are currently accepting applications, which can be found here, and hope sharing our personal experiences with the organization encourages people to apply!
posted by Nikole McDuffie, Advocate
TW: sexual assault/violence.
It’s hard to believe I applied to become an Advocate less than a year ago considering how much of a positive impact it has had on me. I had always considered myself a feminist, but had never had any ways of expressing my frustration with sexual violence let alone any ideas as how to combat it. Coming from a small town community where victim blaming and slut shaming is the norm, my first year at Pomona college was already a whirlwind of new terms and concepts, all of which I gleefully absorbed.
Unfortunately second semester brought with it unseen challenges: after months of emotional abuse, a so-called friend sexually assaulted one of my loved ones. Over the next year, seeing the pain and doubt of this survivor followed by the beginnings of empowerment and healing exposed me to intricacies of survivorship I had never even imagined. I wanted to be the best support I could for my friend and for others; I had found a passion for social justice work.
Second semester of my sophomore year I applied to become an Advocate and was overjoyed to be accepted. I joined an amazing group of people who truly care about making a safe campus where everyone can enjoy themselves in any setting. Advocates work doesn't always involve the happiest of topics, but we manage to tackle such serious subjects while enjoying ourselves and taking care of each other. It's an amazingly supportive and open group that I'm so thankful to be a part of; I'm so proud of what we've accomplished over the past year. I'm continuously learning how to become a better supporter, and friends have told me my passion for this work has made me a new person; the person I want to be.
posted by Claire Teitelbaum, Advocate
This post is inspired by Amanda McCracken's November 13 op-ed in the New York Times, Does My Virginity Have a Shelf Life?
For me, the whole premise of feminism – and progressivism in general – hinges on the idea of choice. In any given situation, an individual has the right to make an informed decision as long as their actions do not significantly infringe on the rights of others. Any number of conditions can constrain this choice – misinformation, a lack of resources to carry out a decision, social pressures that place value on one option over another – the list goes on and on. Though the word choice has largely been made visible by the abortion rights movement, facilitating informed decisions is a fundamental tenant of every feminist issue because the choices of oppressed groups are so often limited, particularly when it comes to an individual’s right to make choices about their own body. In this op-ed, the author discusses her choice to abstain from sex, even past the age where virginity is generally expected or accepted.
Virginity is a charged word, with a number of different meanings – both literal and connotative – in different social groups. The author of this article points out the many different ways in which people react to her choice to abstain from sex, from horror to pride to confusion. Whether or not we share her values, however, it is clear that the author’s abstinence from sex is an assertion of her ability to make choices about her body. This is not a woman who is a virgin by chance or coercion. She has made a choice based on her principles and has carried out this decision, even in places where it is not necessarily accepted. In this sense, her story is a feminist success.
But let’s get back to the values associated with virginity. The author acknowledges that the decision that is right for her is not necessarily right for others. She expresses no judgment for her non-virgin friends. However, exactly what makes this decision right for her is never really clear. She states that she fears the loneliness that would come if, after having sex, she learned that her love for her partner was not reciprocated. While this reason is personal, one of protecting herself, her reasoning requires that intercourse be distinct from other sexual acts or even from expressions of emotional closeness present in romantic relationships. Furthermore, she describes her virginity as a “gift” and having sex as “giving herself,” both of which imply that her body and sexuality are not solely her own, but can be given a reward for someone else’s love. Is ideal free choice possible if our decisions are based upon principles that allow other people to own our bodies?
posted by Cleo Spencer, Advocate
The week of Halloween festivities is upon us, so it’s more than likely you’ve heard someone bemoan the “slutty” costumes that make an appearance this time of year. I’ve witnessed both men and women laugh, cringe or roll their eyes at the hyper-sexualized costumes many women choose to wear, a phenomenon particularly prevalent among college-aged women.
While this phenomenon certainly points to larger, longstanding cultural issues of sexually objectifying women--which these well-intentioned critics likely recognize--the underlying judgment behind this criticism does nothing to encourage equality.
Rather, rallying against “slutty” costumes perpetuates a misogynistic culture wherein we're still allowed to judge women for what they choose to wear.
As Chloe Angyal, author of our featured article states, “it’s the other shitty side of the same shitty coin” that basis a woman's value on her sexuality: stripping value from women who dress too sexy is no better than only giving value to women who dress sexy. In fact, plenty of women gain a sense of agency by dressing provocatively on Halloween or otherwise, and dictating how a woman should choose to dress on any night unjustly takes away her agency.
I encourage you to read Angyal’s article in which she gives a more detailed explanation of why criticizing “slutty” costumes does more harm than good, “You’re Not A Feminist If You Call Halloween Costumes ‘Slutty’.” Though, from my perspective as an Advocate, this article is not only about feminism but about stopping the slut shaming that can crop up in even the most well-intentioned critiques.
And for a creative and spirited take on the same point, check out this sick slam poem from Brave New Voices 2013!
posted by Nikole McDuffie, Advocate
Although Sex Positivity is often seen as liberation from from slut shaming and victim blaming and is an increasingly common idea at the 5C's, not everyone finds freedom in the same way. Feminist critics of "sex positivity" are generally in favor of sexual freedom, but point out that marking sex as necessarily positive alienates asexuals and others who don't find liberation through sex. The following piece stresses that sex positive feminism is intended for white women and ignores the intersecting issues around sex for women of color.
Using the term "sex positivity" or not, Advocates encourage an environment where people can find liberation safely having as much or as little sex of any kind!
Advocates is proud to present our new website! We've updated all of our contacts, on and off campus recourse information, and starting now we'll have a blog to post either original content or share media we think is work talking about!
Our first blog post features a topic central to Advocates's ideology: the performance model of sex. Thomas Macaulay Millar's essay “Towards a Performance Model of Sex” first appeared in Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman's book of essays Yes Means Yes! which Advocates highly suggest! The essay states that the current way we think of sex, the commodity model, encourages rape culture and proposes a more productive way of thinking, the performance model of sex. Click the link or watch the video to hear more about this wonderful perspective!