Did I miss something? Since when did the typical college party scene become the ideal site for combating patriarchy? The Crimson’s logic resonates eerily with certain free-trade arguments we’re accustomed to hearing: we just need to level the playing field. Then, all the deserving groups, stifled and constrained up to this point by artificial barriers, will rise to their proper place of equality in healthy, meritocratic competition. Do we really think it’s that simple? (more in expanded post)
Even within the narrow parameters of Harvard’s social scene, the Crimson is off base in its assessments. We need only look at the institutions it touts—the Seneca, the Bee, the Isis, and sororities—to see that these groups’ influence does not, in fact, move us closer to a time “when women do not have to stand outside a final club mansion in a short skirt and heels, hoping to be judged ‘hot’ enough to have a social life.” If anything, it’s just that women are the ones judging each other as pledges or punches–a kind of screening process. The Crimson staff argues that women’s social clubs are primarily “hamstrung by a lack of space and resources.” But why should we believe that, if women’s social clubs are granted these things, the objectification and judging process will not simply take place indoors? Is the Bee, with its new home, really making great strides in the struggle against sexual objectification?
The Crimson also asserts that groups like the Bee are “successful women’s communities,” and thus both need and deserve the College’s support. But they never elucidate their criteria for success. Let’s be real: we’re not talking about gaining access to “a room of one’s own” here. We’re talking about throwing parties. And even in this capacity, the College shouldn’t actively support the groups absent evidence that the social climate they specialize in creating will actually benefit the entire undergraduate population, not just a select final-club-friendly crowd.
While sexism in social life is a major problem, women-led student organizations like ABHW, SAWC, Women in Business, Girlspot, Fuerza, AAWA, Strong Women Strong Girls, RUS, the Women’s Leadership Network, and others are in a better position than sororities and female final clubs to address it within the wide range of manifestations of gender inequality at Harvard. A women’s center would aid them in these efforts by providing, as RUS’s proposal states, “a centralized home for all groups concerned with women’s issues,” and serving as “a non-discriminatory destination for students of all genders who are committed to the advancement and well-being of women at this university.” Hey, sounds like my kind of party.