Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist
A Tufts Telenovela
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 09:03
I’m sitting here in the Rez feeling confused about what to write about, swamped in midterms and sad that Mitt Romney no longer gives me endless conservative fodder about which to squawk. All of a sudden, hark! I find my story. A Daily editorial published on March 4 titled “Spring Fling headliner choice uninspired” which stated that the Tufts University Concert Board should have “heeded — or preempted — the calls for a female headliner for this year’s Spring Fling.” Concert Board shot back on their Facebook — doesn’t this have all the workings of a Tufts telenovela? — that, “a choice to choose a woman for Spring Fling for the sake of choosing a woman undermines goals for gender equality.” A comment war ensued. The plot thickens.
Besides the joy of reading a good comment war, my favorite part of our little telenovela was when Concert Board said in their Facebook statement that, “In the end, Spring Fling is hardly the stage for political statements.” My friends, this is Tufts. Everything is a political statement. Like it or not, people, you drank the Kool−Aid, you’re political. It happened. But this argument actually tapped into a very real and salient debate among feminists and, more broadly, among oppressed groups in general: is it okay to award privilege to the membership of an oppressed group based on the wrongs that this oppressed group has suffered?
So let’s start from scratch here. If we don’t agree on how to go about this Spring Fling woman artist thing, I think we can all agree that we’re not into the oppression of woman−identified people. If not, why would you be reading a column called “Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist”? Moving right along, I also think we can all agree that our statistics about female performers at Spring Fling are pretty embarrassing. As stated in the original petition for a woman artist for Spring Fling, “in over 32 years of Spring Flings at Tufts University, we have had 101 performers — and only two of them have been women.” Objectively, that’s pretty bad.
After these two basic assertions, the next part is tricky. Because it is true, what Concert Board says, that awarding merit to women solely because they have not been awarded it in the past can be demeaning and counter−productive. But it is also true, what the Daily says, that Concert Board should have given us a woman performer because that is what the student body asked for and it’s simply not that hard to find women performers. But it is also true that this issue is nuanced. Unfortunately, there is no feminist code telling us how to deal with this.
That’s the point. This stuff is complicated. What we should be talking about is why this happened. Why have we had so few women performers? Why are we subjected to so many lyrics in mainstream music that objectify or blatantly disrespect women? If Concert Board did in fact have a hard time finding woman performers, what does that tell us about the industry? We should be talking about this stuff.
Ultimately, pop culture, structures of inequality, Concert Board now and in past years, Tufts publications and many more are all in some way responsible for what’s going on. And we ourselves are also at some fault, when we buy into cultures that objectify women because we either cannot escape them or they are too engrained in our every day life for us to realize their harm.
Telenovelas are simple: there’s murder, love, jealousy and lots of hairspray. It’s clear−cut. But this stuff isn’t — it’s nuanced and complex. It’s okay if we struggle with it, because it makes us better. Like so many barriers to women’s equality, if it were simple, we would have done it already.
Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.