I liked Stacey-whoselastnameididn’tcatch (and who is possibly the first trans-woman ever to be invited to speak at Smith) the best of the panelists (in large part because she said things i hadn’t already heard before).
In her opening she talked about feminism necessarily being a reaction to patriarchy, since in a world without patriarchy “feminism” would just mean something like “promotion of the feminine.” And patriarchy is all about hierarchy, about one group having control over another (“and not in a safe, sane, consensual, manner” *g*). It’s about purity and boundaries, so if feminism is in opposition to patriarchy, it must be in opposition to hierarchy and boundaries and suchlike.
She said at Camp Trans one year, one very loud and angry MichiganFest woman asked them not to film her, and Stacey asked “Are you not proud of your opinion?” and the woman replied “Well, yes, I think I am. But I don’t know how I’ll feel in 10 years, and I don’t want this in the Lesbian Herstory Archives.” I am all about owning what you say, but i am so impressed that this woman realized that her opinions might well change, and have a lot of respect for her for that.
Stacey said that various trans-women have told her trans-women are less welcome at Smith than non-trans-men. She said it doesn’t matter if that’s true, what matters is that a lot of trans-women feel that way, and that’s something we at Smith really need to think about. (She also pointed out that the term “biological woman” is problematic since what is she, made out of plastic? Certainly she’s biological.)
Talking about just what is “man” or “woman,” Stacey said “I have a piece of paper saying I’m diagnosably confused about this issue” :)
She said that many times the issue is not what is the answer, but why do we ask the question?
“The time you spend worrying about what other people think about you is deducted from your time in Heaven -- and more importantly, from your time on Earth. ... I care about how people treat me. ... I don’t care how sincere you are, just let me in.” -Stacey
Stacey talked a lot about intention. She said discrimination is like fire: it is both good and dangerous, and should be treated with caution. So if you’re making an exclusive space, that can be a very good thing, but think about why you’re doing it, and make sure that it really is a good thing.
The bathroom issue came up (women feeling unsafe with men in the same bathroom with them), and Mitch pointed out that rapists are not gonna stay out just because there’s a Female sign on the bathroom (though it occurred to me later, that it’s much harder to sneak into a public restroom when you look like you don’t belong -- an obvious male, for example -- than when you can pass as belong, so there is some grounds for the fear of rape -- though really, how many trans-women are gonna rape someone in a public restroom? how many male rapists are gonna dress up as women in order to rape someone in a public restroom?). An audience member said that she works with an organization that helps GLBT folk who are recovering from domestic violence, so even in a same-sex environment, you are not necessarily in a “safe space.”
Jennifer Walters talked about the opportunity to be “whole” (as in, the opportunity she finds single-sex institutions provide for many people) and later an audience member pointed out the classism etc. that exists at Smith, and of course that’s true, but being me my immediate thought at Jennifer Walters’ statement was “If you are a conservative at Smith, you do not get to be a whole person, not without struggle anyway.”
Walking with H. afterwards, i mentioned the fact that i’m really not committed to the idea of single-sex education. She said she’s never understood why i’m at Smith if i feel like that. (And it honestly isn’t because i like to be a pain in the ass. I was far less obnoxious in high school than i am now, in fact.) My best friend in high school and i both applied Early Decision to colleges that happened to be single-sex institutions, but we were both rather indifferent to that fact. We loved our colleges of choice for many reasons, and the gender makeup was incidental. So i often forget that it’s anomalous to be at such an institution and not be all gung-ho about that aspect of institutions. Am i really the only Smithie who feels this way? I’m not saying Smith should go co-ed, of course. The single-sex aspect is obviously of great value to many people, and i don’t think i wanna say that their arguments are the suck (though i think that the fact that you aren’t allowed to have all-male institutions is rather unfair, though i understand the arguments -- i need to read the full text of Title IX at some point).
Talking about my applying to Smith, H. said “You weren’t queer then,” and of course that’s a deeply offensive statement, but i didn’t even realize that until she said “Wow, that was offensive” because of course i knew what she meant. And in a sense she was right, since while in retrospect i can trace self-queerness back to at least 7th grade, i didn’t realize i was queer until midway through my senior year of high school.
I actually can’t remember if i knew Smith was Home of The Gay when i applied. (I have an amazing ability to live under a rock.) I remember that it seemed like every adult i mentioned Smith to either had never heard of it or had some friend or relation who had graduated from it and loved it, but i don’t think anyone mentioned teh gay, even Mrs. Flemer (whose daughter was Smith ‘03 and who talked a lot about Smith to me my last year in high school). I don’t remember being surprised by teh gay when i got here, either, though.