Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
“Guys wear a dress, girls wear less”
Genderfuck is a party with a lot of issues. It’s about time that some of those were addressed, and while I don’t know what happened at the meeting on Tuesday (I’ll be reading the article avidly, same as you all), I hope that the administrators and students involved will be making concrete suggestions to improve the atmosphere of this party. In the meantime, I’d like to propose a change of my own. Genderfuck needs a new motto.
Although the (unofficial) slogan does not necessarily dictate the attitudes towards the party, its effects are not to be underestimated. For many first time attendees, it becomes a rule of thumb. In addition, the atmosphere of the party is shaped a good deal by the framing done by advertising. The way the slogan currently reads in no way, shape, or form does anything to conceptually “fuck gender.” In fact, it actively hinders discussion or exploration of what it means to be gendered on this night. Gender is a socially constructed concept, and parties are social vehicles in which gendered conceptions play a huge role. Having this slogan is problematic for men, for women, and for everyone.
Leaving aside the issue of whether or not you can actually “control” your own objectification (I think not, but that’s for another day), our slogan is anything but counter cultural. I’m not trying to control the outfits that women choose to wear, but I want to draw attention to the a larger issue. Women’s worth has always been tied to outward appearance. The connection between sexualization and self worth has remained strong, as cultural determinations of what it means to be feminine have become more sexually explicit than ever before. The concept “girls wear less” or “girls should look sexy” has filtered further and further into our collective consciousness as being the defining feature of being a modern, empowered woman.
However, wearing less has less to do with fashion, taste, or even controlling our own sexuality, but instead pandering to the ever present “male gaze.” A study by SUNY Buffalo examined Rolling Stone covers from 1967 to 2009, and discovered that in the past decade, there were eleven times more non-sexualized covers of men than women, and ten times more hypersexualized images of women than men. Sex sells, but only when it’s a female. This trend has been noticed, and commented upon, by a range of scholars. (For an especially interesting, and controversial, take see Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs.) Add the well documented connection between media exposure and eating disorders, it seems absolutely shameful that an opportunity for women to step outside of stereotypical gender conceptions is being wasted.
Placing the two halves of the slogan together is doubly damaging. The effects are amplified because each half reinforces the most negative aspects of the other. They create caricatures of the genders the party is meant to critique.
Finally, this slogan leaves no room for people who identify outside the conventional gender bianary. I can’t critique the slogan for its perspectives on androgyny the way I did for the genders above, but the silence in and of itself speaks volumes. Aside from examining masculinity and femininity, androgyny deserves a turn under the microscope. Especially because people who don’t conform to this binary are already marginalized, their absence from the slogan only serves to further their erasure. Reinforcing the already too prevalent binary doesn’t actually encourage any kind of meaningful discussion of what it means to be gendered or the role gender plays in our lives (and our social scene).
I get it: this is a party, not a classroom. But at Swarthmore, where we propose to be progressive and inclusive, we of all people should be able to design a social situation wherein we can have fun and break down culture. In the words of Feminist Ryan Gosling: “Hey girl. We can be supportive of gender variance even while we get our bounce on.”
If I were creative, I’d hit you all with a boss new slogan that would knock your socks off and fix all of the problems I outlined above, but as you can tell pithy isn’t my strong suit. So I open it up to the campus community. Any suggestions, ya’ll?