What the (Gender)fuck?

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.

Swatties are known for being painstakingly self-aware – the kind of people who relish a good session of unpacking coded language and who consider Foucault and Judith Butler required reading.But for all our good intentions, coded language still persists at Swarthmore. For many Swatties, our much beloved Genderfuck party still means one thing: “guys wear a dress and girls wear less.”

What the (gender)fuck?

As reported in today’s Daily Gazette, “genderfuck” is a term used to describe “a person’s gender identity (as in male, female, no gender, queer) or the act of consciously and conspicuously challenging traditional ideas of the gender binary through androgyny, hyperbole, and cross-dressing.”

The original intent of the Genderfuck party was to provide a gender funhouse – a hall of mirrors where everyone within eyeshot was deleting, magnifying, or switching gender  – at least for one wild night. Like any party at Swarthmore, alcohol would be available to those who wanted it.

Hegemony quickly busted the party, and Swatties succumbed to an easy heuristic that took the work out of figuring out how to temporarily breakdown a concept that has existed since the beginning of time. So it was that “guys wear a dress and girls wear less” was born.

Since that time, the unofficial slogan of Genderfuck has worked to reinforce the very gender identities and norms that the party intended to break down. On the way, it has made many Swatties feel uncomfortable by pressuring them to conform to their gender’s ascribed roles when dressing for the party. The very purpose of the party has not only been obscured, but undermined.

For this reason, The Daily Gazette editorial board believes that Genderfuck should be held, but that Swatties should take responsibility for making it a space for suspending gender – not for reinforcing it.

The party’s treatment of gender should be the only way in which it is special. The administration should allow the Genderfuck committee to put on a campus-wide party like most others: serving alcohol, but with on-the-ground support from PAs, DART, and SMART team members to make sure that the party is a safe space. Subverting gender is aided by suspending the normal and creating a party space, and denying the right to serve alcohol at the Genderfuck party disconnects it from party life on campus.

However, suspending the normal provides no excuse for sex-negative behavior at the Genderfuck party, like sexual assault. The Genderfuck party is intended to be sex-positive, encouraging participants to consider for themselves what sex feels and looks like for them. Removing alcohol from the party suggests that the Swarthmore community is not mature enough to handle the challenges that alcohol consumption poses and that there is no solution for navigating those challenges.

We believe that the Swarthmore community should work together to make Genderfuck a safe genderbending space. For those who identify outside the gender binary, this party means more than just a crazy night: it’s a night to be the rule instead of the exception.

This April, come to Genderfuck not to see less, but to see more. So we want to propose a toast: to more expression, to more androgyny, to more positive sex, and finally, to a night many will never experience again outside the Swarthmore community.



  1. Well said. I just have a general question addressed to any or everyone in the community (forgive me if it comes out unclear I’m tired):

    What visible, tangible steps can we take to ensure Genderfuck’s goals remain at the forefront of the event and safety is maintained?

    I often hear ideas thrown out by some individuals (“more PAs”) or see some students take their own initiate and do something (I believe last year students took it upon themselves to serve as escorts). But unless realistic/tangible ideas are brought to the table and then seen through our talk is cheap. Assuming it gets held (and for some reason I’m faithful it will) can we find some ways to solve these issues in a practical manner?

    Regardless of opinions on the goals of the event, the problems that have arisen in years past can be tackled if people set aside differences and work together to find tangible solutions. This may all sound idealistic but its really not. It seems as though if Parties A, B, C, D, etc,. and other concerned/interested students (I’d be more than willing) came together over the next several weeks (or however long) and focused on coming up with solutions to past issues that are both specific and concrete then much would be resolved. I’m not suggesting things will be solved magically, but being a community full of passionate individuals oftentimes I feel we get distracted by defending our convictions/calling others out on theirs that we lose sight of the reality of the issues at hand.

    Various administrators, DART Team, PAs, etc. get together and invite interested students to attend open meetings where ideas can be out on the table, planned out, and then executed come the night of the event. Insist on air of respect and responsibility. I’m sure there will be enough people involved to take on each project (say coordinating water distribution or coming up with an escort system) and things would be much more productive. I apologize if that is how things have been done in the past, it just wasn’t made clear and I know it left myself and others wondering why didn’t ______ happen. If such an approach has been taken then that collection of parties should spend some time figuring out tangible ways of improving upon past systems.

    I apologize if ANY part of this post comes across as judgmental or accusatory, I’m just suggesting (it a long-winded rambling manner) that the best means to resolve these issues is responsible/respectful collaboration. Please put the swords away, these sorts of conflicts will only serve to cloud Genderfuck’s purpose all the more.

  2. Well said. As someone who identifies as proudly androgynous, and well outside the gender binary, I love the IDEA of a genderfuck party, as it was originally conceptualized.

    As the party stands today, I have never been to it, nor do I intend to go. The slogan and culture surrounding the party honestly rather terrify me, and certainly make me uncomfortable.

    Paul, I wish I had ideas for how to make the party work. Unfortunately, I think it would require a massive reconceptualization and a huge shift in Swarthmore’s party culture. As it is, Swat parties hold the gender binary far too near and dear to their hearts to let them go so easily. Unless that changes, I don’t see genderfuck becoming a safe space for gender identity exploration / celebration any time in the near future.


  3. “This April, come to Genderfuck not to see less, but to see more”

    –more expression, more androgyny, more positive sex: escape the binary–

    As evidenced by the beginning of the article, the party’s sexist slogan has strongly influenced the way that the party is conceived and remembered. So why not make an advertising campaign to change it, and replace it with the above? The new slogan is catchy, and it captures the essence of the party (as long as we keep the bit below that clarifies ‘more’ meaning ‘more expression’, not ‘more skin’). Kudos to the DG editorial board for writing a beautiful and insightful article.

    • I recognize that a new slogan won’t even come close to all the changes that need to be made, but it’s a start, and the way people perceive the party is a crucial factor in how people act there.

      And I realize that the ring and cadence kind of sounds like a perfume ad, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve always wanted to see more high femme drag at Genderfuck.

    • Huh.

      Looks like a nine-year-old does better at this than you do.

      “Josef was determined to make his own statement so we went to the car and with pencil and his sketch pad, he made up his own little sign that reads ‘GOD HATES NO ONE,’ ” his mom wrote. “Those people are scary but he stood strong, was respectful and stood by his convictions. He will be a good man, I have no doubt. I got my Mothers Day present early.”

      From here.

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