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.