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.
This semester, the planning and execution of Genderfuck has sparked useful conversation in the Swarthmore community about what makes party spaces safe or not; we, Swarthmore Feminists, want to add our voices to this conversation and provide an example of what we think a good party space could look like.
Parties can be uncomfortable spaces for women and queer folks, with issues of sexual assault and misconduct, derogatory comments and disrespect. There are many, many ways in which a fun space can be compromised for us and for any of you, as feminists and as partiers. At the party that we’re holding this weekend, we will be doing our best to keep our space safe and fun for all, but we are concentrating especially on the music.
When we go out and dance to popular party music, we often find ourselves dancing to lyrics that promote rape culture and endorse disrespect, derogation, and sexual misconduct. Here’s a line from Lil’ Jon’s song Get Low:
“To the window, to the wall/ to the sweat drop down my balls/ to all you bitches crawl/ to all skeet skeet motherfucker, all skeet skeet goddamn.”
How many times have you danced to this song? How many times have you sung along to this song? Have you ever thought about what you’re actually singing? This line is about a guy who thinks women should crawl to his ball sweat. It would be an absolutely unacceptable thing to say in conversation and would probably cause an uproar on Swarthmore’s campus. When it’s framed as song lyrics however, we ignore it. We sing along. These subconscious messages infuse party culture in an insidious way. The music at a party may not immediately influence its safety, but music definitely shapes the party environment. Lyrics such as these normalize and desensitize us to harmful messages that promote unhealthy gender dynamics.
But songs like Robyn’s Fembot can subvert or give alternatives to those unhealthy gender dynamics and to patriarchal constructions of women as sexual-objects, mothers and “bitches.” A playlist full of songs like Fembot in a safe party space could make a statement, and we need to do so. We will be making a statement against those who reduce women and queer and trans* folk to collections of body parts, who make free celebration unsafe. While we can’t promise a playlist clean of all problems, our songs will respect everyone as whole, complete people, neither to be worshipped or degraded.
Here’s what we, as feminists and as Swarthmore students, propose. Let’s make parties safe spaces for everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Let’s make consent active, ALWAYS. Let’s respect, not demean, each other’s bodies. Let’s keep partying like we want to, but stop making others feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Let’s think critically about our music choices and recognize when lyrics are not just guilty pleasures but degrading. To convince everyone that it is totally possible to create not only a safe and respectful party space, but a really fun one with a playlist that celebrates these values too, Swarthmore Feminists will be holding “Fembots Dance Party” on Friday, April 20th from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. in Wharton D basement.
We’d love to hear your suggestions on what to add to the playlist! Post away in the comment section below.