To the Editor:
On October 1st, there were two letters to the editor about the designation of Saturday night at the Rat as "A Night for Alternative Lifestyles." One of the letters by unnamed students read, "We are incensed that Thursday is an open night, yet Saturday is restricted," and asked the question "Why do we need to allow separate nights for Lesbians to gather at the Rat?" Another student voiced the opinion that "by stating one night a week exclusive for one group of people the natural blending together of diverse people is prevented."
There would, in fact, be no need for alternative lifestyle night if Thursday Night Pub were in actuality an open night. But that is not the case. Thursday Night Pub and for the most part all other parties on this campus (which number over one hundred a year) are planned for as well as monopolized by heterosexuals. The "blending together of diverse people" on this campus is not taking place at such a fast rate that no oppression exists. I mean, how many lesbians do you know that feel so comfortable in this "diverse yet equally blended community" that they feel free to slow dance together at a dorm party?
If there was a "natural blending together" on this campus the author of that letter to the editor wouldn't feel the need to dye her hair purple and leave her boyfriend behind to come to the Rat on Saturday nights. If heterosexuals don't feel comfortable coming to an alternative lifestyle night why do they expect lesbians to feel comfortable going to Thursday Pub Night or any of the numerous other heterosexual social events on campus?
A single space once a week for lesbians to gather uninhibited and free from stereotypical images (ie: purple haired man haters) is a "fair allotment (of time) for less than 20% of the campus population." The Thursday Night Pub ad does not say "lesbians not welcome" nor does it state under the Saturday Alternative "no heterosexuals allowed," yet both groups feel their options limited. This is proof that this community has not "naturally blended together," and that is why there is a need for Alternative Lifestyle Night.
Leslie Lippi '89
Valerie D'Aquisto '89
To the Editor:
We are writing in response to letters published in the most recent issue of the Mount Holyoke News regarding the new Rat and the decision to have a night for "alternative lifestyles."
As many of you are aware, last year, there was a wealth of discussion concerning the diversity of the Mount Holyoke community and the unwillingness of many to recognize this diversity in the student body.
As Campus Program Council began to make plans to open the Rat for Thursday and Saturday nights, we were made aware that members of the lesbian community on this campus desired a place where they could go and be comfortable and open. The Council agreed that this was needed in our community and went about making the Rat such a place. The decision of what to call it was both a difficult and delicate one. After much discussion Alternative Lifestyles Night was chosen because it seemed the least inoffensive yet also conveyed the message. "Open to alternative lifestyles" is a phrase that is generally accepted in the gay and lesbian community to describe places that cater to people of different sexual preferences.
Campus Program Council recognized at the time, however, that it was an ambiguous term and that there would be confusion concerning it. We are taking this opportunity to explain that "alternative lifestyle" is not a term that is meant or should be interpreted as exclusive. It is simply a label for an evening at theRat where students of every type can feel comfortable and unjudged.
One letter noted particularly the choice of Saturday for Alternative Lifestyle Night. It queried as to why such a "prime" social time was chosen insinuating that the lesbian community, because of its minority status, does not deserve a prime night for their socializing. We disagree with this notion and it was for precisely this reason that the Council chose to make Saturday the alternative night. There is a wealth of parties and other social functions on this campus on the weekends that cater to the heterosexual community. We felt that by making Saturday Alternative Lifestyle Night, we could make available a place for lesbians that did not already exist. Again, we reiterate that the alternative designation does not mean that Saturday is closed to students who perceive their lifestyles as less "alternative" and more "traditional," but simply indicates an evening that is comfortable for all students.
We would like to note that in its first nights of business, despite late publicity and lack of beer, the Ratwas very successful. On both nights, there were students of all types enjoying the free music, food, and dancing. On Saturday night, there were women and men at the Rat and all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Those students who perceived the poster to be exclusive should reconsider their decision and stop by.
Finally, we would like to note that Mount Holyoke has long been stigmatized by its severe lack of social "opportunities" for everyone. The Rat is just one student-run organization's effort to make available to the community a place to be with their friends. We apologized if we have offended anyone and welcome any input at our weekly meetings, Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. in 202 M.E.W.
Campus Program Council
To the Editor:
We wish to discuss the much maligned Saturday Alternative Lifestyle Night at the new Rat. As supporters of the alternative lifestyle that the posters implied and patrons of the Saturday night Rat, we felt a need to respond to the two negative letters in last week's Mount Holyoke News.
There are many parties on Saturday night, both in the Valley and on campus. Almost all are oriented towards heterosexual partygoers. The Campus Program Council decided to offer an alternative. Wisely, they used vague wording, probably in an attempt to avoid offending anyone, and printed posters featuring three (presumably) Mount Holyoke students dancing. This is a much desired alternative, for although Lesbians are not technically unwelcome at dorm parties, many feel intensely uncomfortable at them, whether they dance with women or not. And even if every Mount Holyoke student at a dorm party was completely accepting of a Lesbian couple dancing together, many male guests are not.
Not everyone who reads the posts assumed that "alternative lifestyle" meant Gay. Some Gay students thought it meant punk, and a few women have brought their boyfriends, who since they were invited guests of MHC students, were completely welcome.
In our opinion, it is not at all divisive, but unifying to have this alternative on campus. The C.P.C. thought of this and implemented it completely aside from the organized Gay community. It made many Lesbians on campus feel more welcome, and more a part of the MHC community than anything else the college has done in a long time. Many of us are campus organizers and activists, and it touched us deeply that another campus group did something so thoughtful without even being asked, let alone prodded and bugged. We would like to close this letter by reemphasizing the need for this type of party space, and by once again heartily thanking the C.P.C. for this generous and greatly appreciated act of kindness.
Victoria Streiff '90, Lesbian Alliance Chair
Beth-Ann Payne '89, S.A.
Erin Conklin '89
Krista Bybee '89, C.P.C. Rep.
Leslie Lippi '89
Valerie D'Aquisto '89, L.A. Workshop Coordinator
Camille Jobin '89
Christine E. Ray '88
Maggie Tanis '87, Co-Coordinator of Harvard Divinity School Lesbian/Gay Caucus, MHC Alumna
Jennifer Putnam '88
Ayse Sahin '88
Mary Warren Bartlett '87, MHC Alumna
Jodie Elkowitz '89
Marcy Yeisley '90
Jenny Morgan '88
Kate Dixon '88
Heidi Jones '88-'89
Bethany Valliere '89
Charlene Hovatter '90
Mita Radhakrishnan '90