Thinking the Unthinkable
by Beth Halbrecht
Mount Holyoke College is in mortal danger. Student life as we know it is in the process of a drastic and debilitating change and we are to blame. If something is not done soon, it will be too late - the radical liberals will have taken over. On March 12, the Mount Holyoke News addressed the single most threatening problem on our campus, and that is apathy. It is a problem far worse than racism and heterosexism, since those are problems that can be dealt with. The community can work towards a more accepting environment where people of all races, nationalities and sexual deviancies can live in peace and harmony, but what if the community doesn't want to work towards these goals? Mount Holyoke students will always experience discrimination since the vast majority of the campus does nothing to change this. It seems that the only people working for change are the radical liberals, and thank goodness for them! After all, what [would] we do without vigils and the spring outdoor protest season (assuming that it is at least 65 degrees outside). I would like now to outline the recent progression of events which lead me to conclude that this campus is ripe for a radical takeover.
- At a February meeting of the SGA, a proposal was made by Susan Trabucchi (the President of the student body) and moved to a vote by another student from the floor. The proposal made sweeping changes in the system of selecting student leaders on campus. Student members used to be elected by campus-wide elections to certain policy-making committees. The Appointing Committee also selected students for other committees through an application process. Apparently, Ms. Trabucchi and a considerable number of the other students felt that because of apathy on campus not enough students vote. When they do, they are not making informed decisions. It was mentioned that it is a "pain to listen to what all these people have to say and then vote to fill positions on the committees." They said simply that it took "too much time."
Another student present at the SGA meeting disagreed. She said that even though one third of Americans do not exercise their right to vote, we still shouldn't "trash the system." She referred to Ms. Trabucchi's proposal as "elitist." I agree with these statements. Our new system leaves much to be desired. This brings me to point number two.
- The time came for SGA executive board elections. As we all know, one person ran for each position and two positions were not filled, so we must have elections again.
These examples should illustrate that Mount Holyoke students are apathetic to the point of being pathetic. If this does not convince you, I'd like to add a couple more examples.
- In the December 11 issue of the MH News, President Kennan was quoted as having said she was "not particularly" proud of being an American. This was because she didn't always like our foreign policy (though she did like being a citizen of Massachusetts, "because I like our laws"). In the heat of her knee-jerk-liberal harangue, President Kennan obviously forgot that an American who does not agree with our government's stance on foreign policy can work to change it. People can write letters to the President, call their congressmen, or do a myriad of other things to get their point across.
Congressmen are not mind readers and they must know how their constituents feel about the issues at hand. It is not surprising that Mrs. Kennan went to school here as an undergraduate; if we use her as an example, it seems that every student who comes through Mount Holyoke College tends to become apathetic. It is not surprising that President Kennan would make such a statement, but it is shocking that nobody levelled any criticism against this in the MH News or in the editorials. Obviously, everyone seems to agree that we should perpetuate our apathy.
I have one last observation to bring to the readers' attention. This has to do with off-campus courses. In almost four years here, I have had the pleasure of taking classes at UMass, Amherst and Hampshire, as well as being enrolled in five-college classes taught here. If I had to make one broad generalization about the classes off campus it is this: The girls rarely speak in class. You might think that this is nothing new, since boys are taught to be more assertive and more aggressive than girls. I can understand, then, why at a co-ed school the women do not speak in class, but why is that the rule here as well? We all know that is why we have women's colleges - so that we are challenged to excel and we learn to be more assertive - to stand up for what is ours.
"And that is my point, Mount Holyoke does not achieve that. We act like a bunch of wimpy girls who seem unable to speak up in class, run for an elected position, or vote for those who do run. There are certainly numerous individual examples to the contrary, but they are the exception not the rule. The solution: Bring in the men.
It is time Mount Holyoke had some people here to show us how to be assertive and more competitive. This would not defeat the purpose of the women's college, since we are not realizing that purpose anyway. If we do not make Mount Holyoke co-ed, the few radical students who do speak up and run for office will control our school. I fear waking up one day to a campus controlled by a "big sister" who forces all students to think like she does. Radical liberals are the fascists of the left. If you do not agree with them, you are wrong. If you are sick of seeing pink triangles plastered all over the school, you are Republican, or just a little conservative you are a murderer of innocent Sandinistas, Libyans and numerous other terrorists. God forbid you should want to work in a bank or embark upon some other "conservative career" after graduation. As Jean Grossholtz says, that means working for the "Multinationals which control the lives of people who inhabit the Third World, ruin lives and waste talent that could be better used working at Women's Shelter/Companeros."
Going co-ed is not the only solution of course. We could begin to speak in class and become more politically aware by reading the newspaper, not covering the campus with pink triangles. We should vocalize our opinions on the issues we read and learn about. I would like to make it clear that everybodyhas the right to protest. When there is a vigil against American involvement in Central America, supporters of the government's policy should hold a counterprotest. If your H.P. makes your dorm's Lesbian Alliance workshop mandatory, and you do not want to go, you should start a boycott of the event. There is no reason to remain silent. After all, the radicals are always yelling about something, why not you too?
Deviant: One whose actions and beliefs differ considerably from the standards of his society, to turn aside from a straight or appointed way or course.
To the Editor:
Since March 4, pink triangles with the following slogans: "Some of Your Best Friends May Be Gay," "Heterosexism Is A Social Disease," "We Will Survive," and "We Are Still Here," have been appearing (and disappearing) on this campus. This letter is an attempt to address the "disappearance" of these triangles. It is obvious that the pink triangles are being torn down; this is not the action of the wind and the rain we have been having lately. (On the other hand, Messrs. Rain and Wind might have felt threatened by the triangles, and, heaven knows, torn them down in "self-defense!") It is very difficult to understand why some people feel the need to tear down the triangles. Why "thinking people" (presumably, all who attend this college do think) are threatened by the existence of lesbians just goes above my head. Why "thinking people" are threatened by differences in skin color, culture, class and physical ability also escapes me. Why should our differences threaten us so? Is it not possible for us to acknowledge our differences, even rejoice in them, and use them constructively to live together peacefully?
There is talk about the connections between Heterosexism, Racism, and other such oppressions. (And I am sick and tired of having to say Heterosexism does not equal Heterosexuality, and of having to explain, and re-explain, and re-explain, and re-explain, the meaning and the connotations of the word.) I have heard that, well, you know, Racism and Heterosexism are different - one is vile, the other concerns "sexual things" (the underlying assumption that that statement makes is: "Heterosexism is perfectly acceptable, while Racism is not"). Why are we finding it so difficult to accept that homosexuals are oppressed, just as people of color are? Is the issue the politicization of sexuality? Are we still (living, as we seem to be doing, in the 15th century), afraid of talking about ourselves, about our sexuality, our wholeness, and our wholesomeness? When are we going to stop acting blindly on the basis of what our parents, schoolteachers, and our "socialization" have taught us? It is obvious that while we question issues in the classroom, we should also be questioning why we do what we do, why we think in certain ways; we should be questioning the assumptions that we have blindly internalized. That the triangles are repeatedly torn down, into pathetic little pieces with jagged edges, is testimony to the fact that such questioning (which should be the purpose of our four years here in college) is lacking. And that thought is downright scary.
Mita Radhakrishnan '90
To the Editor:
As a visiting Alumna, I did not expect to understand all of the "inside" jokes that much of Junior Show is built on. Nor did I expect to leave Junior Show feeling gross about the production. Even though it was difficult to hear all of the lines of the performers (as it has always been to my recollection), I managed to come away feeling sick and disgusted.
In 1987, I would think that the women at MHC would have the self-respect to refer to themselves as such and not as "girls" - I guess I was mistaken. Also in 1987, I would hope that there would be enough material available for the women here to educate themselves on such issues as racism, sexism and heterosexism. The majority of the show was painfully white (Why was that?), and insultingly heterosexual - Isn't Mount Holyoke here to provide women's education rather than marriage preparation? Also, in regard to the party scene - the "stud" using the word "queer" as a slur for the "nerd" is completely unacceptable. If the nerd had been black, and the slur had been "nigger," the actress would have risked expulsion at the very least. The issue of homosexuality deserves no less than the issue of race.
How can the Junior class put on a show in the name of school spirit and acquiesce to such blatant ignorance? How can any of you pretend to be intelligent, educated women if you have such a shallow understanding of racism, (hetero)-sexism and elitism in general?
I hope that you choose to educate yourselves, and broaden your perspectives past the middle-class white vision you seem to now foster.
Susan Dalke '83
To the Editor:
Since coming to Mount Holyoke last year I have noticed an unfortunate trend occurring on campus. The "liberals," inspired by one cause or another, pick up their signs, schedule their teach-ins, or arrange some other visible display of protest. This is not what disturbs me, for I am (for better or worse) one of "those sign-waving liberals." What does dismay me, however, is the visible reaction of the more "conservative" population to such actions.
I would be the last to deny any of the students on this campus (or anyone anywhere for that matter) their right to free speech. In my opinion it is perfectly reasonable for people on the other side of an issue to want to express their beliefs, too. The manner which many students here choose to express themselves, however, I find distasteful and often deplorable.
I first became aware of the problem last fall when my roommate and some of our friends noticed that signs and banners that they were posting around the campus promoting divestment were being torn down or ripped up. And it seems to me that this type of activity has increased this year with the lesbian population confronting the problem of homophobia and heterosexism on campus. Several nights ago I ran into a girl outside of the P.O. who was in tears because she had just encountered a series of right side uppink triangles which contained a very rude message (which I refuse to dignify by repeating here). These were in direct response to the recent awareness campaign: "Some of your best friends may be gay."
These are only a few examples of this type of action. You remember the others as well as I - the defacing of the Lesbian Alliance bulletin board, the hanging of anti-lesbian and pro-racist banners from school buildings during the all campus meeting on racism. Recently the list has become depressingly long.
I would like to make it very clear that I am not trying to blame the "conservative" (and the quotes are important here) population directly for these events. I believe that these actions are done by a very few rude, close-minded, ignorant individuals on this campus. Unfortunately, these individuals, since they are the only ones voicing an opinion, appear to be speaking for everyone who remains silent.
My appeal is simple. If you happen to not agree with my politics, that's fine with me - the world would be tedious if there were only one viewpoint on every subject. However, insulting the beliefs of others, and destroying their attempts to educate and inform is not constructive. There are many ways to make your opinions known and not harm the values and feelings of others. They may require more time and effort, but in the end they are worth it.
Don't be the silent majority. Don't let a few insecure, insensitive individuals speak for you. Please, if you have an opinion, voice it: organize, educate, wave signs. Do anything besides insult and offend - these actions accomplish nothing.
Alice Gibb '89