Thursday May 5th, 2011, 12:15PM.
On Thursday, the Quarry Plaza was hot, and filled with students orgs selling bubble tea and food for fundraisers. Around noon, a small group of students gathered in a circle for a performance and discussion based rally covering Gender and Sexuality.
The rally began as we introduced ourselves in the space,with our names and preferred gender pronouns. Some students were surprised by the question, and answered with hesitation, saying that they “had never been called anything else” or that people always made assumptions about their gender pronouns. I explained that this was a way to bring to our attention that not everyone is “default” and that gender itself is a fluid and complicated concept, not a binary.
Then, Rocio performed an amazing and inspiring poem about her experience being of two worlds, and the experience her family has gone through. After her poem, our female friends from Las Mejicas Folklorico dance group performed a dance from Jalisco, that is traditionally performed by men, wearing the men’s style of dress.
After the first dance, Jasmin asked everyone in the circle how tradition plays a role in gender roles. Edgar asked us to question gender even more, as he brought up how colonialism directly influenced the formation of modern gender roles in Mexico, and the U.S. Folklorico was part of the nation-building process after independence in Mexico, where the government created Folklorico to be a combination of cultures in Mexico, including indigenous influences and Spanish influences. But, as Edgar pointed out, they didn’t include the influences of Africans who were undeniably a part of Mexico. In terms of gender, Folklorico reinforced the colonial idea of gender roles: the men’s dance and style of dress references horses, which only men were allowed to own or ride. Edgar and Jasmin asked us to question how subverting the gender roles and dress in Folklorico could be a decolonizing project, and what else we can do to question and break down the gender roles that are tied to colonization.
Then, Carol asked the group to consider how gender affects them. We discussed this for a while, and some people shared personal stories. Lauren talked about sexuality in her personal experience, and how it reflected all of our misconceptions about gender and sexuality that affect our daily lives.
**Trigger Warning: discussion of rape in this next section**
The conversation took a different turn when we brought up the recent bill HR 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” that passed in the House on May 4th. This bill has yet to go through the Senate, but it is part of a large and dangerous trend against health care rights. Not only does the bill prevent people from using their insurance to get a medical procedure, it also essentially redefines rape to just “forcible rape.” The bill would only allow people to use their insurance for abortions for an instance of “forcible rape,” or incest under the age of 18. This means only violent rape, or just rape that can be proved to involve violence, is “real” rape. The reality is that many cases of rape are not like this, but rather involve coercion or other means of abuse. This is just another form of victim-blaming.
People in the group took this opportunity to talk about rape, including sharing stories about how our misunderstandings of gender and sexuality directly contribute to victim-blaming or shaming, or even justifying the actions of abusers. Someone said that when they realised that their friend had committed rape, they didn’t know what to do, and they felt that none of us were prepared for a situation that will or has already affected all of us. One of the things we talked about was the destruction of the Rape Prevention Education program at UCSC: after years of struggling to gain footing, the program was essentially cut because Gillian Greensite, the founder and leader of the program since the late 70s, saw rape as a social problem in a greater system of power, that needed to be addressed through education. Today, UCSC sees rape as something in need of treatment, and they have all but destroyed the Prevention through Education aspect.
Many students said that they felt these conversations needed to happen more often. We ended with a unity clap, and planned to come back the next day!