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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008 at 7:34 AM
The history of Mardi Gras in the U.S. and around the world is marred with violence and sexual assault. This week in New Orleans at least nine people were wounded by gunshots at and near the festivities. In San Jose, CA in 2006 there were multiple stabbing incidents. In the 2001 Seattle Mardi Gras riots women were sexually assaulted, intimidated, coerced and raped, much of which was caught on tape. This week at Cal State Long Beach, we just couldn't ignore it's influence.
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Dr. Maythee Rojas, the Women’s Studies advisor and our professor for Community Service Women’s Issues suggested last Tuesday February 5 that we (the women’s studies majors in her class) seem to be in this “women’s studies bubble”. Many of us laughed and I wondered to myself what, if anything, is wrong with that? When we left class that day however, whatever bubble that existed was suddenly transformed from a protective screen into a magnifying lens with which we witnessed the usually mundane trash can in front of the bathroom being turned into an altar of filth.
Atop a foundation of party trays and Mardi Gras decorations was an inflatable sex doll placed firmly on its knees with its hands and “genitals” wrapped together with bright blue tape. The doll had gray hair painted on beneath its Mardi Gras mask, disturbingly implying that this sex doll was elderly. The two men most likely responsible for this despicable doll wore Mardi Gras hats and were playfully putting their final touches on it.
A woman who appeared to know the two men stopped and complimented the doll, informing them that the best part about it was her “cute mask.”
The six to eight of us who stumbled upon the scene were not so amused. Our bubble, we found, didn’t extend outside of the classroom. It couldn’t protect us from the violence against women and sexual terrorism on campus that we were reminded of every evening as we pass the strange men or “chaperones” meant to protect us.
“What’s this for, a party?” I ask the guys as I take a couple pictures. Their smiles suddenly transfigured into apprehensive stares as they each began stepping away from the trash can. One man began to flee the scene and requested that we not get him in trouble.
“This promotes violence against women!” senior women’s studies major Desiree Gifford exclaimed, pointing at the doll. The man leaving looked back and smirked. He muttered that he wouldn’t say that and disappeared. She spoke up again telling the other man to look at it, pressing that it definitely does. He looked back over his shoulder and remarked that it was “only tape” before he too had disappeared.
Some of us were angry, some hurt, some confused. In order to get it out of the sight of the women and men in the hallway, senior women’s studies major Moriah Meeks and two other women popped it and buried it in the trash can inside the bathroom. Afterward, I left the scene with fellow junior women’s studies majors Erin Hale and Alaina Chamberlain with whom I witnessed the entire spectacle.
“The worst part was that a woman was endorsing and reaffirming it. For some reason it’s worse when women participate.” Erin commented.
Alaina responded, “What was clearly intended to be a joke carries different meaning for women who have or know somebody who has experienced kidnapping, rape, or other forms of sexualized violence.”
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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008 at 7:34 AM
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