On Birthday Cake and Giving Back

By bradleyhcwc

Intimate partner violence is a feminist issue, but is the social responsibility of celebrities one, too?  Recently bloggers have been up in arms about the newest musical collaboration from Rihanna and Chris Brown in the form of their remix of the song “Birthday Cake.”  It boggles the minds of many (myself included) that just three years ago Chris Brown physically assaulted Rihanna, and now they’re teaming up for a song that includes him singing the lyrics “Girl, I wanna [expletive] you right now / Been a long time, I’ve been missing your body.”

Now, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.  Just because the two are singing about sex does not mean that they currently are or want to be sexually involved with each other.  That we cannot know for certain, unless they were to tell us.  Being an entertainer, after all, has a lot to do with creating a persona.  It would also be useful to remember that there are a lot of different opinions about the most ideal outcome of a domestic violence situation.  Some would argue that survivors of domestic violence should never resume a relationship with the perpetrator, while others think that two people involve in an abusive relationship can achieve reconciliation.

The truth of the matter is that it’s a hard call to make, and it’s not a discussion that I’ve heard many people engage in before.  I have learned that domestic violence is unequivocally wrong and, as a phenomenon, reflects and reinforces the most destructive aspects of gendered power.  I have heard about how to identify abusive behaviors, tap into appropriate resources, and help others remove themselves from abusive situations.  However, I don’t think that I’ve encountered much frank discussion about what a survivor’s relationship with the perpetrator should be after the fact.  I think that there is an implicit assumption that the survivor would never again want to be involved with the perpetrator, which is not always the case.  Continue reading “On Birthday Cake and Giving Back”


It’s My Body

In an attempt to keep it current, check out a recent take on an ever-present issue:

“As an American, feminist, friend, daughter, student, and young adult, the brewing anti-birth control/abortion/women’s bodies rhetoric has really terrified me. I’m thankful to Melissa Harris-Perry for articulating the history behind these alarming changes and for having a sense of humor as she does it.” -SuzBob


Activist Spotlight: Marian Wright Edelman

Welcome to our first Activist Spotlight! Each month, we’ll blog about an amazing activist. Have suggestions for a contemporary superstar we could highlight? Leave us a comment, or email us at hcwc@fas.harvard.edu!

Maria Wright Edelman

This month, we’re celebrating the activist life of Marian Wright Edelman. In the mid-1960s, after graduating from Spelman College and then Yale Law School, Edelman became the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar! She also directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in Jackson, Mississippi; Edelman parlayed her law degree into a career as a passionate and effective foot soldier in the struggle for civil rights in the South. In 1968 she moved to Washington, D.C., but did not leave the struggle behind. In D.C., she provided legal counsel for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Edelman was, from the very start of her career, deeply invested in improving children’s lives. After two years at the helm of Harvard’s Center for Law and Education, barely a decade after women could first receive Harvard diplomas, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Under her able leadership, the CDF analyzes how government policies affect children and families from all racial and income backgrounds. It then works to build bipartisan support for policies that help children receive the education, medical care, and nutritional support they require to break the cycle of poverty.

Edelman has advocated for vulnerable, disadvantaged children and families throughout the course of her life as a lawyer. Her example inspires us to be a constant voice for the causes we believe in, and to continually strive to build a better life for everyone in America.

An editorial aside from a History major writing about an obscure civil rights activist: I did not choose Marian Wright Edelman for our February Activist Spotlight because she is African American. Yes, February may be Black History Month, but I believe that the contributions of all Americans should be celebrated and taught each month. All of us, and all of our groups, have together woven the tangled tapestry of American history.

Residential Rememberings and Revolutions

By Sbobadilla 

Pforzheimer House
Pforzheimer House

When I moved into my sophomore Pfoho dorm room I was grateful for that little hook on my door.  My parents could help me bring in boxes without having to worry about passing back the key, and stale summer air could freely circulate thanks to the slightly opened entrance. Later in the semester, my roommates and I relied on the hooks when we scurried off to the hall bathroom, brain break, or when we knew a friend was coming over. The  dorm hooks, present in three fourths of the rooms in the House, are one of Pfoho’s architectural oddities. Along with our three way mirrors, these door hooks are historical reminders of Radcliffe College–an all women’s college that has a tangled, complicated history with Harvard. As the legend goes, the hooks were required to be latched when women were entertaining romantically inclined guests and the mirrors were to make sure that the women were “presentable” before they departed for the male-dominated Yard and Square. These objects remind students of our building’s historical gendered legacy as an all women’s institution.

Known to most undergraduates as simply “The Quad,” the Radcliffe Quadrangle is home to three out of the twelve residential Houses–Currier, Cabot, and my House, Pforzheimer. Although “river-folk” may convince first-years that it is miles away from the Yard (don’t believe them –  it’s a gorgeous twelve minute walk!), the Quad is an oasis of peaceful streets, beautiful buildings, and friendly faces. I’m not exaggerating when I say that getting “Quadded” is one of the best things that could have happened to me while at Harvard.

But as with any home, there are always things that could be improved (luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about “pet” mice). As a History and Literature concentrator, I have always been a little disappointed by the lack of general knowledge about Pfoho’s history and, more specifically, the Quad’s historical relationship to women at Radcliffe/Harvard. I would say that most students are aware that a college formerly known as Radcliffe existed halfway between the Yard and the Quad, but beyond that their knowledge is limited. We can all name when Harvard was founded, but sadly, we can’t name the founding date of its sister college. How have we lost this information? Are the memories of one college really that much more important than another? Can we really only be left with latches and mirrors?

This year, Harvard is celebrating its 375 anniversary. Radcliffe College would have celebrated its 133rd.

So it’s not that this history doesn’t exist; it’s just that we haven’t taken enough time to uncover it. With friends, extracurricular commitments, and classes, it’s understandable that Harvard students haven’t explored this topic on their own. But as always, the Women’s Center and Pforzheimer House have your back! I’m thrilled to announce that all undergrads, faculty, staff, and alumni are invited to “The Residential Revolution: The History of Gender and Pfoho Student Life.” Our event will take place this Wednesday at 8:00 pm in Pforzheimer Junior Common Room, where we will discuss the history of Radcliffe, the history of the first co-residential experiment of the 1970’s, and the direction in which we’ve moved since then. We’re bringing in alumni, artifacts, and other documents that will help guests imagine a not so distant past when gender divided a campus community along very strict lines.

Before 1970, the student body (particularly Radcliffe) was regulated by College rules that declared when it was appropriate for people of different genders to interact. If students disobeyed those rules and overstayed their official welcome, they would face disciplinary action. It is difficult for me to conceptualize a College where administrators not only mediated platonic relationships, but also tried their best to prohibit any sexual activity. Moreover, it’s shocking that the College articulated the regulation of sexuality from such a hetero-normative perspective. Reading through the materials has opened my eyes to how much student life has changed in 40 years.

The study of history, however, does more than just highlight these differences – it also shows how we can connect threads back to our past. It is truly powerful to be reminded of the calls for a Women’s Center that cried forth from Harvard students in the 1970’s. While the current Women’s Center is the first center to be officially funded by the College, it is not the first one of its kind. There have been five women’s centers prior to today’s, which was founded in 2006, and all have shared the common goal of remediate gender imbalances on this campus. While sitting at the Schlesinger Archives this January break, I found a document that featured a design for a center that strongly mirrors the one that we have today, one that supports students through centralizing resources and that encourages conversation that will advocate for gender equity on this campus. While it is important to continue to push ourselves and our communities to progress even further, I adamantly believe that we must take the time to breathe and acknowledge from where we have come. Perhaps this is why I so enjoy my daily walks down to the Yard and back up to my Pfhome.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday night at 8:00 pm in Pforzheimer House, at the Residential Revolution.

Things I Learned from Beyoncé

Beyoncé is a feminist. Maybe. I try not to think too hard about it because, quite honestly, I would probably still listen to her music, watch her videos, and buy her concert DVDs even if I could know for certain that she had never thought about anything coming close to intersectionality. This is in part for the same reason that there are people in my life whom I love very dearly but who don’t consider themselves feminists either. It’s also because my obsession with Beyoncé came at a particular moment in my life when she represented a message that I desperately needed: fake it ‘til you make it.

I read a few days ago about a class that was taught at Rutgers called “Politicizing Beyoncé.” The class uses the oeuvre of the artist as a way to gain insights into American gender, sexuality, race, and class politics. After deciding that maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to transfer to Rutgers at this point in my academic career, I took the news as an opportunity to consider the political dimensions of my own interest in Beyoncé as an artist.

Continue reading “Things I Learned from Beyoncé”