On Monday, March 29th, there will most likely not be a presentation called “Pussies, Pens and Politics” co-sponsored by the Women’s Center Club, the Women’s Studies department and LGBTQA. The event, which had been scheduled since early last semester, was deemed “inappropriate,” and the Women’s Center is not able to use their SGA allotted budget to bring the group to campus.
Pussies, Pens and Politics is, according to their Facebook page, “a fist pumping, tongue-lashing spoken word romp.” The performers, Ms. Wise and Denise “Ms. Misconception” Frohman, use hip-hop and contemporary poetry to share their own experiences with sexuality, gender and race.
Dr. Matt Bricketto, Vice President of Student Affairs, told the Women’s Center Club that due to the use of the word “pussy,” the funding would not be given, even though the club has more than half of their annual budget still left to spend. The word was called “offensive to women.”
“When I saw the word in the title of the program I was concerned and contacted several of my key staff members who work with and/or support the Women’s Center Club to get their perspective on the program and the use of that term in the title,” Bricketto said. “Specifically, I felt that the use of the word could be viewed as very sexist/offensive and West Chester University could be seen as supporting/endorsing this term by signing a formal contract with the artists that had this word as part of their performance title.”
“He’s telling a group that fights sexism that this is sexist,” Women’s Center president Jenn Halligan noted, on the reasoning for canceling the program.
The solution that Bricketto offered as a compromise was to change the name of the performance. The Women’s Center, however, refused this option.
Kimberly Montes, philanthropist/ “herstorian” said, “it’s like asking them to change who they are to let them come onto campus.”
“Make them change their name? No. People pick names for a reason,” added secretary Kristine Paronto.
In a show of solidarity, Students for a Democratic Society put together a rally to support the Women’s Center on Thursday, Feb 25.
“SDS looks at it like this- it’s not unique. It’s the pattern of the university. We’ve been fighting for cage free eggs with no response, then the Miss WCU censorship thing- It’s not new,” said SDS representative Nick Hiller.
The Women’s Center executive board expressed a variety of reasons why the Pussies, Pens and Politics show should go on.
“They’d bring awareness to a generally conservative campus that wouldn’t be done by a student led discussion,” said Paronto. “It’s breaking the stigma of straight, white women.”
SGA representative, Nora McGinley-Hence said, “They’re really hip, they would get the point across.”
Alicia Moyer, the public relations coordinator, agreed, saying that having the women perform on campus would “start a dialogue about the things that we don’t talk about.”
“They’re a little bit different,” noted treasurer, Danielle Taroff.
Halligan said, “there’s so many programs we want to bring to campus, but now we have to think, ‘what will they say?”
“The biggest problem I have with this whole thing, is this is a man who doesn’t have a pussy, defending a group of people he isn’t part of. I don’t understand how he could make that statement,” said Women’s Center vice president Jamie Lissauer. “Educational experienced need to push comfort zones. Before I came to college, I couldn’t even say the word pussy. That’s how you educate people. If one person is like how I used to be, and we change their mind? Mission accomplished.”
Bricketto disagreed. “While some may find the term empowering and liberating, many will find it demeaning and distasteful. Our job is to find the proper balance.”
The final decision from Bricketto was to not sign off on the contract, until the issue could be reviewed at a meeting of the Campus Climate Intervention Team. However, The Women’s Center Club decided against meeting with the CCIT because it would force The Women’s Club faculty advisor to be put on trial in front of her peers.
If the Pussies, Pens and Politics debate isn’t settled, and the women do not come to campus, there will be a panel discussion on censorship taking place during the time scheduled for the performance
Jenn Rothstein is a third-year student majoring in English education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org