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Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Next Generation


In September we brought over one thousand first year students (commonly called freshMEN at some institutions) to new student orientation.  I am part of a team of folks who teach the students about sexual violence, alcohol and diversity.  After viewing a theatrical performance, with actors who the students are allowed to question in character, the students break up into small groups with upper-class facilitators.

We gave them four scenarios to discuss if they were “bystanders” to each situation and how they would approach the situation using 3 “D’s”:  distract, direct, delegate.  One situation involved witnessing dating violence, another a potential sexual assault, another someone with potential alcohol poisoning and the last was overhearing a fellow student using the words “pussy” or “fag”.

What scenario do you think got the most push back by the incoming class?

The language one.  Many of our incoming students border between the Generation Y or Millennial generation and the new Generation Z.  Here are some comments on why THEY feel they should be able to use words like “pussy,” “fag,” and even the “n” word.

“If they say that word in a song, then I can use it.”

“It’s just a word, you shouldn’t be bothered by it.”

“Free speech.”

“I can say whatever I want.  If you’re offended, it’s not my problem.”

Boy, oh, boy have we got some learning to do!  These comments were very similar to the response to my Op-Ed, posted last week, about the Dartmouth High School mascot, the Indians.  One of the writers of their high school newspaper interviewed me about the controversy.  You can read it here.  Based on their responses to the reporter, it is clear that many of the students and some administrators are lacking in any type of social justice awareness.  No wonder the students entering as first year students don’t get language as powerful and potentially oppressive.  Their high schools could care less.

Why should I be surprised?  I learned absolutely nothing about racism, sexism, rape, etc. when I was in high school.  There was no critical analysis of the world’s problems.  I was taught what they thought every student needed to know to go to college.  Apparently not much has changed.  I have a good friend who is a high school history teacher and she constantly laments the lack of time she has to really teach young people the history of the world.  She showed them the movie Amistad and had  parents writing in complaining about how graphic it was.  It’s hard to teach about the enslavement of millions of people without being graphic.

I like to end my blog, in South Park style, with a suggestion on how we fix the problem, but in this case, I have no idea.  Transforming the K-12 educational curriculum needs to happen, particularly in respect to bullying, social justice issues, and sexual violence, but I have no idea where to start that movement.  I know that the Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortiumis working hard to get a media literacy curriculum into the K-12 school system, which would address some of those issues.

In the meantime, it’s up to parents to talk to their kids about this stuff.  If we are going to have an Indian mascot and no coursework on the Trail of Tears, we are leaving the student’s with only half of the story.

free versus  hate

Standard Times Op-Ed: End Use of Racial Slurs for Mascots

I was thrilled to get my second Op-Ed published in the New Bedford Standard Times.  

Football season: the time of year when racism gets blindly supported throughout the country. Two weeks ago, I noticed a picture of the Dartmouth High School mascot in the 99 Restaurant.  I posted on Facebook “How did I not know the Dartmouth High School mascot was the “Indians”? A former student responded that the Seekonk High School mascot, the “Warriors,” was also represented as an Indian head in traditional garb. I couldn’t believe it.

In Massachusetts, according to the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition, 43 schools have an Indian as their mascot, nickname or logo. This link provides a list of all New England schools with Indian mascots, approximately 91. ( The names of these mascots include Rangers, Tomahawks, Aztecs, Red Raiders, Warriors, Wamps, Chieftains, Sachems, Braves and Tewksbury Memorial High Schools offensive “Redmen and Lady Redmen.”

This is a timely conversation on the national stage. Announcers who work for CBS are boycotting the Washington Redskins name by refusing to use it during games. “Change the Mascot” is a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur “redskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.  Launched by the Oneida Indian Nation, the campaign calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end to the use of the racial epithet.  A longtime NFL referee has been boycotting the Redskins, silently, for years, by asking not to be put on their games. “I think sometimes evolution is slow for some people,” he said. “But where else in America do you see that, though, the refusal to change? From Stanford on down, most everybody has changed from a derogatory name to one that is acceptable.” (

We know the slogan “think locally, act globally.”  This boycott with the NFL may not be a “global” action but it is a long overdue action. And if we can get behind these announcers, can we look in our own backyard at the institutional racism playing out in front of our children?

The word “Massachusetts” is an Algonquian Indian word from the Wampanoag word Massachuset, which means “by the range of hills.” The original inhabitants of Massachusetts were encompassed in three tribes, the Wampanoag (including the Massachusett, Nauset, Nantucket, Pennacook, Pokanoket, and Pocasset), the Mohegans (including the Nipmuc and Pequot) and the Mohican’s (including the Pocumtuc). What kind of respect do Massachusetts citizens give to their foremothers and forefathers, who lived here first, by using racist representations from the past? I shudder to imagine this same imagery being acceptable if it represented African-Americans. It wouldn’t be tolerated.

As a board member of the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, our mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. One of the ways we work to eliminate racism is to talk about its harmful effects, to call it out where we see it, and to offer programs to help educate our community, like our racial justice and economic justice workshops. I struggle to see how an organization, like the YWCA, exists in a community that is using a traditional Indian headdress.

Please write to your local school boards, in Dartmouth and Seekonk, and ask them to find another mascot, one that does not offend and misrepresent a culture and a community of people who have endured enough misrepresentation.

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.