Letters to the Editor

Columnbia Plaza action

The Hatchet’s recent reporting and opinion coverage of the management of Columbia Plaza brings attention to several allegations of security misconduct and discriminatory policies against students. The GW administration, upon learning of these concerns, is in contact with Columbia Plaza management to discuss the application of its security policies, including the responsibilities of the off-duty police officer and the treatment of all residents in accordance with D.C. laws.

For GW students living in Columbia Plaza, there is a two-step process to register complaints. The issue should be reported to Columbia Plaza management and also to the Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs, a service through the Dean of Students Office. Brian Hamluk, director of the Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs, can be reached at (202) 994-0334 or via e-mail at ocsa@gwu.edu.

While the University does have an ownership interest in Columbia Plaza, it does not participate in the day-to-day management and operations of the building and its security. Therefore, if the management is not being responsive, we encourage students to bring their concerns and complaints to the University and document the issues in writing.

-Louis Katz, Executive Vice President and Treasurer, Linda Donnels, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students

A poor comparison

I’ve read a lovely essay Joyce Hackett wrote about the process of writing her novel, and think that she is a writer of formidable intellect, nuance, skill and imagination. That’s why I was disappointed by her anti-drag editorial, “Understanding the other” (March 24, p. 5), which seemed to do nothing of the kind. If it is the case, which I imagine it is, that some drag performances incorporate hostile attitudes toward women, than we should by all means address that and discuss it. But hostility toward women in drag shows is sufficiently ugly to be a topic on its own, and is not necessarily well served by saying that all drag is as bad as all blackface.

This argument is actually counterproductive, as it trivializes the real suffering of African Americans in a society that thoroughly institutionalized racism and gave victims no recourse. Then it elevates the suffering of contemporary women, creating an exaggeratedly powerless caricature of them that is more demeaning than any drag show could ever be. At the same time, it moves all further exploration of the real effect of drag performances into the still very explosive minefield of historic and contemporary race relations, when male/female relationships are actually different in a couple of key ways.

Blackface performances came of age in a social structure that glorified lynching and rarely punished the murderers, where African Americans were denied access to voting booths, jury rooms, education and public facilities except to serve white needs. In a period where an African American ran the risk of incurring a violent response by mere initiation of an interaction with a white American, blackface performances by white entertainers were sometimes the only vocal representations of African Americans that white Americans saw. In that situation, I agree that the representation is an expression of power-that when only one party is permitted unlimited speech, they are licensed to define the other unfairly. But that is not the state of relations in this country between men and women today.

And as for understanding the other, let’s take a good look at the reality of men’s lives before painting them all into the role of the oppressor class. In fact, rigid social roles are often as confining for men as they are for women, and sometimes more so. In Nazi Germany (another example Hackett offers) and the Jim Crow United States, the lives of all Germans and all whites – men, women and children – were valued more highly than the lives of all Jewish people and all African Americans, who could be assaulted and murdered, as well as insulted, with impunity. But if a contemporary husband and wife meet a knife-wielding maniac and the wife dies with defensive wounds on her hands and the husband emerges unscathed, he’d better have a very good explanation. Just as we expect that a woman will die protecting her child, we take for granted that men will and even should die protecting women and children, trading their seat in the lifeboat for a place in the pantheon. Contemporary women did not request to occupy this protected but often enfeebling role, but contemporary men didn’t ask to be the protectors, either, and it adds insult to injury to assume that they always benefit from this system. We also take for granted that men will be drafted in the event of a military draft, and, whether we approve or not (and I don’t), we know that it will be a good long while before women are subject to the same risk in this country.

-Amy Bailey, student

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