VOICES discusses the status of African American women at Duke with Dean Caroline L. Lattimore.
What, in your opinion, is the current status of African American women on Duke's Campus?
...Currently, I am Assistant Dean in Trinity College and Adjunct Associate Professor in Education. As I reflect upon the past 30 years as it relates to African American women, it has been a journey of ups and downs. African American women at Duke have been consistently loyal and energetic workers at every level of employment at the University. African American women at Duke are definitely "maintaining and holding their own" as faculty, staff, and students. Even the casual observer will notice that African American women at Duke are brilliant, analytical, and engaging. They are among the nation's best professional educators, top level staff, and superior students. But, the need for more...African American women among the faculty and administrative ranks is still there.
If you were to return to campus in 2027, twenty years from today, what would you hope to observe?...Twenty years from now, it is my hope that African American women will hold significant positions among the faculty such as department chairs and distinguished scholars. Within the administrative ranks, there will be several who are at the Provost level and the Vice Presidential level...with the expectation that many qualify and will be considered for the Presidency of the University.
Issue 18 : SPRING 2007
design and photos by Marie Gordon and Rob Goodlatte.
VOICES discusses the status of African American women at Duke with Dean Caroline L. Lattimore.
Four o'clock arrives, the most dreaded hour of the day. A house filled with pieces of train track, My Little Ponies, and broken Crayolas. Dishes in the sink, milk on the counter, uneaten quartered peanut butter and jellies hardening on their lunch plates. One and a half, maybe two, hours before my husband arrives; dinner is Everest and I have no oxygen.
Children are getting up from their naps and my self, exhausted for no discernable reason, must be tucked away. It is not acceptable to lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling when children are awake. My smile is fixed, arms are open, but it doesn't matter. Children have eyes.
My three years old stands right in front of me. "Mom, where are you?"
I smile closed mouth and do not answer, I don't have one.
I am continually surprised that, while I majored in psychology and read Gertrude, I still ended up two kids deep in a marriage that keeps me rushing to prepare for my husbands arrival each day. I am feminism's failure.
On exceptionally bad days, I believe my desire to become a mother the end product of an elaborate marketing plan. A victim of slick advertising; the government's solution to women in the workplace. I can get carried away with conspiracy theories rivaling the Kennedy assassination, Desitin commercials serving as my magic bullet. I wonder if it's possible to sue Johnson & Johnson. Smiling babies in diapers were my Joe Camel.
The mommy group had seemed like an answer, but after six months of playgroups, I can no longer remember the question. Reading in an article that it is important for children who stay at home with only their mothers for company to "mingle" with age appropriate peers, we all gather and try to "socialize" our children while we attempt to "resocialize" ourselves. Conversations are fragmented and held between breaking up fights over the single Little Tykes car. Since attending, my three year old has learned that, after picking and inspecting, boogers are best consumed quickly.
Insinuations are made; next time no coffee, margaritas. But this will never happen; we don't know each other that well.
When the crutches are passed around, it is important to be supportive. The over exposed attempt at professional photography, the next chapter of a chick lit manuscript, real estate. Last Tuesday a fellow Mommy handed me her homemade business card, I accepted it in all seriousness. Back at home, Dora video playing, I retire to my bathroom and removed this not quite right angled card from my pocket. Jenny Richards Mother/Writer followed by her home number, cell number and her Hotmail email address. I suppose it important to put the Mother first, lest someone think her other occupation a preoccupation, a first priority. In the privacy of my closed bathroom I laughed. I imagined her husband cringing while she passes these out at his company Christmas party, unable to explain the absurdity Jenny couldn't see.
I sit on the floor and my tears smear the ink. I can see.
When my parents come to stay with us, they are forced to sleep on a pull out sofa so that I can have a home office. The bookshelf lined with old text books that I never have cause to reopen. Admittedly, it hardly seems necessary, in terms of wasted space, to occupy a whole room for bill paying and Sudoku playing. My mother balanced the checkbook at our kitchen table, curled up on the couch for a crossword. But I thought hanging my degrees in the kitchen would be too revealing in terms of my personal conflicts. To my credit, I have only twice dragged houseguests though my home, lingering too long at "my office", resisting the urge to point to my mahogany framed certificates of worth. I wonder if when they went home, they closed their bathroom door and laughed themselves silly.
I know of no other job in which I would tolerate my employer screaming, "NO!" right before slapping me hard across the face. I imagine the sexual harassment case I could bring against a boss who insisted on shoving his hand down my shirt, pinching my nipple and shouting, "Boo bee! Boo bee!"
"Face it. You never wanted to be a stay at home mom," my husband accuses.
Because this is utterly false, I throw my hands in exasperation: because it is true, I walk away.
Every night, bath, books and bed, I hover for a moment over each of my children. I ask them, "Who is Mommy's favorite little girl? Who is Mommy's favorite little boy?" They always know the answer. "Me," they say, smiling more from the recognition of a familiar ritual than the weight of the words. There is nothing more terrifying than unconditional love, all that vulnerability wrapped up in just one person. One very small person. I bare this love and understand why it's important. Without it, I would leave."Jackie" by Brandi Nicole Femster
Egg Donors Needed: Seeking women who are
SAT 1300+ (math and verbal)
Physically fit and healthy
For more information please contact Sharon
I saw your ad in the paper
And took note of the requirements
Consider myself attractive (but you may not -
We all have different standards of beauty)
And physically fit
(well, mostly, I mean
I do have a little junk-in-the-trunk)
My healthy lifestyle
Involves all-nighters, caffeine, and too many cookies sometimes
I'm smart though
After all, I got into this school, you know
Thank you for reviewing
Thank you for rejecting
I would like to ask you something
Let's say you find a donor
And egg becomes embryo
And fetus grows into a daughter of your own
If she is not
Attractive (according to
Your definition of attractive)
Or if she's a little overweight
Or if she scores below your expectations on the SAT
Or if she does anything else
That makes her less than perfect
And if she can't hide her flaws (for there's no such thing
As sheer cover makeup for your DNA)
What are you going to do,
Throw her away?
"Falling for Perfection" by Marie Gordon
I was excited to go to India. More than excited - I was thrilled, overjoyed, enthusiastic - all the positive adjectives that can describe a person. Eighteen years old, setting off on my first adventure to a 'non-western' country, and ready to save the world. I could already feel the sticky adoration that the underprivileged, wholesome children would drench me with when I taught them how to finger-paint. As a newly active international humanitarian, it didn't occur to me that my public role might be any different in India than it was at home. Being a white female was not important to my identity, so I didn't think that it would be important to anyone's perception of me.
My first weekend in India. After a long week spent wiping sweat off my face and scrubbing ingrained dirt out of my skin, my friend and I decided to hit the Mumbai nightlife. We set out by ourselves, armed only with strapless shirts and the knowledge that, for the first time in our lives, we were considered exotic. With that confidence, we walked through the streets and asked everyone we saw to point us to the nearest nightclub.
Eventually, we were directed toward a neon sign that blazed "Dance Club: Bombay's Drums Beat," and we were flattered when guards at the door opened up and ushered us inside like celebrities. There was loud Hindi dance music playing, and we felt like maybe we had hit a more authentic venue than the American knockoffs up the street.
A waiter led us to a table in the back of the room. I didn't want to sit down - I had come to dance, after all - but my friend Emily was looking suddenly uncomfortable. She pulled me down next to her and chewed her lip anxiously as she pretended to study the drinks menu. The waiter would not leave until we had ordered something, and by that time my eyes had adjusted enough to the dim lights to understand Emily's discomfort.
We were sitting on the edge of a room flashing with disco lights. Tables and chairs were all around the sides of the room, but inot one chair seated another woman. Instead, we were surrounded by rich men in suits. All the women were in the center of the room, dressed in full saris and thick makeup, dancing wildly. The men threw money on them. Ten rupee notes fell like rain.
I wanted to leave, but our drinks were on the way. More people noticed our presence, and I could literally see the news spread around the circle of the room. The men stared unabashedly, and I felt myself flush. But at the same time, none of them would have thought of flirting with us - we had been seated with the men, and we had been accorded the power of men. We were simultaneously more sexually feminine and more socially masculine, and I felt numbly unsexed. This night forever changed the responsibility I take for my own travel. Suddenly, I was no longer an unmarked humanitarian - I was very clearly a white female, with all the projected personalities that accompany that image. As seen by Indians, I was the embodiment of a history and culture of bodies that had come before me, and I could not - cannot - enter the international arena without taking that history into account.
Although I still travel and volunteer abroad, I am always very conscious of the baggage that I carry. Without an awareness of it, I could easily use qualities attributed to me. I don't want to be the powerful white person or the extremely sexual woman, but I carry those identities within me - tempting but dangerous roles to step into."Sacré-Cœur" by Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan
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"The Images We Make is the feature of our centerfold! Please view our pdf version for both the text and pictures associated with this article. Want the centerfold? Contact us for a hard copy!
Every line of this poem is a direct line from the Rolling Stones Article about Sex and Scandal at Duke published in Spring 2006, except for the lines in parenthesis.
It exists in a whirlwind of drunkenness and horniness that lacks definition-
A certain weariness creeps in (we'll call it)
Anal Sex is still rare enough
Alleged Rape (the truth will surface)
All are stylish and popular. And all have impressive goals. (right?)
Sex at Duke is a sport most students participate in
pretty girls in silky skirts or skinny jeans (we won't let anyone know)
girls fake it
exude any charisma
these delightful young ladies deal with their massive insecurity
by getting fucked by frat boys
in a tie-dyed thong and a flabby stomach
casual one-night stand
usually bolstered by heavy drinking
oral sex nearly ubiquitous
Personally speaking, I have no problem with throwing down plastic and opening up a tab
(find yourself in one) huge dry orgy
cutting their skin off while cumming in my Duke-issue spandex.
(this isn't me)
How to Fold Your Boyfriend's Clothes in the Morning without Feeling Dirty or Irrelevant or Like You're Living in Sin, by Maria Kuznetsova
Open your eyes and try not to think of your mother. It's almost
noon, get up! Then, make sure he's gone, he's not around,
he's off somewhere in a clean suit, saying things like
cost-benefit analysis and can you believe the racial tension
on this godforsaken campus, while you check that your shirt
isn't on backwards. Look around, don't look around.
See the goldfish? Flick on his fluorescent light, wave hello,
but please don't stare at him with the wonder you gave
your first fish-you have no right to be sentimental
when you're not wearing any underwear. Ask Goldie,
in a French accent, who ah you, my dear, and vat do you think
you ah doing here?
Ask yourself these questions, rinse, repeat, squat in the center
of the pile, but please don't stare out the window and wonder
how the o-zone is doing, how the manatees are doing, what God
thinks about you, or him, or any of this. Then, begin
to fold. Forget that most of the jerseys are dirty anyway,
sweaty from his lay-ups and racket swings, forget
that his wife beaters are drenched in beer (for the first time,
ask yourself how you go around calling those things wife beaters,
how you go around calling yourself a woman). Pick up his socks,
declare them hopeless, try not to think of your father. Cry hopeless!
Take the back of your hand to your forehead, sigh like a diva.
If anyone walks in, don't grin like a fool: there's no need
to be modest, missy, everybody knows the score.
Pick up his jeans, don't be tempted to rifle through his pockets
for love notes from girls who are not you, for receipts
from fancy restaurants he did not take you to, because you know,
fortunately or not, that you are the only one. Fold the jeans in halves,
then fourths, like a geometric progression, then rub your chin
like a philosopher, reconsider the fourths and switch back to halves,
because your grandmother told you never to fold a pair of pants
like that-they're made for legs, honey, accordions they are not.
Pick up his shirts, don't bother cringing at the ketchup stains
or the offensive stripes, if you make a face like that in an empty room,
it's pointless, like gesturing over the telephone or dancing
with a married man.
Before you leave, sit down at his desk, find an index card
and scribble honey I'm a very serious person I swear,
then chew it up and tuck it inside your bra. Take the deflated
piles and bury them inside his drawers, ignore the resume,
the letter from his baby sister, and the condom wrappers.
Blow the fish a kiss goodbye and applaud yourself,
because the floor is clean, and even though all you've done
with your life today is fold a bunch of dirty clothes, skip,
gather ye rosebuds while ye may, change in front of the mirror,
don't bother locking the door, wink twice, lady,
because you are young and your metabolism is obscenely fast,
and because you have nothing before you today
but two cups of coffee, a clean journal,
and a prayer that there will be many years ahead
for your redemption.
Note on Sunny Days: Because of a printing error, only the first half of this poem was published. Please check back for the entirety of the poem soon!.
"This paper is a bitch." "Stop bitching about him, already." "She's being such a bitch." "He's crying like a little bitch."
It's amazing how we've managed to integrate certain words into our vocabularies without even once thinking about what they truly mean. I'm guilty of it, I know. My friends know me as the one who coined the curse word "motherbitch," and they all laugh whenever I use it. All except one.
This one friend recently told me that it bothers her when I use the words "bitch" and "motherfucker." This shocked me-I'm from New York, where I'm used to hearing each of those words at least 5 times before my morning coffee. But my friend said that although she is sometimes guilty of using those words herself, hearing them still makes her uncomfortable as a woman. This conversation had a big impact on me. I decided to try to eliminate certain words from my vocabulary altogether, and I really started to think about what these words mean.
When we say that an assignment is a "bitch," what are we really saying? We're saying that it was any number of negative adjectives (annoying, monotonous, or difficult) that are being equated with femininity. When we use the words "whining," "complaining," and "bitching" as synonyms, we are saying that those negative words carry a distinctly female connotation. When we refer to a male as a "bitch," we are basically saying that he is "un-masculine" in some way - whether we mean that he is crying, acting in a catty manner, or behaving in an otherwise weak, "girly" way that we find unacceptable. And when we call a man a "son of a bitch," aren't we indicting the man's mother even more so than the man himself?
The entire problem does not solely involve the word "bitch"- aside from a select few words, most of the profanity that I can think of draws on an underlying hostility towards women. In addition to the various forms of the word "bitch," there is "bastard" (the criticism of a man for being raised in a home without a father, and therefore - in the "traditional" idea of an American family - only having a female parent). There are derogatory terms for female anatomy (I can think of at least five). There are sexual insults designed to imply that a woman is promiscuous (God forbid). There is even "douche," a word commonly used as an insult that technically means nothing more than a cleansing product for women.
All of these words carry underlying negative feelings towards womanhood that have seeped into our vernacular. I consider myself a "feminist," but up until recently I referred to everything that moves (and plenty of things that don't) as a "bitch." I didn't think it was a big deal. When my computer stops working properly, it's being "bitchy." I casually referred to my friends as "ho" or "hooker," even if they'd never had sex before. I wasn't actually implying that they were selling their bodies - instead, I was just using one of the many sexist terms that have crept into our vernacular.
Do I think that everyone who uses the words "bitch" or "whore" is a sexist? Absolutely not. In fact, I still slip up and use these words sometimes - even though I'm trying not to. Do you realize how difficult it is to describe certain people without this all-too-convenient and widely recognizable terminology? I've been trying to catch myself and substitute words like "catty" and "mean," but they just don't carry the same kind of power found in words like "bitch." So no, I have never personally incriminated a person for using these words, and I don't intend to become a hypocrite and start.
However, what I do think is that it's pretty indicative of the culture that we live in. If we live in a society where our language is flooded with anti-female profanity and terminology, what does that say about our underlying cultural beliefs? What does it say about what, as a larger society, we deem acceptable? I think that we spend so much time worrying about certain ills in our society - rape, sexual assault, female stereotyping, gender bias in the workplace, and domestic violence - that we don't give much thought to the culture creating the standards that imply these ills are acceptable.
Maybe we should.
Please find the full text of this longer piece by viewing the full pdf version!
Please find the full text of this longer piece by viewing the full pdf version!
I came to a painful self-revelation today.
I realized that these legs
Which have walked miles,
Which have proudly announced my arrival in a room,
That has carried me through twenty years of life,
Does not belong to me.
Because you see, when I got up this morning
And put on those tight jeans
I was in the middle of a rare occasion.
For once I was celebrating the Freshmen Fifteen I had gained since beginning college,
Because even when those girls caged me in at the dinner table
With their latest analysis of the unhealthy food before them,
I happily commemorated another moment of eating.
While my ears heard "Those greens have too much salt,"
My taste buds responded,
"And they're seasoned just right."
"There's brown sugar in those carrots to make them sweet," was counteracted with a,
"Really? It worked out perfectly. I want seconds."
"That fruit salad is really unhealthy because of all the high fructose corn syrup," was met with an, "Oh well, I always enjoy at least one bowl full of fruit salad a day."
While carefully positioning
My full plate
In front of me,
I listened to the discussion about
The latest morning runs
Or new weight-loss goals
(and gained some more).
Hell, I ate enough for myself and those who skipped meals.
So, those jeans that I wriggled, giggled and forced my way into were my version of
A birthday cake.
I was honoring the creation of each pound
That came about
While at the dinner table,
While eating ice cream and brownies during finals,
While ordering food in a friend's room late at night,
While enjoying my new life as a college student.
I felt so sweet
When I saw how my thighs demanded a space of their own in my jeans
And I was fascinated
With my own butt.
FAT and beautiful!
But I knew.
I knew better
Because I wore a long jacket.
It did not fully cover my butt.
But as if to make up for this fact
I donned a scarf and a beanie.
I'm still modest, you know.
Not modest enough
Because when I accidentally got off at the wrong bus stop,
A bus stop surrounded with males,
All eyes were on me.
The street was populated
With men marking the time by how many cigarettes they smoked
With men sitting
With men talking quietly and
All waiting for the day to unfurl
Myself not included, there was only one other woman in a crowd of twenty people.
The friendly hello while I walked down this street soon became a testimony to
"how good I looked,"
A testimony which caused men across the street to not only turn their heads
But to vocally agree as well.
Yet my sure steps did not pause
Until I reached a viscous looking dog and its owner--
The only other female in sight.
The red chord dangled loosely from her hand
Never one to leave things to chance,
Wondered how quickly the woman could
Stop the animal if it suddenly decided to attack me.
A nearby man noticed my hesitation
His initial assurance that the dog was harmless
Morphed into a howled "Damn"
As I took a circuitous route around
Both dog and owner.
And I finally knew what it felt like
To have your shoulders shrink
And your head lower when too many people were around
I finally knew what it felt like
To thank God for my actual lack of a chest
I don't think the keys represent anything.
I mean, maybe they represent his trust in me, or the state of our relationship.
They could be the state of our relationship.
Sometimes, when I'm with my friends, I take them out of the bottom of my bag and hold on to them a little too long.
As if, what, one of my friends would say, "What are you doing with those?" and then I'd be able to tell her about how he gave me the keys to his sister's apartment after only a couple of weeks, so I could come and go as I pleased.
As if my friends would be impressed and spread the word that my boyfriend adored me; that he knew I was for keeps.
The first night he just left them outside for me, in a gap between the electricity meter and the gate. I arrived stumbling and drunk and decided to bypass the keys, trying to slip my hand through the gate to undo the lock, as I'd done once before, but my angle was wrong and I couldn't...quite...get it. Finally, on my knees, I stroked the tip of one of them until the friction caused them to fall to the ground where I scooped them up.
But the next morning he told me to lock the door on my way out, so I had to take them with me.
Three weeks later, when I left town for good, he told me to keep the keys to make it seem more real.
The first time I came back I envisioned myself opening the door with them, and even had them in my hand as I got out of the car, but there he was waiting out front.
The funny thing is, he doesn't live even there anymore. And we're an ocean apart.
The keys might as well be a ticket stub or a dried corsage - something I'd put in a scrapbook, if I had a scrapbook.
Instead these keys, these viable, functional keys, I'm sure his sister misses, hang out among my spare change and gum wrappers, waiting to open something again.
We both think we're ready
With our tube of lubricant
And the little pack of pills from planned parenthood
'cause I wanted the first time to be "natural"
Kissing, passionate, happy, a little scared
Moving against each other, turning up the volume
Until all we can hear is "SEX! SEX! SEX!"
And then we strip.
He stares between my legs
"too small"--the verdict
and he gets busy with his finger,
opening me up
But I only get his penis halfway in,
And I'm shoving my hands against his chest,
Shouting, "That hurts!", angrily...
An hour later and he's finally in.
Beneath him I'm shaking, crying,
The pain making me breathe like a pregnant woman.
We give up, and I curl into a ball
Around the broken place inside me,
I'm broken .
The space to fit a man,
The place to make the sacred bond,
Mine doesn't work .
For over a year we try
Kissing, still passionate,
less happy, more scared
I see a doctor, I buy a vibrator,
I masturbate twice a week, like it's an elective P.E. course
(PEXXX, location: dorm room, time: while the roommate's away)
FOR OVER A YEAR WE TRY
And he starts telling me about girls he could get
And I think about how fun my friends say sex is,
And curl around my brokenness, and cry.
And it works.
Our 2 year anniversary,
He comes inside me for the first time.
Moving in and out, increasing the volume
My mouth stretched in silent anguish beneath him.
And I don't even beg him "Softer! Slower!"
At least, not out loud.
I'm burning afterwards.
I'm still broken
But I turn away from him, as I pull my jeans back on.
Don't want him to see me crying.
Don't want to ruin his first time.
The Duke University Women's Center launched a new programming series called In The Know in 2006. In the Know allows members of the Duke University community to round out their knowledge in matters outside of their academic expertise and venture into new territories of learning specifically geared toward negotiating femininity and feminism in the 21st century.
In the Know took over several flagship programs of the Women's Center, including the very popular "Grrls Under the Hood" car repair workshop, which has been re-titled "Know yr Car" and redesigned as a car maintenance workshop (considering that actual car repair technique requires weeks of training and practice). In addition to these programs, In the Know established several new programs, including Know yr Laundry, Know yr Kitchen and Know yr Thread. Know yr Kitchen in particular sparked some concerned emails asking the Women's Center why it would teach a cooking workshop. The answers are as complex as the question: is it decidedly un-feminist to enjoy things that are traditionally "coded" as feminine or is the celebration of and expertise in those areas a feminist statement?
Feminism has undergone radical changes over the years and has fragmented to the point that it no longer can be pigeonholed as one particular political ideology. Some women might see the address of what is considered to be "women's work" empowering while others see it as reinforcing a gender role that is outdated. Whether as a political statement or a personal desire, our cooking class is one of our most popular workshops. Whether we want to accept it or not, the ability to cook, clean and sew are useful and important life skills.
At the same time, it is important to encourage women to move into areas from which they have traditionally been excluded, which is why workshops like Know yr Car, Know yr Voice and Know yr Sexy, which deal with self-defense, assertiveness and sexuality sit alongside workshops that teach "women's work." What we hope to achieve is the recognition that a woman's work can be one some or all of these things, and it doesn't make her any more or any less feminine to enjoy one over the other.
In the Know also recently created a forum in which you can discuss our workshops and trade information related to them as well as address the idea of feminism in the 21st century. Please visit http://dukeintheknow.proboards81.com to join the discussion. We hope that eventually our forum will include everything from favorite recipes and stain removal tips to recommended mechanics in Durham.
Special thanks to Ariana Sutton-Grier for use of her lab at the Nicholas School for the Environment.
VOICES is currently accepting submissions for our next issue, Spring 2008! For more information and to submit your work to VOICES, visit our submissions page!