So What’s Drag?

CGIA is proud to kick off the conference with Fletcher’s first ever drag show: The Bawdy Politic! Starring Aurora Whorealis and Tuft’s very own leading lady of drag, LaWhore Vagistan, this show will be a fun, sexy, and subversive take on international gender politics.

Fletcher DRAG SHOW

Drag represents an art and culture within the LGBTQ community that challenges heteronormative gender norms in a way that is both critical and playful. Its role and meaning in queer culture still invokes lively debate between the diverse groups that make up the LGBTQ community in the US and around the world, but here is a quick intro to some of the basics:

Still have questions? Want more queer theory? Email and get on the Pride@Fletcher listserv!



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Poetry and Power: Feminism and the Spoken Word

By Allyson Hawkins

I attended my first spoken word event as a junior in college. The room was packed and full of energy, and silence washed over the crowd as words tumbled out of the poet’s mouth. Each sharp inhalation as she regained her breath and powered through the next verse conveyed a sense of urgency. As I listened, the whole room seemed to swell with energy, and I was on the edge of my seat. The poet’s words touched on so many issues I had engaged with before: feminism, relationships, loss, and love. Yet, as I sat there listening to these words being hurled at the audience, with so much resolve and earnestness behind them, I wondered how this particular art form stirred such energy and emotion within me in a matter of minutes.

giphyI still don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that whenever I hear a particularly great piece of poetry performed, it stays ringing in my head long after the poet takes a bow. Between the profound, hushed silence that overcomes a room after the poet’s final word and the first, tentative claps of applause lies a powerful moment- one which you can experience for yourself on THURSDAY, DEC. 1 in Fletcher’s very first spoken word poetry performance!

Hosted by the Gender Initiative, the event will informally kick-off the second annual Conference on Gender and International Affairs, taking place this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2nd and 3rd. The evening, entitled “Power in Poetry,” embraces artistic expressions of gendered power structures. The event will feature readings from local Bostonian poet (and Tufts alum!) Kathleen Aguero, as well as Fletcher student performers.

So, what exactly does spoken word poetry have to do with gender? Several contemporary spoken word poets are reconceptualizing radical feminism and engaging in political conversations surrounding gender, identity, migration, war, and violence through this art form. However, utilizing poetry to examine issues of race, class, and sexuality is nothing new.

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How to Talk about Sexual Violence

By Megan Keeling 

[TW: General discussion of sexual violence and trauma]

I found some of the best advice I’ve ever received for writing about challenging subjects from an article from the Good Men Project on trans-inclusive language: “Basically, trans-inclusive language is an exercise in thoughtfulness and mindful writing. Don’t just swap in “female assigned at birth” for “female” and expect to be awesome; instead, consider what you’re actually saying and say that.”

This is an important reminder to write with intention, especially when writing about or for marginalized populations from a place of academic or professional privilege. It’s especially true for writing or talking about people who have experienced sexual violence.

We bring up sexual violence, and those who have experienced it, for a number of reasons at Fletcher. We may be trying to understand how sexual violence fits into the dynamics of armed conflict, whether to provide humanitarian aid to victims or to more effectively mediate an end to violence. We may be looking at it from a peace-building perspective, in order to understand the ways this particular type of violence inflicted lasting scars on all members of a post-conflict community. We might even be reflecting on the fact that the president-elect of the United States has had multiple women accuse him of sexual assault, and has openly bragged about groping women.

Just a reminder to never stop protesting this nonsense, America.

Most importantly, we talk about sexual violence at Fletcher because we want to make the lives of those who have experienced it better in some capacity, and to prevent people from having to experience it in the future. Intentionally placing the victims of this type of violence at the center of our discussion and analysis will help us do no harm to the very populations we want to help.

Here are some ways to be more intentional about your work on sexual violence:

Understand trauma: An understanding of how trauma impacts individuals helps us to write with intention about survivors of sexual violence. Experiencing trauma produces a physiological change in the brain that can impact the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of an individual. This is especially helpful for developing trauma-informed research methods or evaluations when directly interacting with this population. Continue reading

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Privilege and the Symbolism of the Draft 

By Andrea Goldstein

Based on testimony from National Defense Authorization Act 2016 markup session, April 27, 2016. Full clip available at: 

 Congressman Duncan Hunter, Republican from California, was surprised when his attempt at exposing “reverse sexism” against men failed. He proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 (NDAA-FY17) requiring women ages 18-25 to register for selective service—also known as the draft—just like men already must.Currently, women are not permitted to voluntarily sign up for selective service, unable to equally participate in civic responsibility.  

JROTC Tour at Travis Air Force Base, CA USA, Photo by Louis Briscese

Hunter’s amendment was in response to a change in Department of Defense policy. In December 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that all military jobs—including those whose purpose was direct ground combat—would allow women, with no exceptions.2 Hunter represents several suburbs of San Diego, a city home to a the West Coast hub of the Navy and Marine Corps. As he briefly notes during his testimony, Hunter considers himself to represent Marine Corps infantry and Navy SEALs, units engaged in direct ground combat, and the last to integrate women.3

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What’s New at the Conference on Gender and International Affairs

UntitledNow more than ever, we need to ask how we can promote inclusion in the diplomacy, security, and private sectors through gender-sensitive, intersectional leadership. The Conference on Gender and International Affairs will be taking over Fletcher Friday, December 2 through Saturday, December 3. Fletcher students from Global Women and the Gender Initiative have been hard at work making this conference a powerful experience for exploring issues of gender, inclusion, and leadership. Like last year, we’re bringing experts from a wide range of disciplines to discuss how masculinity, femininity, and everything in between impacts how people lead in their field. This year, we’ve added some exciting new events to the schedule that you won’t want to miss:

First Things First – The Theme: In the second year of the conference, we’ve chosen to dig deeper into questions and analysis on how gender impacts leadership through the theme Gender-Sensitive Leadership: Putting Theory into Practice. Feminist activism has done a lot to increase the opportunities open to women around the world. Despite these advances, women and sexual minorities are still underrepresented in leadership positions in just about every field. This conference will analyze how gender and power impacts decision-making at the top levels in international business, foreign policy, and the security sector. Sessions will move beyond theory to provide attendees with practical ways to respond to gendered needs and increase inclusion in their own fields.

Friday afternoon – Career Roundtable: Before we kick off the conference, we’re inviting a small group of Fletcher students to join us for an intimate discussion on gender, leadership, and the work place. Meet the people making a career out of gender analysis, and learn more about what comes next for gender after Fletcher.

Friday Night – DRAG SHOW: After the opening sessions, we’re celebrating the conference with Fletcher’s first ever Drag Show. Emceed by Tufts’ very own leading lady of drag LaHore Vagistan, this performance will be a fun, sexy, and subversive take on global gender politics.

Saturday – Gender Lounge Breakout Sessions: Following lunch on Saturday, attendees are invited to join us for the Gender Lounge – a series of small-group breakout sessions for in-depth conversation on a wide range of gender topics. Confirmed sessions include: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, LGBT Legislation, Gender Analysis 101, and Cultivating Your Personal Brand.

All Day – Art Gallery: This year’s conference offers many creative ways to engage with gender and leadership. We’re soliciting submissions for art, poetry, and photography to display in the Art Gallery to explore conference themes from an artistic perspective. In addition, Fletcher students and conference attendees will have the opportunity to express themselves through a PostSecret-style exhibit. Anyone can create a postcard with their secret about gender, sexuality, leadership, and/or the workplace.

Join us Friday, December 2 and Saturday, December 3 for all of the exciting panels, sessions, and artistic expression at the Second Annual Conference on Gender and International Affairs. Get detailed session information and learn more about the speakers on our website, and don’t forget to register! We hope to see you there!

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A few words on this election

To say that we are saddened and disappointed as citizens today would be an understatement. As some of our commentary on here has suggested, we are deeply concerned about the future of our country under President-Elect Trump. However, as the shock wears off and this reality sinks in, we cannot sit idly by. We must continue to engage as active feminist citizens in fighting for a more inclusive nation. More importantly, we have to engage everyone and continue a dialogue so we as a nation can heal politically, but more importantly continue to promote principles of equality and inclusivity. We cannot predict or comment on what January 2017 and beyond will bring, but nonetheless we must continue on, as Clinton so eloquently stated this morning:

“I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strengthen our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that. You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”

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A #nastywoman and the Man to Make America Great Again: A Gendered Election

By Elayne Stecher

Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady of Arkansas and the United States, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, debated Republican Nominee Donald John Trump, an American businessman and political neophyte, for the first time on September 26, 2016. Their respective roles were performative on multiple levels: Mr. Trump was tasked with appealing outside of his normal constituency — primarily white1, politically marginalized voters without college degrees2 — in the face of growing condemnation of his sexist3, xenophobic4, and inflammatory sound bites5, while Secretary Clinton needed to rise above criticisms of being politically opportunistic6, robotic and not relatable7, and curating votes due to her “woman card”8 in order to solidify her popularity with women and minority voters and increase her clout with young voters.9 Both candidates also occupied explicitly gendered spaces, with Secretary Clinton running as the first female major-party presidential candidate10 and Mr. Trump running as the quintessential businessman, a self-proclaimed “definition of the American success story.”11

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Women, Peace, and Security: The Big(ger) Picture


At the Conference on Gender and International Affairs, we welcome anyone with an interest in how gender impacts diplomacy, security, and international business to attend. If you are new to gender studies, or if it’s been a while since you put on your gender lenses, we invite you to check out Gender Studies 101. We’ll post short articles about key concepts in gender analysis, and give some suggestions for further reading.

This year, CGIA has invited three panelists to speak about issues relating to inclusive security, notably around UN Resolution 1325. The original intent of the resolution seems to have been to protect women from violence committed during armed conflict. This is a gigantic step forward from the mindset that sees violence, particularly sexual violence, against women during conflict as merely collateral damage, separate from the larger strategic aims of war. However, the women-as-conflict-victims framework doesn’t tell the whole story. As the experts on the panel will discuss, women’s role in armed conflict and in the peacetime security sector is far more complicated.

Women as conflict victims: Conflict places women and all civilians in extraordinarily difficult positions. In many types of conflict today, particularly internal conflicts and insurgencies, militants specifically target the civilian population – whether to deter, punish, steal resources, or eliminate a certain ethnic group entirely. Sometimes this can include sexual violence, which is another tool to enforce domination over both men and women in a population. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to explore the myriad dimensions of this topic, but a critical point is that wartime sexual violence affects men, women, boys, and girls, and is used as s a weapon to systematically terrorize an “enemy” population. (A great resource from International Studies Quarterly presents a fascinating debate about studying sexual violence in conflicts for those who would like to read further).

Women during peace: Women have been drivers of peace movements, often through their authority in traditionally feminine roles as family caretakers. Their legitimacy as “apolitical” wives and mothers can help to mitigate some of the politics of negotiating peace between warring groups. Additionally, when women join the security sector, either as police or peacekeepers, studies suggest that violence or brutality among these groups goes down as well. Does this mean women are inherently more peaceful? It’s a nice idea, and certainly one that can be capitalized on in order to stop violence and resolve conflict. HOWEVER… Continue reading

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Photographer Rania Matar Discusses Portraits and Identity

By Hilary Ross

This piece was originally written for the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies’ blog and covers their November 1 event “Portraits and Identity” by Rania Matar.

Rania Matar is a Lebanese-American photographer who makes beautiful images of women and girls living in the United States and the Middle East. I was in the audience at the Tufts Art Gallery yesterday as she discussed her work. Born in Lebanon, Rania came to the United States in the 1980s to study architecture at Cornell and to escape the Lebanon War and its aftermath. She thought she’d stay for a few years and then return to Lebanon. As so often happens, life didn’t work out that way. Today, she lives in Massachusetts with her family and returns frequently to work in Lebanon.

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A Brief Introduction to International Feminist Politics: When the Personal is Political is International

Source: My Learning

At the Conference on Gender and International Affairs, we welcome anyone with an interest in how gender impacts diplomacy, security, and international business to attend. If you are new to gender studies, or if it’s been a while since you put on your gender lenses, we invite you to check out Gender Studies 101. We’ll post short articles about key concepts in gender analysis, and give some suggestions for further reading.

Like any other type of politics, feminist politics are influenced by the history and culture of the society in which they are active. Beyond this fairly obvious statement, it’s difficult to make generalizations about what “international feminist politics” is. At the very least, feminist activists tend to be concerned with increasing women’s representation in the public sphere. For this post, I’ll describe at some broad trends in feminist activism, then highlight some specifics purely based on my own thoughts and feelings. Disclaimer: this is in no way a comprehensive list.

Feminist political activism makes the personal political. As Cynthia Enloe elaborates, this theoretical understanding can help us develop more nuanced understandings of the ways power works in gender, women’s lives, and international relations.

giphyMany of the issues feminist activists care about are related to family, as male-dominated family structures have been used as a tool to keep women in a subordinate position both in their homes and society. There are many different legal, social, and cultural pressures that keep women in the home, but the important commonality are that these pressures prevent women from making meaningful choices about their own lives. For instance, when women are solely responsible for the unpaid labor of taking care of the home and family, this forces them to remain economically dependent on their husband or other (male) breadwinner. This not only limits opportunities for civic participation outside the home, but it can put women at risk for experiencing violence or abuse.

That being said, women have effectively organized around their roles as mothers and daughters, such as the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. However, that could be an exception that proves the rule: the Madres were able to organize only because the Argentinian government did not see them as a political threat. Their status as mothers and grandmothers protected them from the harsh reprisals inflicted against more traditional political actors.

Feminist activists also resist sexual repression and slut-shaming as tools to keep women out of public life. Frequently, this debate centers around women’s dress: Women around the world keep fighting battles about what they wear, because looking too [slutty/matronly/religious/young/old/whatever] is used as an excuse to invalidate women’s opinions, remove them from the public space, and even justify violence. This marginalization can result in women not being taken seriously at work or as political actors, but it can also result in sexualized violence that makes it dangerous for women to even just be in public spaces.

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