From the Town Houses to the Terrace Apartments, parties and nighly gatherings feed into the social lives of many Vassar students. To that end. some of these events come about to serve a specific purpose within the College community. Last Friday evening, for example, on September 27, many female-identified students—who mingled over Azealia Banks’ “212” and enjoyed pita chips with a hummus dip—attended the first Queer Ladies Social event of the semester.
Brightly lit and lively with chatter, the QLS happens about two or three times a semester as a space for queer women to gather.
LGBTQ Center Intern Willow Carter ’15 commented on the reasons behind holding these events.
“It’s awkward to meet people at the Mug or at a party. It’s a way for people to meet people with less pressure. It’s easy to hang back if you don’t want to get involved,” said Carter of the social gathering.
The Queer Ladies Socials are unstructured and conversation-based, according to Women’s Center intern and women’s studies major Erin Boss ’16.
Boss stated, “It’s drop in as you wish.”
Over the course of the night, a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen show up to the two-hour long event to chat, snack and hangout with one another.
“It’s not a party really. It’s a fun place to meet people,” described Boss.
These Queer Ladies Social events also aim to provide a space for female students who may be questioning or looking to explore their sexual orientations.
“We want it to be an inviting space, so that people who are still exploring their identities will feel comfortable. It’s a supportive space to find people who have already gone through the same process,” stated Carter.
According to Carter and Boss, some attendees of the Queer Ladies Social hope to find the occasional short-term romantic interes, while others seek out solidarity and friendship.
Boss said, “What I look for is friendship in a community of other women who like women, sometimes or all the time, or whatever. Other people could be looking for anything from friendship to maybe going on a casual date or a hook-up. Just depends.”
Carter agreed with Boss, adding that sometimes friendships do grow out of the interactions between these women.
“Definitely I’ve seen people who’ve met each other and continued to hang out at other parties outside of the social as well,” revealed Carter.
With its origins in secret queer women parties, the Queer Ladies Social has come a long way—so long, that almost no one, from the director to juniors and sophomores, remembers exactly how it originated. They do know, however, that over three years ago, the social sprung from students’ need for a space for queer women.
“There had been a feeling that the queer female community at Vassar was more underground,” said Carter, comparing the group to other LGBTQ groups. “In mixed queer spaces, men do tend to dominate conversations which can make them seem more prominent.”
“We’re just kind of hidden,” Boss added.
Director for the Campus Life LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center at Vassar College Judy Jarvis ’07 discussed the presence of men within the LGBTQ community, highlighting why a space for women is important.
She said, “Straight and gay men are very visible on this campus. They’re easy to find, and that’s great. The unintended consequence of the visibility of male-identified people is that there are not many opportunities for particularly queer-identified women to gather in large numbers and feel like they matter, that they are seen, and that they are heard.”
Boss explained that the disparity between the visibility of males and females within the LBGTQ movement is likely due to male privilege within society as a whole. She stated, “[Privilege] allows men to be more vocal and more present in spaces.
Boss further stated that she notices similar occurences within media. “The portrayal of queer women [on television] is largely for male consumption. Lesbians, bisexual women, pansexual women, are really sexualized for male pleasure, or they’re not there at all,”
She added that events like Queer Ladies Socials should not be seen as a the only solution in terms of providing the necessary spaces for marginalized groups at Vassar.
“A lot of groups are marginalized within the LGBTQ movement, particularly gender-nonconforming groups, so genderqueer individuals and trans* individuals, as well as people of color and those with disabilities.”
Boss cited an event held this previous semester called “Color Me Queer,” a brunch intended for queer students and faculty of color, as an example of the types of spaces from which the campus could benefit.
Jarvis and the LGBTQ Center interns encourage students to adovcate for specific LGBTQ spaces which they feel are currently lacking on campus.
Carter concluded, “We do our best to meet the needs of the community, but we’re always open to feedback.”