More than 50 students and several tutors met Saturday afternoon in the Agassiz Ballroom to discuss their reactions to The Rag, a radical feminist student magazine that was distributed throughout the campus last week.
Anger, relief, confusion and frustration were only a few of the wide range of emotions participants expressed in response to the new journal, in which campus women described personal experiences of rape, sexual harassment and power struggles in their relationships with both men and women.
"The Rag really dropped an atomic bomb of self-expression on the Harvard community," said Shana Alexander '92, one of the discussion participants.
The discussion, which lasted for about two hours, touched on many highly sensitive subjects, from rape and anorexia, to anger and guilt in relationships.
"It's such a relief to have it out," said Annabelle Lever, a tutor in the Social Studies department who was at the meeting. "Why is it so hard to talk about these things? After all, they aren't new issues," she said.
Many brought up personal experiences of their own, and others described the reactions of their friends to the journal.
Rag contributor Rebecca F. Goldin '92 told people at the discussion that a male friend of hers said "he didn't know if he should be proud of these women for coming out, or thoroughly appalled that they would print their sex lives."
"It made me have a conversation with my roommate," said Jed D. Kolko '92. "[My roommate] was amazed by how many people he knew that wrote for The Rag. It really personalized [the issues] for him."
A main criticism of the magazine raised was that it did not present potential solutions to some of the problems it discussed, but many at the meeting were quick to point out that it is very difficult to find ways to respond to these issues.
"I think the only real way to make a change is for people to take responsibility, to say, 'how do I fit into rape culture?'" said Katherine I. Frucher '92-93, a moderator of the meeting and co-president of the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS). "It's not fair to ask The Rag for solutions."
The Rag staff decided several months ago to hold such a meeting in order to give people an opportunity to respond to articles that they anticipated would be controversial, staff members said.
"We thought about it way before," explained Rhoda Kanaaneh '92, a staff member and a contributor to The Rag. "We wanted to take responsibility for what we were saying," she said.
Rag contributors said they planned to continue to publish the magazine and to provide a public forum for presenting women's experiences.
"We haven't yet determined the time schedule or picked the topic for the next issue, but we have an ongoing commitment to [The Rag]," said Dulcy Anderson '92, a contributor to the magazine.