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Sexism Wins Another Battle

GUEST COMMENTARY

By Megan E. Colligan, Rebecca Ewing, and Sarah E. Winters

The Fly Club's recent decision to deny membership to women has proven a disappointing setback for the Harvard Radcliffe community. As co-chairs and founders of Women Appealing for Change, we had hoped for a different, more positive outcome.

The bold steps taken last fall by Fly Club President Scott Logan and other members of the Fly class of 1994 have been negated by the club's recent choice, make no mistake about it. Some, however, have claimed that this decision is simply a deferment of co-ed membership.

This is an out and out fallacy. It is clear that for the Fly and the other eight final clubs on campus, progress has come to a full stop. Once again, we are confronted with the reality that the tradition of sexism is a formidable opponent.

The implication that the Fly's decision was made with the best interests of women at heart is as offensive as it is preposterous. And the claim that women will be spared the embarrassment and discomfort that they would be sure to feel as new club members is nothing short of condescension.

Such a statement, after all, does nothing more than deny women the ability to make decisions for themselves. Seen in this context, the presurnptuousness of Fly members in making this choice for their classmates and peers is astounding.

Likewise, the club's claim that refusing to accept women as members is essential to maintaining club unity is weak justification for its actions. There are a number of Fly members who are strongly in favor of a co-ed punch policy. How, then, did this decision inspire unity in the club?

The Fly members who stood up for their belief that a co-ed policy is the only right course to follow deserve to be commended. It is unfortunate that their efforts were overshadowed by those less willing to risk progress.

Women Appealing for Change was founded last fall specifically to spur debate and raise awareness about the sexist nature of the clubs. It is our hope to affect not only the men in the clubs but also the men and women who frequently attend them as their guests.

Sexism in the clubs extends well beyond their all-male membership policy. The exploitation and negative treatment of women who visit the clubs is also of major concern. The presence of women at punch events, planned social functions, and casual gatherings directly refutes club members' assertion that the clubs are purely single-sex.

Much of the allure of final clubs depends on the presence of women on many occasions. Yet while using women for entertainment, the clubs retain an enormous measure of control over the social lives of these women. Women are told when they can and cannot attend, where they may enter, and in what rooms they are allowed to go. This imbalance of power fosters an attitude of dominance and superiority on the part of club of members, an attitude which is ultimately destructive not only for the women who attend but also for the Harvard-Radcliffe community in general.

Final clubs are perpetuating a sexist society, and refusing women the opportunity to participate fully in a significant part of Harvard's social life.

Despite the recent Fly Club decision, there is still hope that all members of the Harvard-Radcliffe community will recognize the seriousness of this issue. Undergraduates need to take responsibility for themselves and understand the implications of their presence at these clubs.

Final club attitudes are fostered as direct results of the behavior of all involved with the clubs, members and guest alike. To visit a final club is to condone sexism. Please think before you attend a final club.

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