Last Thursday, the Hasty Pudding Theatricals announced that beginning with its 2019 production, the troupe would welcome women to audition for the first time in its nearly 200-year history. This change marks the culmination of advocacy for a more inclusive Pudding from both within and outside of the organization.
We acknowledge the positive influence of this decision for non-male students hoping to gain the connections, experience, and exposure that the Pudding grants its cast members. Far from upending the tradition of the Pudding’s drag shows, we believe that this decision will be beneficial for all involved. We do not feel that this shift will, as former Theatricals president Robert T. Fitzpatrick ’16 suggested in 2015, mandate any “structural changes” to the production, nor will it interfere with the Pudding’s traditions. Women are more than capable of performing comedy in drag—just look at the female cast members of Saturday Night Live.
However, while we celebrate the Pudding’s decision to open the cast of next year’s production to people of all genders, we remain skeptical of this decision’s ability to truly foster a more inclusive atmosphere within the Pudding. Moreover, we would be remiss to congratulate the Pudding without recognizing that this change is long past due.
The Pudding’s refusal to accept women into its cast is not the only feature of the organization that has caused controversy or that requires re-evaluation in order to promote values of inclusivity and acceptance. The fight for inclusivity in the Pudding did not end with Thursday's announcement, and we remain critical of the sexist practices and elitist composition of the organization.
Even though the development is a step in the direction of gender equality, it does not address the issues of race and class that continue to follow the Pudding. Founded in 1844, much of the Theatricals’ elitist image stems from its association with the Hasty Pudding Club, its social arm. While the comp process for the Theatricals is separate from the punch process for the HPC, the organizations remain linked.
Of the HPC's 2013 punches, 85% had attended private high schools, compared to 39% of the Class of 2017 as a whole. Similarly, 77% of punches came from schools in the Northeast, as compared to only 41% of the entire freshman class. Though these statistics refer to the social club rather than the Theatricals, they nonetheless reflect the makeup and culture of the organization with which Theatricals members closely associate. While the decision to end gender discrimination in casting will undoubtedly help some women access the many connections and resources that Pudding productions provide, this decision will not ameliorate a culture that favors affluent Americans from Northeast prep schools.
Further, issues of sexism in the Pudding extend beyond their casting policy alone. The Pudding’s portrayals of women often reflect demeaning, over-sexualized views of femininity. Far from using drag as a way to embrace freedom of self-expression, Pudding shows emphasize gender stereotypes, boasting characters with names such as “Donna My Knees” and “Sheila Rowsya.”
The Pudding’s new gender-inclusive policy thus stands at odds with its history of exclusivity on multiple fronts. We applaud the women who have auditioned for the Pudding in protest throughout the past three years, and we look forward to the positive influence that Thursday’s decision will have on the organization. But if the Pudding truly wishes to be inclusive, they must do more.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.