What’s Up at Bryn Mawr?

 

http://theothermccain.com/2014/10/08/whats-up-at-bryn-mawr/

 

Brenna Levitin (@brennalevitin) is a junior at Bryn Mawr College (annual tuition $45,540), an elite women’s college in Philadelphia with an undergraduate enrollment of fewer than 1,500 students. Ms. Levitin describes herself as a “radical feminist” and has been working on a very special project at Bryn Mawr:

Since May, Brenna Levitin, the Greenfield Digital Center’s TriCo DH summer intern, has been hard at work tracking down the histories of LGBT individuals and communities at Bryn Mawr between 1970-2000. . . .
Although much of the past four months has been spent sighing over a lack of LGBT archival material, I recently had a great realization which partially solved the mystery of the disappearance of Bryn Mawr’s BGALA Center Library. I first heard about this mystery from Robin Bernstein, Class of 1991, the creator of the library and its first keeper. She told me about how she painstakingly shaped it over three years, only to have it disappear a few years after she graduated. She mourned the multi-hundred-volume library for years, until, to our excitement, I physically ran into the collection in Canaday Library a few weeks ago! . . .
In her sophomore year, Robin Bernstein asked the Bryn Mawr Women’s Center to use their empty back room as a physical space for BGALA (The Bryn Mawr-Haverford Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance). After the students in charge agreed, Bernstein began to create a physical space for the club within the Women’s Center, located on the upper floor of the Campus Center. . . .
Bernstein lovingly curated the library for the next three years, watching as it grew with each year’s funds. By the end of her senior year, the library contained over 1,000 books, audiotapes, and magazines. The summer after Bernstein’s graduation in 1991, the books were removed from the BGALA Center and relocated to a room in the Denbigh dormitory. . . .
After approximately 1993, institutional memory fails to recall where the books lived. In fact, Bernstein and I believed the books to still be missing when I found them, by chance, living in Canaday Library as an official collection. . . .
The next time that anyone saw the BGALA books was in 2003, when members of the Rainbow Alliance came to then-Coordinator for Information Acquisition and Delivery, Berry Chamness, in Canaday to ask for help. The Rainbow Alliance (the new name for BGALA) was losing the space where they stored the library, and wondered what to do to save the books and keep them accessible. Since Fall 2004, what is now known as the Rainbow Alliance/Women’s Center Collection has lived as a discreet collection in Canaday Library . . .

You can read the whole thing. This story came to my attention as part of my research into radical feminism for the “Sex Trouble” series, when I decided to do a search on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/rsmccain/status/519854805767184385

 

Which led me to Bryn Mawr alumna Monica Mercado:

https://twitter.com/monicalmercado/status/519566489041383425

 

It turns out that Ms. Mercado, having completed her Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago (dissertation, “Women and the Word: Gender, Print, and Catholic Identity in Nineteenth-Century America”), has obtained a postdoctoral fellowship and become Director of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education at Bryn Mawr. Ms. Mercado’s blogging at their “Educating Women” site in turn led me to the radical feminist student Brenna Levitin, who is researching the archives for “histories of LGBT individuals and communities at Bryn Mawr.”

Among these “individuals” is the alumna Robin Bernstein, who created the gay club’s library collection at Bryn Mawr. She’s now DoctorBernstein, having gotten her Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University in 2004, and hired on at Harvard:

Assistant Director of Studies/Lecturer, Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University, September 2004-June 2006
Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and of History and Literature, Harvard University, July 2006-December 2010
Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University, January 2011-June 2013
Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University, July 2013-present

Of course, this began because I was curious to see how Twitter reflected the influence of Adrienne Rich, whose landmark 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” fostered the now-commonplace feminist theory that heterosexuality, far from being women’s naturalattraction to men, is actually a form of oppression imposed on women by the patriarchy.

“If you consider sexual desire and romantic love between men and women to be natural and healthy, you are not a feminist. . . . There is nothing natural about sex, according to feminist ideology, no biological urge that causes women to be attracted to men.”
— Robert Stacy McCain, April 10

The male-supremacist oppression of “compulsory heterosexuality” evidently has no effect at elite schools like Bryn Mawr, where lesbianism is certainly en vogue if not yet de rigueur.

The college was founded by a Quaker physician, Dr. Joseph Taylor, who in 1879 spent more than $50,000 of his own money (a huge sum at the time) to purchase the land that became Bryn Mawr’s campus. The first president of Bryn Mawr college was also male, James Rhodes. Whatever debt Bryn Mawr owes to the patriarchy is apparently forgotten in the school’s current radical feminist incarnation. However, it seems, some students are staging a rebellion:

Concerns about tolerance, diversity and respect for differing viewpoints led an angry mob of students at Bryn Mawr College to protest the display of a Confederate flag and demand that the students who displayed it be forcibly evicted from their dorm room. . . .
It started in early September when two seniors hung a Confederate flag in their residence hall — apparently in a common area. They also bound some tape to the floor and labeled the tape a “Mason-Dixon line.”
The students, roommates Rachel Hager from Bellaire, Texas and Vanessa Felso from Alpharetta, Ga., said they chose the imagery to express their Southern pride.

Uh-oh. Who knows where this could lead? Of course, as every feminist knows, heteronormative patriarchy is the ultimate slavery, which means that 97% of women are its helpless victims.