Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ah yes, the all-womens' college as a nurturing haven from the sexism of the outside world...

except when the venal, dumbass administration decides that using the campus to shoot a fratboyxploitation movie (while classes are in session) is a fine idea.

From The Bilerico Report (via Bitch Magazine and Uncensored Feminista):

Agnes Scott College, the supposed World for Women, has become the cesspool for Hollywood's C-list sequels. In my four years here, I've had the pleasure of experiencing the filming of such quality movies as a remake of "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Van Wilder III" Our most recent cinematographic credit is "Road Trip II: Beer Pong."

...Although Agnes Scott was tied for Georgia's most LBGTQ-friendly campus by Atlanta newspaper, Southern Voice, students eating dinner were recruited in the cafeteria to be extras in the film's derisive "Lesbians until Graduation" scene. The recruiter assured us that the only requirement was "acting like lesbians." But in case we were interested, they welcomed same-sex "background kissers."

Apparently the main premise of the scene involved the male protagonists stumbling upon the room full of these "making-out lesbians" (to presumably "convert" them?). When we expressed offense, the recruiter said she was warned about encountering uncooperative students who were "really into being women" (versus into being objects?).

This recruitment was foreshadowed by a fake bulletin board as part of the movie's properties advertising the "exploratory meeting" for their fake college's "Lesbians Until Graduation" club, qualified by statements like "Miss your boyfriend from high school?" which is apparently the only acceptable "excuse" for being a lesbian.

To understand the mindset behind these actions, let's examine how the filmmakers put up signs that said that if we entered certain areas on our campus (including our main quad with our library and humanities building), we were granting the production crew permission to reproduce our images "throughout the universe for all of eternity." This same utter entitlement to our bodies was reproduced in the way that the production team assumed that just because we were on (our own) campus and that we were women, they could recruit us for this degrading "Lesbians until Graduation" scene.

...During the filming, we experienced other forms of dehumanization through harassment from the film's production team. One student, when walking by the set with a paper cup of coffee, was accosted by an extra, who asked the student to get him one. Another student was told, in the vein of a pick-up line, that she was so attractive, she should watch out for being raped...

Klassy, eh? What a great recruitment tool for new students, not to mention morale-boosting. Oh, apparently the school picks up 30K for letting the yobs run around campus and film their students, about the cost of one student's yearly tuition.

But, yes, the admin still thinks it's best for the bottom line, as noted in this comment at Bitch:

I am a student at Agnes Scott, and we did bring our concerns to the administration. After sending in individual letters to the deans, they were collected and apparently discussed. Our new president (founding director of Duke University's Kenan Institute for Ethics, no less) addressed the issues we raised by sending an e-mail out to the campus community. It was generally received to be vague with the clear intention of attempting to save face, very unreflective of the president the students had quickly come to know, love, and trust.

Some of the more direct and juicier bits of the email were as follows:

"In some cases, films have also helped to raise Agnes Scott’s profile and, in fact, have attracted students to apply and enroll. We make a decision on a case-by-case basis about whether to include, in the film contract, that Agnes Scott be listed as a location in the credits. In this instance this was not included in the contract."

Yes. We're not going to put our name on the credits. That'll keep our secret safe that we accept money from people who degrade women...

..." But I also need to acknowledge that if we restricted ourselves to films that fully reflect Agnes Scott’s culture and promote our mission, we would drastically reduce film-shoot revenues. I am hopeful that as more women – including Agnes Scott alumnae – enter positions of leadership within the film industry, they will work to change and improve it!"

Yes. Drastically reduce those $30,000 a pop revenues that happen a couple of times a year. This revenue is less than the cost of tuition for one student. Do the math. Also, of course, we should build up the female objectification that has gone rampant in the entertainment industry so we will have a bigger challenge to try to change it. Because, who doesn't love a challenge?

and another:

We protested to the best of our abilities. Several of us made signs, infiltrated the shooting of the "LUG Club" scene, and got the attention of the filmmakers. My sign said "I am not a stereotype." As a result of our silent protest (we stood behind the cameras quietly hold our signs), several crew members thanked us for sharing our opinion and the screenwriter took his photo with us. He thanked us for our interest and stated that he didn't really like these films, but they made money. Not a great excuse, but acknowledging that something wasn't right was a start. Many of us wrote letters to our administration outlining our concerns and were met with nothing short of a brush off from our president. Basically, it was explained to us that it came down to a matter of money (a mere 30K--not enough for one student's full-year tuition and definitely not enough to create a significant overall tuition increase)...Thank goodness I go to a school that will easily abandon its values for a quick dollar and then give me a response that is sanitized for my convenience when I ask why.

Oh, and they fired the harassing extras, so THAT'S all right, then.

So, in a nutshell, no, the students don't seem to get a say in this.

Still another letter:

This was right in the middle of midterms. A lot of students were frustrated that the administration would do this to us, especially at such a stressful time, but many were just too exhausted from academic work to do much more than a small protest. Doesn't excuse it, though.

In the future, I hope that WAVE, the campus feminist organization at ASC, or the LBTQIA Collective will provide more leadership in opposing this bullshit. Every protest that I know of was organized by students acting independently, and they just didn't have the resources to get the word out like those groups would.

Still yet another:

It seems to me we should have seen this coming after what our administration has allowed to take place on our campus over recent years.

Our campus was used for an American Eagle photoshoot, as well as a filming location for the failed Revenge of the Nerds remake. I felt insulted having to take detours to go from building to building so as not to get in the way of various shoots. Imagine, if you will, the a young woman lugging her physics books past a group of preening models lounging in the middle of one of our walkways and overhearing "Like, OMG, there are really no guys here? Why even go to college?" I kid you not. Or how about having to sit an exam while on the quad just outside, take after take of the Large-Crowd-Cheering scene goes on. Try studying or getting some much needed sleep while set up crews make all kinds of racket at 3 am. Yeah, I'm sure that had no detrimental effect on our scholarly pursuits...Need I also remind my fellow Scotties that our students were approached by Revenge of the Nerds crew to be extras as well, supposedly to play the part of average college students in the background of various shots, yet surprise, surprise, only the "hot" girls were actually given the parts, because we all know that only hot-chicks go to college, right?

Can I just say: 30K may be insulting chump change when it comes to how many pieces o'silver your alma mater is getting for all that disruption and disrespect; but it'd probably buy an exasperated student a fine education somewhere that's else. Hey, at least one former student agrees:

As an alumnae, I cannot express my disappointment enough in Agnes Scott. My time at ASC shaped me to become the woman leader that I have become and I am deeply saddened that the administration has actively participated in undermining the values that were instilled in me: think deeply, live honorably and engage the social and intellectual challenges of our time.

So, with a heavy heart but strong passion, I call on all you who are as outraged as I am to boycott Agnes Scott College. Don't apply, don't visit, don't volunteer, don't donate. I am saddened to see that ASC so cheaply sold its values but since that is their priority, a mass movement that impacts them financially may be the only way to get a message across.

So, join our Facebook group: Road Trip II: The Boycott of the Alums (Alums only) or our Facebook event: Road Tripp II: Boycott!

Make your outrage into action!

As for the alum who disagrees with the idea and thinks they should "donate like crazy" while insisting the money go to the places they want it to go (so that the school isn't -forced- to resort to renting the campus to Alan Smithee), ummm...I guess it's none of my business, never having been to Agnes Scott; but in my own experience of expensive private colleges that constantly solicit funds...generally, a) you might want to get into the financial office and take a look at the -actual- numbers; they could well be healthier than they let on b) earmarking your donations, especially if it's an administration that's been cheerfully impervious to -basic- requests like "please get these sexist fuckheads and disruptive camera crews out of our space and especially during fercrissakes MIDTERMS kthxbai," maaayyyyyyy not work. Maybe. Just saying.

Anyway. Ick.


GallingGalla said...

That school's administration is so fucked up. A women's college
allowing students to be objectified like that, and actually
sanctioning disrupting student's academic work with a choice of "be
pornified [sorry to use a twistyism, but it fits] or forget using the

I hope the students stage a sit-in and a takeover of the admin
offices. This is fucking vile.

BTW, I worked at a women's college in PA that also allowed the campus to be used for filming a movie. Fortunately, the movie wasn't a fucked up fratboy exploit like this, but still it was annoying as all hell, and students were awakened in the dorms by setup crews at, yup, 3AM.

belledame222 said...

It's so stupid. At minimum, use it during the breaks and let them hire their own damn extras. Naive me, I always assumed that that's how it always worked when real life campuses were used in movies. maybe it is on the BETTER campuses...

belledame222 said...

and, seriously, 30K? that's it? -really-? It'd be one thing if it was some tiny struggling campus that didn't have any money coming in via tuition or donations or grants or whatnot, but it's one year of one student's tuition. seriously, just sell out to Coca-Cola and other corporations to sell their crap in student centers like everybody else! (yeah, they probably do anyway)

Katie said...

I think that Wikipedia article you linked could use a sub-section titled, "Controversy" with external footnotes linking to the Bitch article and perhaps the other two blog posts you wrote!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Gadzooks! That is simply unbelievable! You'd think that even if they don't actually give a fuck about the welfare of their own students, the dumbfuck administrators would have realized that the clusterfuck of disapproving attention this would receive far outweighs the piddly tens-of-thousands they earn.

belledame222 said...

Katie: I don't edit Wikipedia, but actually not a terrible idea for someone to at least bring it up in their backchannel/process, perhaps...

Tom said...

This is some damn bullshit. I'd imagine that alumni donations add up to significantly more than lost "film revenue" (btw, how many colleges are seriouly relying on "film revenue"?!). Seems an alumni boycott would be a good place to start.

belledame222 said...

You would think...maybe they will, some of them seemed up for it, at least from the letters.

welcome, btw.

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