The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Day: September 28, 2016 (Page 2 of 2)

Tense Vagina: An actual diagnosis

The first minute of Sara Juli’s performance was silent. From the center of the small stage in Gannett Theater, she took a moment to look deep inside everyone’s eyes with a compassion that reminded one of a mother. This minute was the only silent one – the other 59 minutes of performance were filled with laughter, Disney songs, dildos vibrating and toys squeaking. What could better depict motherhood if not an intense mixture between compassion and tension in the everyday life?

Juli’s performance is thoughtfully crafted from beginning to end, starting with the title. As explained during the performance, a tense vagina is an actual medical condition in which the pelvic and vaginal muscles are in a constant state of tension, causing urinary incontinency. There are many moments in which Sara Juli explores the tense vagina as a medical, physical and individual condition, causing laughter from her mostly young audience.

But there are other moments in which the tense vagina dives deep into social and family relations – going far beyond a simple comic performance. On occasion, the laughter ceased shortly as the performer cried or agonized on the floor repeating words such as “hold me” several times. Repetition is central to comedy, but can be a source of cringing. Three times is the magic number for transforming the banal into the laughter. But more than three repetitions and it the atmosphere becomes tense. Words start to lose their meanings and toy sounds may become irritating. When the cringing and tension reached the apex, Juli moved the scene away from crisis to Pilates exercises. “Hold me” became the “hold” of a pelvic strengthening exercise – the tension in the audience burst into enjoyment. The tension in the title is much beyond a physical condition: the actual diagnosis involves some extra social symptoms of motherhood.

Juli’s performance is loaded with a refined analysis of motherhood in our society. Firstly, motherhood exposes mothers’ private worlds to the public. All of a sudden, you have a large belly that everyone wants to touch, and you also start to gain weight, etc. Anthropologists theorize that what makes spaces such as hospitals, for example, so uncomfortable is that there is no sense of privacy in those spaces. Your clothes are replaced and doctors will see and manipulate your bodily fluids – which we don’t usually talk about under normal circumstances. Juli is able to make fun of the taboos of motherhood specifically because they are taboos! An open discussion about breastfeeding, vaginas, dildos, pelvic muscles, lust and masturbation is a recipe for tension (and uncontrollable laughter) in this performance.

It should come as no surprise that Juli double majored in Dance and Anthropology at Skidmore College. When asked about the influence of her Anthropology degree to the creation of her performance, she said it did not have a direct influence, but that she certainly carried anthropology knowledge because of her undergraduate years. Transforming something banal into something comic requires more than just dance and theater techniques. It requires a perception that our everyday life can look absurd, senseless, and comic if we are able to zoom in enough and distort it just a bit.

Two years led to this performance at Bates College, one of craft and one of other performances. Several other years can be accounted to those numbers if you include Juli’s experience as a mother – her two children were the ideal inspiration to create “Tense Vagina: An Actual Diagnosis.”

Similar to the beginning, the ending of the performance deserves special attention. After having given snacks and taken care of her audience, Sara Juli reenacts one of the first scenes of the performance – the beginning of her daily routine as a mother, talking to her children (the audience) about how awesome today will be. The loop reminds us that all the cringing and taboos are part of daily life, not something exceptional or out of the norm.

“Tense Vagina: An Actual Diagnosis” is thought provoking. Motherhood is physically, socially and psychologically complex. It is full of taboos and tension that dwell between the awkward and the comic – too many unspoken things that many women have to go through alone.

By the end of the performance, more than just an enlightened understanding of motherhood and a sense of relief remained in me; I felt a desperate need to talk to my own mother about urinary incontinence.


Shere Punjab: Sheer comfort

This past Saturday night, I searched the streets of Brunswick, ME high and low for a restaurant to satisfy my craving for Indian food. Suddenly, near the end of the street, was a warm haven: Shere Punjab.

As I entered the cozy single-room restaurant, I noticed how at ease all the diners were as they discussed their lives over food. Soon I would be one of them, and my grumbling stomach could not wait. My friend and I were immediately seated and served a thin chip-like bread with three sauces I could not recognize. We examined two of the sauces and found one to be somewhat spicy, and the other to taste kind of like Indian kimchee. We avoided the third sauce for reasons I do not know.

A waitress quickly served us water and another waiter took our order. “Naan?” he asked us quickly after we finished struggling over foreign words. Caught off-guard, I sputtered a “Yes, garlic please,” in response. The waiter disappeared to put our order in, and my friend and I sunk into our comfortable chairs and the warm room.

Thirsty from a day without a water bottle, our glasses were continuously refilled with water as we chatted and waited for our food to cook.

After about twenty minutes, our food appeared in all its delicious and spicy glory. I had ordered the ‘Mutter Paneer,’ unsure what exactly to expect of “our flavorful blend of homemade cottage cheese and peas, lightly seasoned with fresh herbs.” I already knew that paneer was a soft, cube-shaped cheese from my limited culinary adventures, but the mutter sauce was a complete mystery to me, aside from the inclusion of peas.

I scooped some rice from the shared rice bowl, and then added my mutter paneer on top. I braced myself, and took the first bite. HOT! I scalded my tongue on both the temperature and the spicy flavor. I had specified with the waiter that the mutter paneer should be a 4/10 on the Shere Punjab scale of spiciness, but it was still too hot for me. Upon my third bite, I could discern flavor clearer, and I noticed that the mutter sauce had garlic, tomato, coriander and green chili in addition to the peas. The paneer helped to even out the spicy flavor, since it is neutral in taste. Even so, I found myself devouring spoonfuls of rice in an attempt to absorb the chili spice.

My friend’s chicken tikka masala was nothing new to me; chicken tikka masala seems like the go-to dish anyone who is new to Indian cuisine orders, so I am very familiar with it. His was a 5/10 on the spicy scale, but it seemed less spicy than my own 4/10 mutter paneer. The tomato-y sauce went very well with rice, and my friend ended up pouring all the sauce from his dish over his pile of rice.

In addition to our entrees, we had deliciously savory garlic naan to help absorb spice and clear our palates. The naan’s doughiness helped me eat the majority of my spicy mutter paneer; without it, my tongue would have been numb from spice!

Satisfied with the large portions, my friend ate his entire dish. I was too full to finish mine, so I guiltily asked for a to-go box. Our waitress brought one over swiftly, and added that their food kept very well.

On our way out, I took a glance around the restaurant and saw a home; Shere Punjab oozed a cozy, intimate vibe that gave diners the sense that this was their place and they could be comfortable as they are here.

Closing the door behind myself, I left the warm room and snapped back to cold reality; luckily I am already planning my next visit to that snug little Indian restaurant in Brunswick.


Marriage 101

In case readers have not been on the internet in the past week, or have been living under a rock– Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, ending a twelve year relationship and far too many uses of the gag-inducing name, “Brangelina.” If you are like me, this really has no effect on your life. However, the whole debacle has sparked interesting commentaries, one of which was published on The article, titled “What the Brangelina split tells us: A wife (even Mrs. Pitt) wants to be cherished,” is terribly sexist and belittles the autonomy, agency and desire of women to unthinkable levels.

The author, Gary Thomas, is the “Writer in Residence” at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. He has written several books and runs a blog with numerous posts including, “Sex Isn’t Optional,” which argues that it is sinful for wives to deny their husbands sex (unless they are pregnant or sick or something). Thomas’ article about the Pitt and Jolie divorce has a similar tone of misogyny. There is nothing particularly horrible about what he is saying: it is true that any person wants to be loved and valued by their partner, but the way he delivers this message is problematic.

Thomas writes, “If reports about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are to be believed, a relationship that began with adultery ended with adultery, proving one timeless truth: It doesn’t matter how beautiful, rich or famous the couple is. A wife still wants to be cherished by her husband.” I find this statement incredibly patronizing. Instead of speaking in generalities about all genders, Thomas speaks for women only. It would have been easy to say, ‘It doesn’t matter how famous the couple is, every person wants to be loved by their partner.’ Thomas might retort that he is speaking for women, because he is talking about Jolie specifically, but the article goes on to discuss (heterosexual) marriages in general so this paternal platitude seems highly unnecessary.

Thomas goes on further to say, “But we can choose to cherish our wives. We can learn to hold them not only as special, but as unique, the sole object of our romantic affections. For many women, that’s enough. And for many women, if that is lacking, nothing else will make up for it.” I assume the “we” in this excerpt means that Thomas is writing for an audience of heterosexual men and Thomas is telling them that the only thing women need to stay happy in a marriage is to be “cherished.” The message of this section of this article, and the whole article in general, is that women are needy, emotional creatures who cannot function if their husband is not putting them on a pedestal. Thomas cites a story from “The Song of Songs,” in which a woman is not traditionally beautiful, but her husband loves only her and his affection validates her existence even though she “might not appear so marvelous to other men.” This story might sound sweet if you are five and being bottle fed damsel-in-distress fairytales, but I am tired of the narrative of a man’s love being the key to a woman’s happiness. In another article, Thomas writes, “[W]ives, you will never truly understand your husband until you understand that his sexual temptations and struggles are fundamentally different than yours. They just are. While this should not lead you to excuse or accept your husband’s sin, I hope it will help you understand him and pray for him[…]” Thomas’ entire oeuvre reeks of this fantasy– one in which women are docile creatures, dependent on and incapable of understanding men. We could speculate about the deep-rooted psychology of men believing they have the unique power to placate their wives simply with affection, but there is a broader point to be made: women do not need men to speak for them.


No Batesie Left Behind

Anyone who has wandered the maze hallways of the cozy Harward center on Wood street can recognize the gentle hum of voices and sound of aggressive typing occupying the building. Colorful photographs of smiling past and present Bates students engaging in the wider Lewiston community don the hallways.

The Harward center serves as a physical manifestation of Bates’ commitment to the Lewiston community; the old white building on Wood street serves as concrete evidence of the outstanding history of community engagement at this institution, and offers students and faculty alike golden tickets into the plethora of opportunity in the wider Lewiston community. The Harward center is a hallmark of the academic program at Bates, with close to half of all students taking a community-engaged learning course each year and many students undertaking community-engaged research projects and theses.

In our interview, Darby Ray, Director of the Harward center, smiles as she describes the growth of community engagement in recent years. “Students are becoming increasingly involved with the Harward center,” Darby relays as she cites the growth of the community-liaison program as the most recent example. This program, intended to engage students of all kinds in the Lewiston community, first piloted last year, has had great success. Essentially the community-liaison program works to ensure that every sports team, club, and organization on campus has a community-liaison whose responsibility is to get its members involved. Not only do these programs work as excellent team and club bonding, but also work to strengthen ties between the Bates and Lewiston community. This fall break, the soccer and field hockey teams plan on organizing clinics for Lewiston Middle School students. Every Monday night, the men and women golf teams bring local youth from Auburn mini-golfing and out for ice cream. Additionally, something that has helped ensure that every Bates students has a point of entry into the Lewiston community is the Junior Advisor community-engagement requirement, verifying that first-years be exposed to the community during their first few months on campus.

Darby was also excited to share of the Harward Center’s current participation in a National Research project exploring whether civic engagement experience is correlated with student well-being – the hypothesis being, of course, that there is a positive relationship between the two. A couple hundred Bates students took a survey in the beginning of this semester and will take another survey at the end of the year.

Lastly, Darby and I talked about the role of the Harward center in the coming election, a topic unavoidable in a building whose mission is to literally help Bates students develop the intellectual, ethical, and personal skills needed for lifelong civic responsibility and purposeful work. Darby and others at the Harward center are particularly concerned about student attitude in this election: “I am working hard to encourage students not to be silenced by apathy, anger or disgust in this election and to get out there and vote,” Darby explains. She maintains, “in the coming weeks we will be setting up tables in commons where students can easily register to vote and I encourage everyone to pick up non-partisan voter guides and other materials that help educate what state’s students should vote in.” Darby also shared with me troubling demographic statistics of Bates students from the 2012 election. Only 42% of Bates students, overall, voted. 70% of students were registered. This average, which is regrettably less than half of the student body, is below national average for college and universities. As Darby accurately declares: “this is an appalling figure for a school whose mission and outlook is grounded in human action.” Our mission statement literally has the words “informed civic action” in its nexus. Let us, as Bates students, please do better this year. Look out for tabling in commons where you can engage in our democratic society that only works when everyone votes.

Interested in becoming more involved in the Lewiston community?

Did you miss the activities fair?

Do YOU want to be the community-liason for your club?

Email Darby at or swing by the Wood Street location yourself and enjoy a selection of delicious tea and meet kind, engaging and passionate people.


Women’s Soccer draws, loses in NESCAC doubleheader

Featuring some of the finest academic institutions and best talent in the country, the NESCAC is never an easy conference to play in. Just ask the Bates women’s soccer team, who competed in two tough matches against formidable NESCAC foes this past weekend.

On a crisp Maine Saturday afternoon, Bates competed against the Wesleyan Cardinals, who made the roughly five hour trip up to Lewiston.

In the first few minutes of the game, Wesleyan unleashed a barrage of shots at Bates goalie Sara Mccarthy ’18. McCarthy stood tough, showcasing her unparalleled vision and anticipation. However, at the 12 minute mark, Nicole Brodkowitz of Wesleyan ripped a penalty shot to give her team a one goal advantage. Giving away a goal on a penalty was an onerous way to start the game.

The Bobcats were able to match Wesleyan’s seven total shots on goal for the rest of the half. However, in a sport like soccer, all that matters is getting the ball into the net, which the Bobcats were unable to do in the first half.

After an early second half goal from Wesleyan’s Olivia Gorman, Bates found themselves down 2-0. These are the times when the true character of a team is shown.

The Bobcats continued to control the ball in Wesleyan territory, but were unable to translate possession into a goal. However, with seven minutes to play, Olivia Amdur ‘19 smashed a shot into the top right corner off an assist from Hannah Behringer ‘18. Then just a minute later Ainsley Jamieson ‘17 converted a goal off a free kick.

“I’m proud of the resilience and fight that our team showed,” Head Coach Kelsy Ross said in an email.

“To come back after being down two goals is not easy to do.”

Per NESCAC rules, the teams played two overtime periods, but the match ended in a 2-2 tie.

The Bobcats had little time to recover from this grueling match as defending national champion and number one ranked Williams made their way to Russell Street Field on Sunday.

The sun shined bright on another picture perfect fall day. Unfortunately, this was the only thing that was shining for the Bobcats, as Williams showed why they are considered the best team in the conference.

The Ephs started out the game’s scoring with a goal from Allison Lu in the 33rd minute and would not look back from there.

The team’s aggressive attack continued for the rest of the match, as they outshot Bates 12-2 in the second half. McCarthy’s stellar goalkeeping continued to help the Bobcats stay in the game, but Bates could not generate the offense necessary to compete with Williams.

With an overall record of 2-5-1, the Bobcats are now desperate to get back on track next week. But things will not get any easier with their NESCAC schedule: the team will travel to Trinity and Amherst next weekend.

Hannah Graves '17 wins the ball John Neufeld/THE BATES STUDENT

Struggling to find your purpose?

Over the past three years, the Purposeful Work Initiative, comprised of various departments, offices, and faculty across campus, has grown to include many facets that aim to engage students in conducting purpose-driven work in nearly every aspect of on-campus life. While the initiative works to engage students in purposeful work in and out of the classroom on campus, it also aims to provide students with knowledge of what purposeful work means to them, which they can apply to potential post-graduate endeavors.

This year’s campaign of the Purposeful Work Initiative offers students with many opportunities to seek out purposeful work on campus, as more programs within the initiative are being offered this year. These programs, which afford students the opportunity to conduct purposeful work in nearly every aspect of on campus life include: How to Adult seminars and workshops, the Purposeful Work Infusion Project, the Purposeful Work Internship Program, Practitioner-Taught Courses, Purposeful Work Unplugged, and the Student Employment Development and Reflection Program.

While each of these programs operate under different pretenses, the goals of each program are in line with the Purposeful Work Initiative’s overall mission to “help students find meaning, launch careers, and maximize their time at Bates and beyond”, according to the PWI website.

In doing this, students are able to gain insight into their values and strengths as individuals while also realizing “the world’s needs and how they fit into those needs, and how to construct a compelling narrative about their past experiences and future goals”.

The Purposeful Work Infusion Project operates in the same vein, with many Bates students opting to take courses that require students to look at ways in which their course topics may pertain to completing purposeful work outside of the classroom. In these courses, professors in various departments work with PWI faculty to finds ways to infuse ideas of purposeful work into academic topics.

“PW Infusion courses help students understand how their coursework relates to career outcomes, meaning and purpose through activities and assignments that take place in class and as homework. Over 28% of faculty have opted to teach a Purposeful Work Infusion Course, and over 1500 students have taken at least one Purposeful Work Infusion Course since the Project’s inception in Winter 2014”, according to Christina Patrick, Associate Director of Purposeful Work Internship Program.

Also a staple in the Purposeful Work initiative, Practitioner-Taught Courses offer an opportunity for students to learn about topics or subjects not offered by the various academic departments on campus. The individuals teaching these practitioner courses are experts in their field, and many are Bates alumni, who have made careers in industries such as urban planning and music production and have a vested interest in applying their career knowledge to help current Bates students who may have similar professional interests.

Co-produced by the Residential Life office and PWI, How to Adult workshops allow current students at Bates to learn information regarding post-graduate life, such as lessons on insurance, salary negotiations, and renting apartments. The intention of the How to Adult workshops is to provide students, most notably upperclassmen, with information on how to operate in the daunting “adult” world.

In addition, the Purposeful Work Initiative aims to engage students in purposeful-driven work outside of the classroom as well. The newly introduced Student Employment and Reflection Program is an opportunity for students to hold on-campus employment positions that foster goal-setting conversations, in which students can think about how their gained knowledge can result in conducting purposeful work in other aspects of their life.

Lastly, the Purposeful Work Initiative conducts a program known as Purposeful Work Unplugged, which provides students a chance to hold Q&A sessions with Bates alumni, faculty, and staff. These Q&A sessions are meant engage students with individuals who have been successful in their careers and, in turn, may provide students with valuable insight into finding purpose in the own potential careers.

It is important to note that while the Purposeful Work Initiative strives to engage students in conversations on how to conduct purpose-driven work, it does not explicitly define what sort of work is “purposeful”. The various programs within PWI ultimately want students to define their own sense of what purpose-driven work means to the individual, which will hopefully lead to students becoming more engaged about what kind of academic, professional, and personal decisions they make. For more information about the Purposeful Work Program, please refer to their website at


Green Dot making an impact on campus

On September 18th and along with around 40 to 50 other schools in the United States, Bates hosted a 5-hour Green Dot training session. The goal of the training session was to train in bystander intervention and violence prevention, where Sirajah Raheem, a national trainer sent by Green Dot, helped train 26 Bates students represented at the event.

As James MacDonald stated, the training “covered a few different situations, such as domestic abuse/abusive relationships, stalking, and sexual assault. In groups we brainstormed what different actions/reactions of the people involved might be for the before, during, and after stages of these situations.”

Blake Reilly, the Assistant Director of Residential Life, stated, “since last year, we have made a lot changes…we have six additional certified trainers.” According to Reilly, the new team of trainers is rather diverse because “a lot of departments on campus are represented.”

Given the importance of having the Green Dot program on campus, last year Heidi Taylor’s Social Research Methods Class analyzed the program and reported the results, which came from 330 students, according to Blake Reilly. The demographics of who went through Green Dot training show that “it was generally represented of our student body…because we want to make sure that we are touching all aspects of campus, because there is no point in just one section of the campus knowing how to intervene and no one else knowing.”

However, the biggest criticism arose from the fact that “the training did not feel as inclusive…we have three videos in training, which are different situations and you pick out the red dots. All of those videos were hetero-normative and very white and that was basically the only visual representation you had. Everything else, you thought about, so that was hard and we knew it was there, but there was nothing we could do at the time because we can’t materialize videos,” Reilly said. Since then, Green Dot has made more diverse videos for training use.

“We say to focus a lot on the behaviors that are happening and not on the people doing that because that helps us break from the expected perspective we often see…[Basically] we revamped training and tried to make it more inclusive than it was before,” Reilly explained. Even though, this is merely the second year of Green Dot at Bates, a lot of changes are being made to improve the program and attract more people to be Green Dot certified.

Students who participated in the Green Dot training felt it was very valuable and helpful. Karly Oettgen, a sophomore, “decided to get trained because [she is] a JA as well as a new member of Bates EMS, [and] thinks that it’s super important to have a consciousness of the sorts of things that are happening on our campus and in our smaller communities within Bates.”

There seemed to be no complains about the training day, except that MacDonald would have “wish[ed] that they had suggested to bring a notebook or write down some notes (rather than reflections, which are good in their own regard) in the booklet [they] were given…But other than that minor adjustment, I wouldn’t really change much.”

The training day seemed to have made an impact on 26 individuals, which in turn will make an impact on us. Reilly said “we are talking about a community change and a cultural shift and to do that we need everyone.”


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