Health and Social Activism of Self-Identified Gay Men in Post-Socialist China

tiantianOn Thursday evening resident Bwogger Maddie Stearn attended a talk hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. She may have been there for a class, but she got a lot more out of the experience than a few extra credit points.

“Health and Social Activism of Self-Identified Gay Men in Post-Socialist China”

Don’t let the lengthy title scare you off. It’s actually a little surprising that the title wasn’t longer, considering that Tiantian Zheng has amassed such an incredible trove of knowledge from her fieldwork in China. Dr. Zheng, a professor of Anthropology at SUNY Cortland, visited the Weatherhead East Asian Institute to present her most recent work with an HIV/AIDS organization in Dalian, China. The talk was moderated by Dorothy Ko, a Professor of History at Barnard and affiliate of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department.

During her presentation, Dr. Zheng covered far more than health and social activism, weaving in discussions of police brutality, government intervention, and the complexities of identity. However, each topic is intricately entangled in the subtleties of the others, so her presentation never strayed from its original subject matter.

“When One Person Becomes Gay, the Whole Family Becomes Glorious.”

Dr. Zheng saw this quote on a poster during a gay rights march in Dalian. The quote is a parody of a government slogan that reads, “When One Person Becomes a Soldier, the Whole Family Becomes Glorious.” According to Dr. Zheng, not only is it not “glorious” when a family member comes out in China, but the family is usually shamed in the process. Dr. Zheng elaborated on this sense of shame, saying that a son’s primary duty is to have children, making it difficult for gay men to come out because they are effectively discontinuing the family line. Furthermore, the Chinese government essentially renders the gay community invisible, so the poster that Zheng saw was a way of reclaiming the gay identity by appropriating and disrupting government discourse.

Meanwhile, during that very same march the HIV/AIDS organization that Dr. Zheng was working with did not identify themselves as affiliated with the gay community. Prior to the march Dr. Zheng received warnings from friends, telling her it was unsafe to attend the event, as there was a high chance of violence. Dr. Zheng’s experience was quite the contrary, largely because so few organizations actually voiced their affiliations with the gay community. The intent of the march was to show solidarity with the global gay community, and some organizations even held up rainbow flags during the march (Dr. Zheng noted that rainbows are not related to gay rights in China), but the event was not really recognizable as a gay rights march and proceeded without much outside attention. Considering past issues with police in particular, it appears that such ambiguity is a survival technique.

“These people should be arrested and sent to jail.”

In response to police raids on gay hangouts, the leader of a gay rights organization released a surprising statement in which he condemned the victims of these raids. The leader was also a self-identified gay man, so his damning words seem counterproductive to say the least. During her presentation, Dr. Zheng read a portion of the press release from the organization:

Gay men visiting these types of places should be arrested. It is these gay men who have brought stigma to the gay community and created a bad image of the gay community. These people should be arrested and sent to jail. I need to speak the truth because I have been to these places and seen ugly scenes. I myself am a gay, but I know that as a gay we need to know decency.

This statement is even more astonishing considering the that police were known to use violence during their raids. The fact is, however, that this organization’s opinion was not even in the minority. Dr. Zheng spoke to the leader of the group she was working with, and he agreed with the other organization’s statement. These reactions, according to Dr. Zheng, speak to the Dalian moral order and self-censorship within the gay community.

“Mutual benefits and fragility”

Some of the tension between gay-rights organizations and the gay community can be attributed to the strenuous relationship that these same organizations have with local government. To begin with, these organizations’ affiliation with the gay community is hidden from the public sphere, as they are only allowed to exist in the name of AIDS prevention. Dr. Zheng also mentioned that only a handful of AIDS prevention organizations are able to legally register, and once they do they are prohibited from applying for global funding. The small number of registered organizations must then engage in a relationship with the local government characterized by “mutual benefits and fragility.” Local officials proceed to take credit for the successes of these grassroots AIDS prevention groups, while the groups in turn rely heavily on local officials to prevent the shut down of AIDS prevention operations.


Dr. Zheng’s work in Dalian is just the most recent of her fieldwork on the politics of sex and gender in post-socialist China. Her published works include Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Post-Socialist China, Sex-Trafficking, Human Rights, and Social Justice, and Tongzhi Living: Men Attracted to Men in Postsocialist China, among others.

Tiantian Zheng via SUNY Cortland

Challenge: Knobs And Handles

Take on the ultimate door knob and handle challenge. Test your knowledge of campus aesthetics! Impress your friends! Kill a minute!

Experiencing The Serpent At Minor Latham Playhouse
They're getting it on

It’s exactly what you think it is.

Thorny thespian Ross Chapman returns with another Barnard theatre review. Skewer him!

Today is the final day of the Barnard Senior Thesis Festival, where three seniors showed off their directing skills in three very different shows. I chose to see The Serpent, and another Bwogger should tell you about The Crazy Locomotive soon. The Serpent is certainly a showcase for a director, as it’s as subversive a play as you’ll see all year. Directed by Andrea Marquez, this show was more of an experience than a stage production. From the start, something was amiss. As people on stage where getting the set ready (the previous senior thesis play, Woyzeck, had ended ten minutes ago), the members of the cast were mingling with the audience in a noticeably uncomfortable way. They were talking to people who seemed to want privacy and stretching using the chairs of unsuspecting spectators.

Suddenly, drumming started from the stage, which whipped the face-painted actors into a frenzy. For most of the first scene, I had the suspicion that this play was an experiment in making the audience uncomfortable. If you want to see it tonight, you should make sure you’re not too jumpy. Most of the scenes are chronologically independent from each other, but the one structural touchstone is the Bible. The title denotes the serpent from the Garden of Eden, and the story continues (in some manner) from there until the story of Cain and Abel. Even these scenes, though, are hardly literal, and each biblical episode is broken up by other, often angsty scenes.

But what has happened to the theatre!?

Bwoglines: Addition Edition
Nothing so large!

Nothing so large!

Comcast + Time Warner = who cares? It isn’t happening. The $45 billion merger foundered in the face of harsh criticism from regulators and advocacy groups alike. Most arguments against the deal centered around the fact that, combined, the companies would control an outright majority of the broadband Internet market. (Christian Science Monitor)

Abercrombie & Fitch models + shirts = who cares? In an effort to refocus on its core products (i.e., not models’ chiseled abs), A&F will move towards selling clothes rather than attractive people. We’ll see. (Christian Science Monitor)

18 + 3 = Hawaii’s future smoking age. The state’s legislature passed the bill by a wide margin and it now goes to the state’s governor for final approval. If the bill is signed, Hawaii will become the first state to raise its smoking age to 21. (AP)

You + 10 grams of marijuana = a fine in Illinois. The state’s house passed a bill that would treat marijuana possession as a fineable misdemeanor rather than something warranting a court appearance. (Illinois State Journal-Register)

Dream child via Shutterstock

Wish Fulfillment
Pictured: experience soon to be recognized as partial fulfilment of  global core

Pictured: experience soon to be recognized as partial fulfillment of global core

This Friday evening, if you are looking for the latest scandal look elsewhere. Try most commented above. If you’re looking for compelling for campus thoughts on a complex issue, we recommend our article on food waste, from earlier today. If, however, you are a little bit tired and a little bit bored, and are browsing for a distraction, we offer you the following. Occasional studier and Bwog correspondent offers the following brief work of fiction.

Our people have not focused outwards in a long time, but, in telling our story, perhaps it is best to start there. Our eyes see only a haze of color, the meaning of which, its arrangement, its patterns, has long since been forgotten. At times considered beautiful, at times monstrous, now this sight is largely ignored.

We feel nothing. Change comes too slowly to notice.

The most interesting thing about the external, because it is its only discernible change, is the sound. A constant vibrating hum, it is at different points in our history, noticeably different, sometimes within the space of a single generation. It has been described, quite literally, as divine.

We were like you once, a part of the external world. Now we are removed from it, transcended, some have said.

Read on for a thrilling, Wednesday afternoon tale.

Columbia Announces 2015 Honorary Degree Winners
Andrea Elliott, this year's University Award Winner, also announced

Andrea Elliott, this year’s University Medal for Excellence Winner, also announced.

As of this afternoon, Columbia has announced this year’s list of honorary degree recipients, those individuals so distinguished in their fields that they are considered to have fulfilled the course work of a Columbia degree, or, it would seem, the wishes and dreams of those pursuing a Columbia degree.

Among this year’s honorees are the NIH director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an Oscar award winning film director, a professor and leading writer in the field of American social history in the 20th century, an activist closely tied to the history of modern South Africa, a researcher driving efforts to understand American income inequality, and our very own board of trustees chair emeritus, an apparently high flying corporate powerhouse. The full list provided to us is below, and well worth a read.

Welcome to our ranks, honorary degree recipients. We like to think it’s pretty excellent company to keep, and your company doesn’t seem so poor either.

At the same time Columbia also announced  the winner of the annual University Medal for Excellence, Andrea Elliott, alumna and Valedictorian of the Journalism school. Ms. Elliott has, in the course of her career writing for the New York Times, pursued topics including poverty and homelessness in America and living as a Muslim post 9/11, among others. Her work has been widely recognized, winning her Pulitzer Prize in 2007, as well as a number of other prizes and notices of professional recognition described below.

Jump to the full list, and their many, many more accomplishments.

What’s For Dinner: FLIP, Accessibility, And Leftovers
What's for dinner?

What’s for dinner?

Recent months have brought low-income students’ straits to the attention of the greater campus and administration. Bwog Editor in Chief Taylor Grasdalen reports on the issue of food accessibility and what Columbia University students are doing to fix it.

Two weeks ago, the Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) launched a campaign to promote their “Microfund,” intended to assist Columbia students with the costs of meeting relatively everyday needs. The “microgrants” indeed start small: a meal ($10), cold medicine ($15), and psychiatric care copay ($20); larger donations can afford students a week of groceries ($50), their cap and gown ($55), winter clothing ($100), or a visit to the emergency room ($250). As of today, $3,560 has been raised — surpassing the original $2,500 goal — and will begin to be granted on the basis of applications come fall 2015.

FLIP was founded only this past fall 2014, the product of many cross-University students’ shared concerns about the status and understanding — or lack thereof — they received from Columbia. Toni Airaksinen, BC ’18, and Maureen Lei, CC ’15 (though a junior graduating a year early), tell me that there exist “significant constituencies of low-income and first-generation students” presently underserved by the University. Not only is there a vastly “assumed financial ability,” but plenty of “assumed privilege.” These assumptions tax those FLIP seeks to represent, and this has played out popularly on their Columbia University Class Confessions Facebook page, where students submit anonymous confessions detailing their financial and social burdens.

“This isn’t normal,” Maureen says. She and Toni break down just how not-normal Columbia is with its (assumed) commonplace wealth and attitudes: most people in the United States are not of this stratum, do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on clothes and coffees and dinner, do not have a few thousand to spend on “travel.” Toni relays a story about one friend this fall who refused to believe that Toni couldn’t afford to take a quick vacation to Washington, D.C.; the friendship deteriorated with the onslaught of socioeconomic division between them. Maureen, unlike Toni, is not considered a low-income student and is not the first in her family to attend college, but relates instead to the cultural isolation many students feel, an isolation she sees as intersecting with FLIP and its goals. She is the daughter of Chinese parents, whom she describes as “social climbers,” highly educated yet thoroughly traditional; Maureen’s first language is not English, and she shares anecdotes about growing up with non-western eating utensils and not knowing “the difference between a cheeseburger and a hamburger.”

After the jump: where culture and cost collide, speaking with Sejal Singh and the dining halls.

Get Free Booze From Columbia With #WheresRoaree
he's ready to turn up

Does this look like the face of free booze

Okay, it doesn’t have to be booze. But it can be! Today is the day that your inbox has been reminding you of for weeks – the #WheresRoaree Student Scavenger Hunt! Today, Columbia Athletics will be giving away $325 worth of gift cards to Fairway Market, Morton Williams, and The Heights. There will be Roar-ee bobbleheads hidden all over the Morningside Heights campus. Approximately every half hour, starting at noon, Roaree Lion (through his Facebook page) will be delivering trivia clues to help you find them. (Weirdly, his profile calls him Roaree, but other promotional material calls him Roar-ee. We think it’s time to see his birth certificate.) Once you locate the bobblehead, you have to take a selfie with the doll at the location where you found it, and a shadowy figure from the Columbia administration will give you a gift card. The full rules of the event can be found here.

Since this is run through Athletics, we can assume that the trivia questions will be more about Columbia sports than the academic history of the FM radio (but if that is a question, the answer is almost definitely Philosophy Hall). Here are a few tips:

  • There will be, and we are willing to bet money on this, a hint about Lou Gehrig. The answer will probably either be this exact spot on the South Lawn, or the Lou Gehrig Lounge on the third floor of Dodge Fitness Center.
  • If you’re dedicated, try to pick a good spot to wait for the hints. While South Campus will probably be a popular place for bobbleheads, a waiting area like Lerner or Butler might be too far south if you have to get to a bobblehead from Dodge.
  • Consider going to the Athletics offices and pestering administrators for early hints. If Public Safety comes to drag you away, ask them for assistance, too.
  • While the hints are supposed to come out every half hour, they might actually show up a few minutes before they’re “supposed” to. Be quick on the refresh button, or click “Get Notifications” on Roar-ee’s Facebook page. Either way, always have Facebook open.
  • One of the gift cards will be worth $100. It won’t come out too soon in the day, so if you’re not down to search for the whole day, wait until about 3 pm for the big money.
  • We don’t actually know what the Roar-ee bobbleheads will look like. That photo is from 2007, and the bobbleheads are not currently stocked online in the Lion Store. Expect some of that familiar light blue, but otherwise, anything goes for the design of the dolls.

Good luck, Bwog readers, and happy searching!

Bwoglines: Let’s Stay In Our Rooms Forever Edition
Then there's the obvious reason: you won't have to leave bed.

Then there’s the obvious reason: you won’t have to leave bed.

In the rare case of Bwoglines delivering you news you might use, Chipotle is partnering with a delivery service. So that’s food taken care of. (New York Times)

As for the rest of your dietary needs, a new app released by the Federal government will tell you how to extend the shelf life of your perishables, sometimes by 18 months after the expiration date. You can live off that easy mac in your fridge for a while, we’re saying, after your Chipotle exhausts your bank account. (Fox News)

Apparently a significant portion of our sleep issues exist in our heads, and can by extension be dealt with by treating sleep as a mental exercise. And if there’s one thing Columbians love, it’s proving they can excel at mental exercises. Prove how smart you are. Sleep all day. (Huffington Post)

HBO is cracking down on Game of Thrones viewing parties at bars. Your dorm rooms will (probably not) inevitably follow. There is only pain for you in the world. Stay inside. (Chicago Tribune)

Sean Hannity would appear to be backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker even before Walker announces his candidacy for President. This is definitive group that outside your room people talk about Sean Hannity, Scott Walker, and the 2016 Presidential campaign. You have been warned. (Breitbart)

Paradise, via Shutterstock

Paul Nungesser Files Lawsuit Against Columbia

one-last-shot-of-columbias-beautiful-campusTonight, ABC News reported that Columbia student Paul Nungesser, CC ’15, has filed a lawsuit against Columbia University for failing to protect him against harassment and defamation. This lawsuit comes as a response to fellow CC senior Emma Sulkowicz’s senior thesis performance to carry her mattress around campus during this school year until Nungesser is either expelled or leaves Columbia prior to graduation. Sulkowicz’s Carry That Weight has gained major media attention this past year, and inspired a larger movement called Carrying The Weight Together in colleges and universities across the country. Nungesser has also spoken to the media about his side of the story.

ABC News reports that Nungesser’s lawsuit claims the university has “effectively sponsored” the defamation against him, leaving him feeling “isolated” on campus and hurting his future job opportunities. Both Nungesser and Sulkowicz are expected to graduate in May.

Update, 4/24 10:49 AM: You can find a full copy of the court document here.

Thursday Playlist: Spring Is A Lie Edition

On Saturday it was nearly 80 degrees and today it is right back down to 48 degrees. What’s good?? To boost your mood and warm your soul, Bwog’s personal DJ, Briana “Breezus” Bursten, brings some fresh beats you can jam to.  

Although I prefer this season much more than everlasting winter, the unpredictable nature of spring can be difficult to cope with. Below is a forecast you can trust!! Peep this weather-themed playlist that can get you through the heat, the chill, the rain, the sun, and the occasional hail storm.

  1. Sunshine by Mos Def – Bump this when you flock to the Steps for your slice of Vitamin D.
  2. Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers – Bwog is full of contradictions!! (See above song)
  3. Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival – I’m from Florida, but I think I’ve seen more rain than sun in my time living there (the “Sunshine State” is a misleading name). Also, it rained here yesterday… so I think the answer to this question is yes.
  4. HAIL Mary by 2Pac – This song may have nothing to do with weather, but it has the word “hail” in its title. Also, it’s 2Pac.
  5. Weatherman by Ibeyi – We all know that CUSS > any weatherman in terms of forecast accuracy.
  6. In The Cold, Cold Night by The White Stripes – The perfect song to listen to when you’re sober standing outside 1020 in shorts on a Saturday night and you realize that you’re not dressed for the weather whatsoever. Not speaking from personal experience.
  7. Gust Of Wind by Pharrell – “Gust of wind” is a gentle, poetic way to describe the violent blows that hit us as we walk to class.
  8. Hot in Herre by Nelly – Exactly how I felt when it was 75 degrees outside and the heat was still on in Butler 209. Not cool (literally).
  9. Snow (Hey Oh) by Red Hot Chili Peppers – Maybe its a bit of an over-exaggeration, as snow in the city during this time of year isn’t likely. But hey, prepare for the worst.
  10. Warm Winds (feat. Isaiah Rashad) by SZA – A dreamy tune that makes us feel warm inside.
  11. Weatherman by R. Kelly – A song with this same title has already been included on this playlist, but the two couldn’t be more different stylistically. Peep this!!
  12. Cold by Kanye West, DJ Khaled – For some it’s spring, for others it’s Yeezy Season.
  13. Warm Thoughts by Flume – Think warm thoughts for the rest of the semester and all will be good!!

Petition Against Columbia Dining By SWS And Dining Staff

A petition began circulating today against Columbia Dining, on account of its “arbitrary and racist policies,” co-written by Student Worker Solidarity (SWS) and Columbia Dining Workers. SWS and the dining workers state that they are not allowed to speak Spanish in front of students, nor eat in the Butler lounge during their breaks. These rules are not presently public, an issue with which those petitioning too take issue.

The petition cites a timeline of events, as follows:

Dining Workers orientation: August, 2013 – Vicki Dunn, executive director of Columbia Dining prohibits workers from:

– speaking in Spanish in the presence of students

– sitting at tables in Butler lounge to eat on their break, and must eat in a nearby closet

Dunn claimed both of these rules stemmed from student complaints about dining hall workers speaking in Spanish and taking up table space, erroneously implying that workers should not be sitting during their legally contracted breaks.

Since August workers have found Dunn and Columbia manager Hazel Clark standing behind the cafe attempting to catch workers speaking Spanish.

Early April, 2015 – Hazel Clark tells Butler lounge workers that a student complained about trash being kept outside in the lounge area. Responding to this complaint, Clark ordered that workers move the trash to the closet, where they were also expected to sit when eating.

April 13, 2015 – SWS members send email to Vicki Dunn expressing concern about workers eating in the closet, where the trash was kept and schedule meeting to discuss the issue. In response to the email, Dunn emails Butler Lounge management rescinding the rule that workers should eat in the closet.

April 15 – SWS members meet with Columbia dining administration, who claim not to know about the closet rule. They do not confirm or deny the prohibition on speaking Spanish, but cite student complaints in justifying rules against workers talking amongst themselves.

And their demands, also from the petition:

1. Columbia dining appears to have temporarily reversed the closet rule, but continue to discriminate against workers for speaking Spanish. This must cease immediately.

2. We as students demand that Columbia administration stop using individual student complaints to justify racist and degrading policies such as the prohibition of specific languages and the relegation of workers to cramped and unsanitary spaces.

“This shouldn’t be happening in student’s names, own your own decision, don’t try to pin this on students” – Anonymous Columbia Dining Worker

3. Workers ask that from now on, all new workplace policies be written down, publicly visible, and negotiated with their unions so as to prevent continued abuses.

“If it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t be raking in thousands of dollars a day from Columbia Dining Services. They need to treat us differently” – Another anonymous Columbia Dining Worker

WBAR-B-Q Is This Saturday
Did the ~~~cool aunts~~~ make this poster?

Did the ~~Cool Aunt$~~ make this poster?

This weekend is the much anticipated WBAR-B-QUE!! Saturday, April 25, at 1 pm Lehman will open its lawns to the coolest event all spring. This year the featured performances are:

  • Diet Cig
  • Stude1nt
  • Swings
  • Bodega Bay
  • Palberta
  • Thug Enhancer
  • Big Ups
  • Dubbel Dutch
  • Perfect Pussy

The precise schedule for the acts hasn’t been released (yet), but the performances will appear in the listed order. Free Indian food will be served at this extravaganza so be sure to get there early to post up on the lawn and jam to music all afternoon. If you would like to preview any of the artists visit the Facebook event and definitely throw WBAR Radio a like on Facebook.

Poster via WBAR on FB

Freshpeople Housing Reviews 2015: Wallach

In the fourth installment of our Freshpeople Housing Reviews, we move to the meat of the Hartley-John Jay sandwich: Wallach Hall. If renovated rooms and single-use bathrooms are your cup of tea, read on!


Location: 1116 Amsterdam Avenue

  • Nearby dorms: Hartley and John Jay are connected by tunnel; Carman and Furnald are just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
  • Food: JJ’s Place and the John Jay dining hall are closer to most Wallach residents than to some in John Jay. Ferris isn’t much of a walk, but it is outside. HamDel is tantalizingly close; Strokos et al. aren’t much of a walk, either.

Why Wallach?

CU UNICEF Presents A Film And Free Pizza

Go to Hamilton tonight!

Columbia University UNICEF is hosting a movie screening tonight from 8 to 10 pm in 302 Hamilton. The feature film, Not My Life by Robert Bilheimer, is about modern day human trafficking spanning across five continents. Additionally, free pizza will be served! Learn more about the documentary by joining the Facebook event and attending the showing.