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Senior Wisdom: Zoe Ridolfi-Starr

Zoe

Zoe Ridolfi-Starr

With the last weekend of the semester wrapping up, we bring you yet another senior wisdom to inspire you to push through the rest of finals. Today we begin with some wisdom from Zoe Ridolfi-Starr.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, Columbia College, Political Science, San Jose CA

Claim to fame: Your friendly neighborhood angry feminist! Organized to fight gender-based violence on campus, founder of No Red Tape. Helped create the Prison Resistance and Education Project and the Books Not Bars programs for incarcerated youth. Worked for reproductive justice on campus, got free emergency contraception provided at Health Services, and secured the creation of the Columbia Emergency Health Fund to subsidize, among other things, abortions. (You should check out this fund–it’s a little-known but important resource! https://health.columbia.edu/about-columbia-health/special-health-fund)

Where are you going? I will be staying in New York and charting a path through the anti-violence organizing world, hopefully towards a job at the intersections of gender-based violence, civil rights, and prison resistance. I’ll be raising my own salary for the next few months, so hit me up if you’re feeling generous :)

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2019?

1. Balance is essential. Seriously, I know this is the kind of lame advice that everyone gives you when you start college and then everyone ignores for 3 years, but it’s so important. You should really try to eat well, exercise, and aim for 8 hours of sleep a night. If you’re going to compromise one of those things, make sure it’s for a good reason so that your overall happiness can stay balanced. For example, if you’re going to pull an all-nighter, make sure it’s for something you’re truly passionate about. Your energy-balance will be zapped, but your meaning-in-life-balance will be full. It’ll help you stay motivated. Try to find balance in other aspects of your life, too: Get off campus regularly. It helped me to have an off-campus job or volunteer position, or even just walk into Harlem or to the park. Spend time with people who are not your age–brilliant 20 somethings have a tendency to be somewhat self-absorbed and it’s good for you to spend time with people who are thinking about the world in different ways. Make some old lady friends and learn what they’ve learned. Play with children and answer their questions as they try to piece this world together. The same goes for spending time with people who are from different racial, class, political, or geographical backgrounds from you. Spend time in spiritual places if you’re not religious, spend time sitting with doubt if you are. Relax and watch a movie, but also remember to get out of bed and get some fresh air at least once a day. And remember to breath–it’s going to be okay.

2. There is meaning in just being. We learn to shape ourselves against things: people, places, relationships, particular goals, involvement in student groups. We craft a mold from these elements and pour ourselves into it, forging a sense of our own identity and meaning in the world. These things we form ourselves against, they are important. But when these fixtures fall away, as most things inevitably do, it can be hard to feel like your existence means anything. We feel adrift, shapeless, detached. As I am preparing to leave Columbia, I am watching nearly everything I have worked to shape myself against fall away: I have felt valuable because I was fighting to end sexual violence, building a tutoring program, or succeeding in school. I have found meaning because I was someone’s lover, someone’s daughter, or someone’s best friend. But these things are all changing rapidly; no longer will they be fixtures against which I can form a sense of self. It is more challenging to accept that there is meaning in my life not because I am an organizer or a leader or a lover, but simply because I am. I have learned–and am still learning–how to find meaning in this kind of formlessness. The older (!!) I get, the more I recognize how important it is to have a sense of self-worth that is not dependent on validation or constructed against external goals or affiliations. When I feel adrift, I am working to enjoy the ride rather than searching desperately for the next shore. I am trying to embrace the opportunity to see what I will become when I’m not forming myself against, towards, or away from someone or something specific. What shape might I take? How do I fold out into the world? How does it feel to be exploring uncharted parts of my own inner life, with no goal other than self-understanding? These are questions I wish I’d taken time to reflect on sooner. Like most things in my life, answering them is a work in progress.

3. International delivers. Don’t forget to tip well!

“Back in my day…” Bernie’s was Havana and the mojitos were slightly cheaper. Consent ed was optional. Bacchanal was the one day each year where we actually stopped taking ourselves so seriously.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I fight for safer, healthier communities and give great back rubs.

What was your favorite class at Columbia? Gendered Controversies with Janet Jakobsen or Pre-Columbian Histories of Native America with Severin Fowles.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Sex is amazing. And there are few things better than oral sex performed with enthusiasm, talent, and attentiveness. If you are tempted to give up “oral sex” for this question, I strongly suggest, for your own benefit, that you expand your sexual horizons before making this commitment. Explore, learn what you like, communicate with your partner or partners, do some research, practice with yourself, and get into it. It can help to have lots of sex with just one person; when two people know each other’s contours and delights so intimately, both learn so much about what they like and how to please current or future partners. It can also help to have sex with many different partners; you will try different flavors, rhythms, shapes, and moods; you may discover some wonderful new things, and will definitely have fun. I would, without hesitation, give up cheese, chocolate, air conditioning, Netflix, and Christmas before I would give up good oral sex. Columbia friends, my sincere hope is that someday we will all get to enjoy the kind of awesome, consensual sex that we would never give up for curdled milk. (However, crappy oral sex is tedious. I once ordered dumplings on Seamless while getting eaten out.)

One thing to do before graduating: Fall in love, and then fall out of it.

Any regrets? I regret not forming better relationships with professors. I regret trusting the Columbia administration; I had to learn the hard way that, as a whole, it does not give a fuck about its students. I regret that deep love and great passion often lead to disappointment and bitterness. I regret some things left unsaid. I regret ever reading the comments, they hurt. I regret time I spent not being my full, complicated, authentic self or hanging around people who couldn’t or wouldn’t have my back. I regret not having more time to get to know all the intelligent, kind, brave, interesting, and exceptional people here.

I can tell you for damn sure, I do not regret a single time I sacrificed my schoolwork for late night conversation with friends, the work I’m passionate about, adventures around the world, or sleep. I don’t even remember what the academic impact of any of those decisions was–but it was definitely worth it.

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65 Comments

  • CC 15 says:

    @CC 15 Another rant by Zoe, but, hey, you forgot something you can really be proud of, so let me be your little helper:

    – Proclaimed myself a “lead complainant” against Columbia even though I never even reported my alleged “sexual assault”.
    – Revolted successfully against my “innocence project” moms by establishing the “guilty despite proven innocent” standard.
    – Condoned anonymous “rapist” lists that featured at least one innocent person.
    – Headed a lynch mob going for an innocent man.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous I remember when I once counted you as a friend. Someone who supported me, and was on my side. I came to you because I thought you could understand the problems I was facing with my abusive girlfriend who kidnapped my dog, and destroyed my room. You consoled me, and told me it wasn’t my fault. Then, you tried to kiss me and unzip my pants, when I was in fucking tears before you. We wrote it off as a misunderstanding, never to speak of again..

      But when I saw you at a party with mutual friends the very next fucking weekend, what happened was unforgivable. Without so much as a hello, you grabbed my face, pulled it into yours, and kissed me. When I pulled away, you bit and bloodied my lip.

      When I threatened to file criminal charges for assault and pursue a disciplinary hearing through Columbia, you came to me in tears. Even when you threatened to file a counter-claim stating that I fondled you to Columbia, I was steadfast. It was only until you offered me cash to keep quiet that I acquiesced.

      Reading these comments has shown me that I have done a huge disservice to the Columbia community by not coming forward with my story. For that, I apologize. I am sorry to everyone who I have indirectly hurt by not pursuing charges and instead, accepting a bribe. As you say, there’s no perfect victim. But at least I have the spine to know that what I did was wrong.

      I would do anything to give back the money you gave me and come clean with my story. Maybe then, everyone would know Zoe is a blood-sucking fraud hellbent on personal gain in exchange for victims’ tears. Except I could never give you the satisfaction of knowing that you have stained my reputation if I were to make your misdeeds public.

      I hope this “anonymous” post serves as a warning to all who have personal dealings with you, Zoe. You are a fraud in every sense of the word, and truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing. God knows what you have done, and so too will everyone else.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous lol i love that white dudes love railing against ‘lynch mob” metaphors/strawmen more than anyone else

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous ew.

  • Jo says:

    @Jo Yuck. Anti violence, what a joke. She is one of the most violent people on campus that has ruined so many functions at our school. She only thinks of herself and her agenda without regard to anyone else.

  • anon says:

    @anon Is this satire?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Let’s see how many of the comments come from people who aren’t even on this campus– so far it’s 3 out of 4!

    As someone who has actually had experience with Zoe and doesn’t just see her as an abstract feminist reddit-angering she-devil, I have mixed feelings. She’s done some truly outstanding work on campus, but I’m not sure I like how she’s set the tone of the activism happening here to be a very “us versus them” mentality towards administration– there’s certainly a lot that needs to be reformed, but I think that reform can only happen through dialogue rather than one side shouting at the other. It also seems as though she tries very hard to be the “face” of the anti-sexual violence movement, when I really don’t think it should have a face but be solely about the issue itself… makes her come off as pretty self-serving sometimes, and makes people whose stories or faces don’t align with hers or Emma’s feel like our voices aren’t being treated as legitimate. It’s clear she has a lot of drive though, so best of luck to you Zoe with whatever comes next.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum The overwhelming number of “non Columbia” people who comment are generally alumni or parents. I think they have every right to comment. You are naive to think they do not read or do not care what goes on.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Or pre-frosh who care about the state of our future school.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Or columbia students on off-campus wifi – that’s me, most of the time (for instance, Barnard students who live in 110 or CG).

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous And people who are abroad.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Frankly I don’t care about – let’s see who’s currently on campus and who’s writing from Lower East Side and you shouldn’t either. Also, I don’t give a damn about Zoe’s “drive”. Having a “drive” is a good think if it’s put to use in a good way. Harassing people and bullying is what she does. Good riddance! 2015 should be celebrated at Columbia for that very reason.

  • Lol says:

    @Lol So many bitter as hell non-Columbia people gonna be commenting on this one. I don’t have strong feelings about her personally, but kind of embarrassing how seriously she took the “oral sex or cheese” question…

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Non-Columbia people don’t read Bwog. It’s not something everyone knows about.

  • anon says:

    @anon Zoe sucksssss

  • I hope you read this comment! says:

    @I hope you read this comment! I don’t know you, but I feel what you wrote in the advice section SO MUCH! The part about your sense of self falling away with graduation… that’s on my mind a lot. Here’s to us both figuring out life after school!

  • yeah says:

    @yeah Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Zoe is an absolute bad ass and this is genuinely great advice (especially about the cheese).vAlso, anyone who says Sev’s class is one of their favorites is automatically my friend.

    1. .... says:

      @.... …Does anyone at this school have a sense of humor?

  • Fixed your oral sex vs cheese answer says:

    @Fixed your oral sex vs cheese answer Cheese is amazing. And there are few things better than cheese made with enthusiasm, talent, and attentiveness. If you are tempted to give up “cheese” for this question, I strongly suggest, for your own benefit, that you expand your culinary horizons before making this commitment. Explore, learn what you like, communicate with your cheese monger or cheese mongers, do some research, practice with yourself, and get into it. It can help to have lots of cheese of just one type; when people know a cheese’s contours and delights so intimately, they learn so much about what they like and how to get pleasing current or future cheeses. It can also help to have many different types of cheese; you will try different flavors, rhythms, shapes, and moods; you may discover some wonderful new things, and will definitely have fun. I would, without hesitation, give up oral sex, chocolate, air conditioning, Netflix, and Christmas before I would give up good cheese. Columbia friends, my sincere hope is that someday we will all get to enjoy the kind of awesome, delicious cheese that we would never give up for oral sex. (However, crappy cheese is tedious. I once ordered a blowjob on Tinder while eating old cheddar.)

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Hahaha Bwog please favorite this, A+ comment

  • Raise your hand... says:

    @Raise your hand... …if you have ever felt personally victimized by Zoe Ridolfi-Starr.

  • Olivia CC'15 says:

    @Olivia CC'15 As someone who considers Zoe a good friend, it’s really disgusting to see these comments. They’re not only completely off base, but also incredibly misogynist. It’s cowardly that people who can identity more with rapists than survivors hide behind anonymous internet comments to launch a character assault on a strong leader like Zoe. Yes, Zoe’s activism is in your face and challenges the status quo and that is uncomfortable for many people. But, for the survivors of sexual assault and marginalized communities that Zoe fights for, normalcy is intolerable. Zoe has done sooooo much for the Columbia community and continually pushed the administration to make Columbia a safer environment for everyone. Zoe is a remarkable person and a loyal friend and supporter who will always be there in times of need. It’s refreshing to have such an eloquent, strong-willed, and fun leader on campus and her presence will surely be missed even though her contributions to student life will remain.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous How is literally ANY of this misogynist. You are truly delusional.

      Saying she order dumplings while someone was eating her pussy is not misandrist but calling Zoe out for being a terrible and manipulative person is?

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Uhm, Zoe is bi, so it could have easily been a chick giving her oral.

        Heteronormative much?

        1. literally who cares says:

          @literally who cares Her sexual orientation/general misogyny aren’t reasons for the negative comments.
          I’m a feminist who USED to really admire
          the work that she does. Until I saw how she used her power to harass and trigger friends of mine who are survivors of sexual assault.

          And based on the rest of these comments, I’m clearly not the only one who feels this way.

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous I was replying to the dude who said the dumplings comment was misandry. I was making the point that the person giving her oral could have been a woman since Zoe is bi. Understand now?

        2. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Fine.

          Now explain to me, how are even the minority of comments here misogynist?

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous That just means that whoever was going down on her was bad at oral sex. How is that misandrist, even if it was a dude.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Misogyny: Disagreeing with or criticizing Zoe.

      Identifying with Rapists: Criticizing the characterization of a student – who was found “not responsible” by the school – as a rapist.

      So much logical fallacy.

  • Anon says:

    @Anon Surprised by how much I enjoyed her advice section.

  • Forget y'all says:

    @Forget y'all Zoe’s awesome and doesn’t need any of you. Keep on keeping on; don’t let these kids bring you down.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Go back to your village, kid. If you find her “awesome” you need some real reality check.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “got free emergency contraception provided at Health Services, and secured the creation of the Columbia Emergency Health Fund to subsidize, among other things, abortions.”

    Don’t know her, but nice work! I

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous lolololol

      right there, self-promotion in action!

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous why shouldn’t she tell people about an amazing contribution like that?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous One of the speeches she gave at a University Senate meeting about the rules of protest very heavily implied, to me, that she was the one who made the rapist list. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but that was a thing that came out of her mouth.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous anyone know what happened to Emma’s mysteriously vanished SW from this morning?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Lol at Bwog taking down Emma Sulkowicz’s senior wisdom

    1. Lynn CC'15 says:

      @Lynn CC'15 They took it down because she was receiving death threats. Not sure “lol” is the right word.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Lol

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Did they follow through? lol

      3. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous And when Paul received death threats, did the dozens of news sites take down their articles?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Her comment about getting eaten out will follow her on the internet forever. Foolish and irresponsible. Maybe she doesn’t ever want to be employed.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous No surprise she is unemployed (and probably will remain so,)

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Wait what allegations were made against Zoe? Also, Bwog, if you’re going to remove comments but leave the replies, it would be nice if you could acknowledge that there was a comment there. Transparency would be nice.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Bwog will delete if anyone says but if you read between the lines of the comments, you can probably figure it out.

  • BC 15 says:

    @BC 15 Sorry but you really need a reality check. You’re not some kind of feminist hero, you’re an extremist who imposes her views and agendas onto other people in public space. Maybe approach these issues with a little more compassion for the victims in the future. Not all publicity is good publicity. Please take post-grad time to do a little introspection and acknowledge that you do not speak for all feminists/women/victims and in claiming to do so, you further oppress already marginalized people. . .

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I didn’t recognize her at all from this picture.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I thought to inform you that I had listened to several interviews that you have been in regarding claims of rape and I learned something: You lied. I’m not going to convey how I figured out that you lied via your interviews, but only state that I figured it out. I’m not going to contact anyone as unlike you I really don’t want to be known. However other people will eventually find out what a fraud that you truly are.

    I don’t know what they will do. It will expose the problem of false rape even further, but it will damage the cause of justice for persons who really have been raped.

    Perhaps this message will be deleted. That doesn’t concern me as I only wanted to convey to you that the truth will be known eventually and that is that you’re a fraud.

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