Sounds of Beyoncé could be heard blasting from Pitzer College’s Grove House last Saturday night, Nov. 2, as students decked out in boas and glitter tattoos gathered for the inaugural Diva Dance, a new 5C party hosted by Pitzer’s Feminist Coalition (FemCo). The party featured four female-identifying DJs from KSPC who exclusively played music by women artists and focused on creating a safe, fun, and consensual party space for students.
According to FemCo facilitator Maddie Ranson PZ ’14, Diva Dance was inspired by a discussion about 5C parties at a group meeting.
“Something that came up from both men and women is that they often feel unsafe dancing and drinking and having fun because of sexual assault, and also feeling a lot of pressure and uncomfortable in certain situations,” Ranson said.
After their discussion, FemCo worked on developing an action piece in response to their concerns. The group decided to host a consent-focused party in the familiar space of the Grove House and feature female DJs and artists to counteract the prevalence of male DJs and artists typically featured at 5C parties.
Attendee Emily Morris SC ’14 attested to how the change in music was a notable departure from the norm.
“The Diva Party was a good eye-opener about how most parties at the 5Cs to varying degrees are hosted from a heterosexual male perspective. It’s par for the course when parties here end up having only male DJs and playing music from mostly, if not all, male artists,” Morris said.
Ranson emphasized that in addition to showcasing women in male-dominant arenas, Diva Dance aimed to foster an atmosphere where all self-expression is welcome.
“I want people to be able to dress and express themselves however they want to without worrying about feeling pressured or uncomfortable by anything,” she said.
In addition to standard snacks and beer for guests 21 and over, the snack table at Diva Dance also held goodie bags filled with safe-sex supplies donated by the Smart Sex Society.
“We do have condoms and dental dams, as well as stickers, glitter, and lollipops, because we realize that sex is a really big part of college campuses,” FemCo facilitator Rachel Kipnes PZ ’14 said.
However, Ranson hesitated to identify the event as necessarily sex-positive.
“I think identifying as sex-positive comes along with a lot of other connotations that we haven’t really delved into. It’s more promoting consent rather than sex positivity,” Ranson said.
To draw attention to the emphasis on consent, FemCo also supplied red Solo cups embellished with consensual phrases like “Got Consent?”; “May I Kiss You?”; and “Can I Dance With You?”
According to Kipnes, the strategy was used to develop conversation about consent.
“FemCo, as well as groups with similar goals as ours, are having more events that spark conversation about real consent, not just the ‘Consent is sexy’ tagline that’s been thrown around,” Kipnes said.
Ranson pointed out that conversations around consent have grown more vocal across the country due to recent sexual assault cases. Even in Claremont, committees are working diligently to change the colleges’ sexual assault policies.
This year, event pages for 5C parties on Facebook often end with a tagline emphasizing that attendees should ask other students to dance and practice consent.
“I’ve definitely noticed a rise in consent awareness and generally more advocacy for consent culture at a lot of different types of parties,” Hannah Walhout PO ’14 said. Walhout is a member of TIXC, a Pomona College-based group that organizes around sexual assault awareness and sponsors TAP, a weekly consent-focused party.
Consent-focused parties do strive to create a safe environment for students, but it is unclear if these conversations are reaching all students.
“There’s definitely a heightened awareness about consent on the 5Cs, which I think is a good thing. But I feel like even if there is raised awareness, consent is still an issue. There is only an increased awareness among people who care about it most,” Diva Dance attendee Madison Welsh SC’16 said.
FemCo does hope to reach out to more students throughout the next year through their events. Among future events is the group’s annual clothesline project, which invites students to write down thoughts or testimonies about sexual assault on t-shirts, which are then displayed on the Pitzer Mounds during the Kohoutek music festival.
Ranson also expressed desire to make Diva Dance an annual party in the event it was successful, which, according to attendee Celina Hayashi SC ’14, it certainly was.
“It was an incredible dance party with some fun music. What really made the event were the divas who I went with,” Hayashi said.