2012 Dyke Ball prohibits off-campus guests
New ticketing policy allows only current Wellesley students
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 07:04
This year, members of the on-campus LGBTQ organization Spectrum made several notable changes to the Wellesley College annual Dyke Ball. The organizers did not hire a live performer, instead choosing to establish the event as a dance party rather than as a live concert. Spectrum members also decided to reclaim Dyke Ball as a “queer event,” by allowing only current Wellesley students to attend. The restriction was in response to complaints that the behavior of off-campus guests had caused discomfort among numerous Wellesley students at previous Dyke Ball events.
On April 13, the 2012 Dyke Ball, was held in Tishman Commons. A Wellesley College tradition dating back to the mid 1980s, Dyke Ball provides a safe space for queer students to recreate the prom experience that they may not have been able to enjoy in high school. Each year, tickets are pre-sold to the queer community and its allies before the general Wellesley community.
“It is an alternative queer prom, because queer students, when they’re in high school, are not usually allowed to bring the person of their choosing to prom,” Leah Way ’13, president and treasurer of Spectrum, said. “So Spectrum created the queer prom for students to be able to relive that experience and be able to bring a date of their choosing to prom and not one that was dictated already.”
The members of Spectrum decide on a different theme every year as a guide for decorations and costumes. The theme this year was “We Wear the Mask.”
“The queer community, in various different ways—from how you do your hair and how you dress to how you present yourself—wear different masks that can cover up their true identities,” Way said. “We want Dyke Ball to be a place where queer people can be comfortable and not have to put on the mask that they may have to wear in other parts of their daily lives.”
“The biggest change this year is that there are no off-campus guests,” Way said. “We wanted to make it sort of a Wellesley community event.”
“Every year we have a Dyke Ball-planning meeting where we invite members of the general community to come and tell us what they liked about last year, what they didn’t like and what they think we can improve,” Taylor Bass ’13, secretary of Spectrum, said. “[At] that meeting, a lot of people said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have off-campus guests this year, because they make me uncomfortable.’... Generally, we have a lot of straight men who come as basically voyeurs who want to see a bunch of girls in lingerie. That just makes people uncomfortable, because it’s supposed to be a safe space where you can be with your significant other and not be ogled like you would be at a regular party.”
This change in the ticketing policy stirred up dispute among affected off-campus students, as well as the on-campus students who were no longer able to attend with their off-campus significant others.
“The primary attendees of the party seemed to be central members of the queer community and first years, which gave Dyke Ball a somewhat more intimate, and also quiet, atmosphere,” Allison Walker-Elders ’13 said. “While [Spectrum] had the best of intentions, the result is that many Wellesley students would not be able to bring their off-campus significant other—even the queer-identified ones. We think that less extreme actions could have been taken to ensure our safety while still allowing us to have a good time. Spectrum has the queer community’s best interests in mind, and though they may be misled in methods, I like that so much consideration is given to keeping our campus secure. I hope that all responsible parties learn from this experience and that Dyke Ball returns next year restored to its former glory.”
Executive board members of Spectrum acknowledge the repercussions of the latest ticketing policy. The new ticketing policy led to a smaller turnout in addition to widespread frustration among students.
“There are always people who are upset with the changes we make every year,” Bass said. “People were mostly upset that we weren’t allowing off-campus guests so some people decided they were going to boycott. Normally we have a lot more allies with straight people who come and they didn’t come, because they [thought], ‘Oh this is more of a queer event this year.’”
Although Spectrum members expressed a desire to include the off-campus community, many felt that the uneasiness caused by certain off-campus guests would nullify the original purpose of the event.
“Spectrum’s goal was to have a safe space for all LGBTQ students, and by inviting only Wellesley students, I think it was easier for everyone to release their inhibitions and have fun,” Obasi said. “I personally wasn’t really aware of this until after the party, but apparently it was really exclusive—I had some friends who didn’t even realize Dyke Ball had already happened.”
“My friend told me that this year it was restricted to only Wellesley students,” Andy Liang ’14, an MIT student, said. “I can understand—I did see sketchy guys who were touching my friends in the wrong way... I think Wellesley had their students’ best interest in mind when they’d put their restrictions for the Dyke Ball this year.
Liang, however, also suggests, “But, I think the party can be made safe and fun for Wellesley students without [restricting off-campus guests], like making sure the guests coming in know someone at Wellesley, having the security step in when things get out-of-hand, or banning a certain college from attending if they’re consistently abusing their privileges.”
Despite the controversy of the ticketing policy this year, Dyke Ball is often considered the Wellesley queer community’s most famous event, one that students look forward to attending.