Sex and the Ivy

Sex and the Spiegel

Filed under: Press — Elle February 23, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

Evil Daystar, a German blog, concurs with my argument that Der Spiegel was sexist in their depiction of me. The recap: the German newsmagazine, which is considered progressive, described me in a mini-skirt, which 1) did not exist, and 2) served only to distinguish me from my sexually chaste counterpart.

Granted, the male writer of the article definitely found True Love Revolution, Harvard’s abstinence club, a little silly and had no qualms about poking fun at co-president Rachel Wagley. German commenters have pointed out all week that perhaps my criticism is unwarranted in light of the fact that the article is more on my side than on TLR’s. (And despite my very basic German knowledge, I did realize that much.)  But you know what the writer should’ve done in that case? Lay off the sexist remarks. If there are substantive arguments against preaching no-sex-until-marriage as the golden standard, then one doesn’t need to resort to sensationalism to get the point across.

I have no idea if the rest of the content on Evil Daystar is this progressive, but I found this commentary incredibly refreshing. If you understand German, check it out.

Woo-hoo, it’s my sexist German debut!

Filed under: Abstinence, Feminism, Press — Elle February 9, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

Der Spiegel hat einen Artikel über mich veröffentlicht! Aber nicht so schnell …

Der Spiegel, one of the largest European newsmagazines, published an article about the American abstinence movement and feminist reaction to it. I’m pretty excited that I scored a mention/photo in a German publication, because all things German have become awesome since I’ve begun learning the language.

Unfortunately, my German abilities remain pretty rudimentary, so I’ve had a hard time translating … but they’re not so rudimentary that I didn’t realize that the piece is actually somewhat reactionary. Yeah, what a disappointment.

I was reading along happily until I got to the paragraph about me, which includes a reference to my “ultrakurzen Minirock” that excites the boys on campus. That means “ultra-short miniskirt”. Wait … why are they talking about my clothing choices? And where are these ultra-short miniskirts, because Cambridge, Massachusetts is sure as hell not the ideal place to wear them. (I may have been deluded about this my freshman year, but I — and my hemlines — have long since grown up.)

This is kind of like that time when The New York Times wrote a piece that featured me alongside the then-president of Harvard’s abstinence club. While the writer refrained from physically describing the other girl, the main subject of the article, this was what he wrote about me:

Chen was a small Asian woman in a miniskirt and stilettos…

This is after I already corrected the fact-checker prior to publication, telling him specifically that I was not actually wearing a miniskirt and stilettos. But whatever,I have sex so naturally, I also walk around naked in impractical footwear! Let’s just gloss over the fact that I was actually wearing a dress and shoes with a wide heel. The truth would detract from reinforcing the image of the sexually available woman. And while we’re at it, why not exoticize me a bit? I’m small! I’m compact! I fit in your handbag! It doesn’t matter what the other girl looks like; let’s check out the chick who’ll let dudes bang her.

Anyway, it gets better:

[Chen] ate every crumb of everything, including a ginger cake with cream-cheese frosting and raspberry compote. Fredell, when the dessert menu came, paused at the prospect of a “chocolate explosion,” said, “I may as well — I mean, carpe diem, right?” And then reconsidered — she really wasn’t that hungry.

I’m amazed at what passes for news. The fact that this food-sex analogy is so contrived is a testament to how stupid the virgin-whore dichotomy really is.

But I guess the German liberal media is just like the American liberal media: not incredibly progressive after all. While articles like the ones above approach sex more positively than Fox News, they still can’t help but think of female sexuality as a binary, something that can be neatly categorized in boxes labeled “virgin” and “whore”. I may have sex and openly write and talk about it, but that doesn’t make me representative of all sexually active women any more than it makes me conform to some tired vixen trope. And while I do hope that these types of stereotypical depictions decrease, I’m not terribly optimistic. After all, this is the explanation I received from the writer when I complained to The New York Times:

Lena is right that i described her outfit to draw a distinction from [the other girl], and it is also true that her outfit was distinct from [the other girl's]. Whether her dress was short or not is subject to interpretation, she is right, but I think almost everyone would agree that indeed it was very short and that her high heels were very high.

Which is why I’m not even going to both fact-checking Der Spiegel.

I Am What I Eat/Anatomy of an Outfit

Filed under: Fashion, Press, boston — Elle November 28, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

Check out my Boston MenuPages interview in which I dish about the best Harvard Square eats and my favorite Boston-area restaurants, including Peach Farm (for mother-approved Cantonese), Temple Bar (my recommended date spot), Blue Fin (my favorite sushi), Berry Line (my daily sugar fix), and more.

Also, if you’re in need of hot, original tees, the $10 Threadless holiday sale is still going on and smaller sizes are beginning to sell out, so grab your desired design via my link. Mine are arriving this week and I’m psyched!

The Cocktail Party on a Tuesday Night Outfit

At Tara and Tiff’s after a cocktail party, originally uploaded by lenachen.

Home from a cocktail party, originally uploaded by lenachen.

Rebecca Taylor Tea Dress in Black
Naturalizer Sequin Net Pumps in Gold
Casual Corner Blazer in White
Kate Spade Wellesley Quinn Shopper in Brown

In Retrospect: “Understanding in New Haven”

Filed under: Celebrity, In Retrospect, Personal, Press — Elle October 18, 2007 @ 2:25 am

“In Retrospect” will be a semi-regular series of previously written, unpublished blog musings. I’m starting with this one from a year ago today, which discusses what is probably still my favorite article written about the website:

“I was sitting in my dorm room on Saturday night when all logic, reason, and prior history suggested that I should have been flying out the door in a miniskirt and stilettos. I instead spent the night reading an article in The Yale Herald about the Ivy League blog trend. I was one of the subjects, and I am still trying to process the words used to describe my blog. For the first time since I started this website, I feel like an outsider gets it.

Cally writes:

No college experience is diametrically opposed to any other in its difficulty, isolation, community, laziness, or degree of personal fulfillment. After all, contrary to the sensationalist mantras on the seat of so many sweatpants across the Northeast, the opposite of Yale is not Harvard. Students at elite academic institutions are not only products of their rarified environments; in other words, Princetonian ‘masters of the universe,’ like college students everywhere, bring to New Jersey cultural, social, and economic baggage that four years of even the swankiest dorm-living cannot completely unpack…

She understands in a way that I don’t think most people do. It is almost uncanny how spot-on she is in her interpretation of my position (read the rest of the article). I can’t speak for IvyGate or IvyLeak, for whom self-deprecation and snark is the point. The former say, ‘The last thing people want to read is a sincere blog about the Ivy League.’ But for me at least, if there’s anything I want to accomplish with this blog, it’s sincerity. This was never about self-promotion, never about being outrageous for its own sake.”

– October 18, 2006

Quickies: Define Productive

Filed under: Blogging, Food, Press, Queer, Quickies, Ry — Elle October 15, 2007 @ 2:38 am

Lately, I’ve done so much work on this website and so very little work on academics! Some blurb updates follow (the picture, by the way, is of me and my blockmate Sue getting ready to go out):

* Readers can now subscribe via email to be notified when new entries are posted. If you’re already a registered users, you’re automatically subscribed. Not interested? Opt out through the subscription page under “About”.

* The Daily Pennsylvanian sums it up well: “She uses [her blog] to chronicle her sexual encounters, mental-health issues and drug use.” In other words, I am a bipolar coke whore. A literary one, but still.

With blockmate Sue prepping for a party* I’m going to be Tinkerbell for Halloween. Already have the green dress and wings, so all that’s left is a wand! I hope I can pull her off with my black hair or else I might just look like a random fairy. Not going blond though, lest I appear as if I’m channeling a Ganguro chick.

* Still have no idea what you want to be for Halloween? Check out the selection at Pierre Silber which has fully embraced the “slap on a hat, put on a short dress, and call it a costume” concept. Last year, I was a Mile High Captain. If you buy something through my link (or any of the ads on this page), your questionable Halloween outfit will also sponsor my tuition.

* If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if PostSecret and Lolcats had a love child, then my friend Ryan has got the answer. His project Lolsecretz is a hilarious and spot-on satire of the two memes. Check it out for kittens and scandal.

* Had an interesting dining hall concoction for lunch today and I feel inclined to share with the Harvard readers. Recipe: Assemble a sandwich with cinnamon raisin bread, pepper jack cheese, chicken strips, tomato slices, and barbecue sauce. Toast in the panini grill until cheese is melted. Bon appetit!

* Apparently, the Pennypacker freshmen are doing the dirty dirty.

* “Savage Love” columnist Dan Savage is coming to Boston College this Thursday. The event is sponsored by BC’s GLTBQ Leadership Council and all the details are online. A longtime reader myself, I might just trek it out there to catch the guy speak.

* Added a Contact page with all my various contact info and social network affiliations. Just joined Twitter, by the way, and my status updates will appear on my sidebar. A FAQ will be coming soon for answers to important questions like “When did you lose your virginity?” Just kidding — it’ll be an endless gallery of shoes. Or a link-swap policy. Whichev.

By the way, Sex and the Ivy is now running on Wordpress 2.3. Yes, I upgraded all on my own. If you recently found the site down in the middle of the night, that’s probably because I was in the middle of a serious tech boo-boo. Been staying up over the past week (often in a sustained state of panic) to do web-related fixes in order to minimize downtime in the day. Can someone please give me an award for “Blogger Most Likely To Crash Her Own Website Who Miraculously Hasn’t”?

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