9 October 2003: Boundless Celebration
The Sophian
October 9, 2003

Opinion/Editorial (page 9)

Not Elsewhere Classified

Boundless Celebration
Elizabeth Sweeny

Changes in the 12-year-old celebration most of us know as “Celebration of Sisterhood” have stirred up consternation among many students, but honestly, the changes aren’t that big of a deal. The event is now simply called Celebration rather than Celebration of Sisterhood. The end of the statement has been changed from “we celebrate women who find joy and beauty in loving other women” to “we celebrate those who find joy and beauty in loving without boundaries.” What is crucial to me, is not the scope of the changes but what the changes mean. The event now includes people who were excluded before without excluding people who were previously included. Essentially, the community of people celebrated in this event has expanded.

Listening to the debate surrounding the changes, it seems that the most important question is whether the changes stay true to the spirit of the event. Part of the problem with this approach, however, is that it tends to ignore the fact that things are always changing. Celebration started as a candlelight vigil creatively titled Candle Light Vigil. Originally, it commemorated a specific set of homophobic events that occurred in the Quad and was a vigil in solidarity with those women attacked. Later, skits were added to show that community and joy can come out of struggle. Celebration is not and cannot be exactly the same as it was at its inception. However, one can still attempt to pin down the spirit of the event.

Kat Rickenbacker ‘04, head of the Celebration committee this year, put it simply: “Celebration is about celebrating the generally supportive and welcoming atmosphere at Smith for students that aren't straight. It's also about thanking our straight allies for helping to make Smith that kind of environment,” she said. If that truly is the spirit of Celebration, then the changes make complete sense. We have grown used to thinking of Celebration as being about sisterhood because of the longtime title, but recalling the events which Celebration commemorates, Rickenbacker’s statement seems the best and most appropriate summation I’ve heard of what Celebration is, and should be, about.

Some people have complained that the changes to Celebration are the latest in a growing list of changes (gender neutral language in the Student Government Association [SGA] constitution and the trend of calling the Big Sister/Little Sister tradition Big Sibling/Little Sibling) Smith has made to bend over backwards to accommodate a distinct minority, but they seem to me to all be changes made in recognition of the diversity of the Smith student body. Documents, organizations, events, and programs that include the entire campus should not include words or actions which make some members of the campus feel excluded.

Some fear that the changes in Celebration will obscure or dilute the original events it commemorates, but it seems to me that to continue to exclude Smith Students who don’t self-identify as women is to perpetuate the idea Celebration is reacting against—that people different from ourselves do not deserve to be a part of our community.


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