Metro, Column

Poehler, Pudding, And Female Empowerment At Harvard

You can’t go to Boston College and not be an Amy Poehler fan.

OK, maybe that was a generalization confused by a double negative and some humor-hating students out there that just can’t stand the alumna’s knack for theatrics—but there’s something to be said about knowing that someone so public, so celebrated, once walked the same quads and threw ping pong balls across the same unfinished basements as you.

Even before I received my maroon and gold BC acceptance letter, I was a Poehler fan. I spent every other one of my middle school Saturdays sprawled across the living room floor in my dad’s apartment, tangled up with my old Pokemon comforter, snacking on SnoCaps and popcorn, and laughing at jokes that more often than not went over my head. Saturday Night Live was in its mid-2000s heyday, its stage was graced by now-headliners like Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, a lot of Justin Timberlake cameos, and of course, our beloved alumna.

From rapping about a potential vice presidential candidate while nine months pregnant, to donning multiple Juicy jumpsuits for her role as the “cool mom” in Tina Fey’s iconic screenplay, I’ve seen Amy do it all. I buy her humor and laugh at her jokes. I’ve fallen in love with her character on Parks and Rec, and I can see her memoir, Yes, Please from above my laptop screen, propped up on my set of plastic drawers and wedged between a Founding Farmers cookbook and a Logic textbook.

Beyond the fascination and absolute fan-girldom I have for Poehler as a fellow Eagle, I admire her for her own decisions, career path, accomplishments, and values. She both laughs at herself and others, while also garnering and fostering self respect and female empowerment. It was these qualities that won her the 2015 Woman of the Year award from Hasty Pudding Theatricals, one of Harvard’s oldest social clubs and performing arts organizations.

In between a parade through Cambridge and a light-hearted roast during her award celebration last February, which I was lucky enough to be covering (#humblebrag #perksofbeingaMetroEditor), Amy brought to light a concern about the club that has recently made national news—the club’s all-male cast.

Last weekend, over two dozen women auditioned for the performance group in protest of its gender discriminatory policies. Come Monday, however, none of the women were cast.

Despite the flack the club has been hit with from both local and national media outlets, as well as other supporters of the protesters, Hasty Pudding only called back auditioners with Y chromosomes this year, as they have done for over a century and a half.

Though my sociology professor probably wouldn’t approve and some Teva-wearing graduate students might rescind my “This is what a Feminist looks like” pin, I don’t have the biggest problem with Hasty Pudding’s gender standards.

Correction: I don’t have a problem with Hasty Pudding’s gender standards if they exist in the name of cherished tradition and male camaraderie. If the performing club gets some outdated satisfaction of its all-male tradition in the name of brotherhood and fraternity (the dictionary definition, not the visor-wearing and beer-drinking masses of undergraduates that seem to take over my instagram feed every game day), then I say why not. Put up a “Little Rascals”-inspired no girls allowed sign and have your testosterone-induced fun—like Boy Scouts meets Dance Moms, if you’re into that kind of thing.

If Hasty Pudding is celebrating its establishment of male companionship through its gender exclusivity, I think it can be seen as similar to BC’s all-male clubs like The Heightsmen or Sexual Chocolate—it means well.

I do, however, have a problem with the club’s gender policies if it simultaneously celebrates a woman in entertainment each year, a woman who is being celebrated because she sought the opportunities that Hasty Pudding is denying to female students.

I’m not saying that my cherished alumna should be de-throned from her Pudding royalty, but it sure seems hypocritical to exclude the potential future Amy Poehlers from doing what they love if they are going to invite the current Amy Poehlers to Cambridge each year.

So then, maybe I am saying “rescind Amy’s crown”, maybe the Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year award should be done away with if the club is and was established to foster male growth within the entertainment and performing industries.

Or maybe, just maybe, the club could try to keep up with the times, take a nod from how gender inequality has played out in the past, and open up its doors. It could allow female members to perform onstage, instead of being limited to behind the scenes or in the wings. It would be progressive, and make news for positive reasons rather than negative. It would revitalize its 170 year old traditions, maybe even garner more donations or larger audience turnout.

All I’m suggesting for Hasty Pudding is a little 21st century clarification and adjustment, to which I think a certain BC alumna would agree, “Yes, please.”


Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphic

September 16, 2015