On a Budget? Check Out These Festival Freebies

piggy bankWhile lots of you are ramping up for back to school season, we’re putting the finishing touches on this year’s Festival! Our full program is now available for download, and you’ll notice that we’ve got quite a few free events that will be open to everyone.

If you’re interested in history, fashion, or gender studies we hope you’ll join us at our opening event on Wednesday, Sept. 23rd at the Buffalo History Museum where Patrick McDevitt will give a talk on the history of the men’s suit. The talk, a pop up exhibit, and a reception (including snacks!) are all free. The reception begins at 7pm and the talk will start at approximately 7:30.

Another new addition to our lineup is the Kids Tent, which will be open all day Saturday (9/26) during Festival hours. The Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Arts Center will host the “Gender Shop” on Rockwell Quad on the SUNY Buffalo State campus, where kids can explore notions of what it means to be a “girl” or “boy” through activities like dress-up and making their own video art. This is a great opportunity for kids to practice critical thinking skills while also getting a taste of what the Squeaky Wheel offers through its TechArts youth programs.

Between noon and 1pm on Saturday, the Rockwell Quad will also host a free “drag break.” In the world of drag performing, a “drag break” is an interlude during a contest when a drag performer entertains the crowd. Buffalo favorites such as Jayme Coxx will sashay through the Dining Tent in full regalia. Please feel free to introduce yourself and ask the performers questions about their professions and personae. These girls aren’t shy!

If you purchase a daypass by Sept. 23rd, you’ll also get a free boxed lunch from the West Side Bazaar. All daypass holders are also encouraged to attend our Gender Bender after-party on the Quad at 4pm, which will feature live music by Alison Pipitone and a cash bar!

Finally, all daypass holders will be given free admission to the Burchfield Penney Arts Center and to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

See you there!

The Sex of Sports

runningIn her Festival talk on the role of gender in sports, UB Professor of History Susan Cahn will discuss the evolving cultural image of the female athlete. Once considered “masculine” intruders in a male realm, women athletes were long characterized as “mannish amazons.”  For more than a century, women have had to fight for the right to compete in athletic competitions and be taken seriously as competitors.

Now, in high school and college, women’s participation rates are approaching parity with their male peers.  But old stereotypes linger and many doubt that women can ever be “equal” to men in sports. For example, in the wake of the US women’s soccer team’s victory at the world cup, there have also been reports about the horrible playing conditions that the athletes were forced to compete in and the outrageous pay gaps between female and male soccer players. Even at the highest levels, female athletes still garner less respect than male athletes.

Susan Cahn’s presentation, which will be held on September 26th from 3—4pm at Ketchum Hall, will examine the history of women’s sports in the United States to explore the many ways gender, sexuality, and sports intersect.  This history offers surprising insights about today’s sports world and the struggles that female athletes still face.

At the University at Buffalo, Susan Cahn teaches U.S. history, women’s history, and the history of sexuality.  She recently published Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Women’s Sport (2nd edition). In this edition of her book, “Susan K. Cahn updates her detailed history of women’s sport and the struggles over gender, sexuality, race, class, and policy that have often defined it. A new chapter explores the impact of Title IX and how the opportunities and interest in sports it helped create reshaped women’s lives even as the legislation itself came under sustained attack.” If you’re interested in reading it in advance of the Festival, you can get a copy here.

The Real Eunuchs of Constantinople

Byzantine mosaicTo counter the popular belief that gender-bending is a relatively modern-day phenomenon, Prof. John Arnold will give a talk on Saturday, Sept. 26th from 3—4pm in Ketchum Hall at SUNY Buffalo State about the history of non-binary gendered people, particularly the eunuchs of Constantinople.  Eunuchs formed a visible and powerful group in the ancient city.

Castrated men such as Eutropius and Narses held high political and military positions even though they were deprived of the prime markers of male authority, the ability to penetrate and impregnate.  As such, eunuchs stood opposed to the uncut male bodies that normally wielded power.  Eunuchs were dangerously exposed to political opponents who construed their absent genitalia as signs of femininity and who used misogynistic language to marginalize eunuchs as “queer.”

If you want to read up on your history before Prof. Arnold’s talk, here’s a quick primer for you. According to the article,

“The Byzantine empire was a melting pot of East and West, with the Eastern Orthodox church reigning supreme and influencing almost all aspects of people’s lives, while the pagan elements from the time when Emperor Constantine relocated Rome to Byzantium as an intended new capital for the Roman empire, provided for an interesting and strange mixture of pious and fanatical Orthodoxy with a simultaneous exploration of ancient thought and lifestyle. As might be expected in such a situation there were many contrasts within the empire’s way of life and belief-system, the Byzantine eunuch being one of these.”

Prof. Arnold’s talk will also counter the common-held belief that the Middle Ages were somehow ignorant or backwards in regards to many of the values we hold today. In the battle for gender equality and LGBTQ rights, we often hear proponents of reform accuse conservatives of “trying to bring us back to the Middle Ages” when in fact these statements do a great injustice to history.

John Charles Arnold is Associate Professor of History at SUNY Fredonia, where he teaches courses on the ancient and medieval worlds.  His research concerns angel veneration in early Christianity and the sanctuary of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.