Conflict exploded on campus when the CSULB administration decided not to post the title of the play, “Night of the Tribades,” on the school’s Seventh Street Marquee. Three articles in the Daily 49er, a news report on the school’s radio station, and one eye-catching student protest later, the school continues to stand by their decision.
The word “tribades” is an archaic, out-dated word for lesbian. Stephanie Rivera, who wrote a story on the conflict for Daily 49er, explained why the school decided not to promote the play. “Courtney Knight [theatre major and leader of the protest] said that people who drive by the school will see the see ‘tribades’ on the marquee and won’t know what it means. They’ll google the word and the search results will contain graphic images related to tribadism.”
Tribadism is a lesbian sex position, more commonly known today as scissoring. Since the two words sound closely-related, the school deemed the play’s title too risqué to be featured on the marquee.
A CSULB professor, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “offending people means losing support, which means losing money.” Perhaps recent budget cuts are causing the school to be extra cautious about their appearance in the community.
Budget cuts aside, students feel that the school’s reasoning behind their decision is irrational. In order to be offended, a person must take first the time to look up the meaning of “tribades” on the internet. Second, the person must take the time to be offended by the word “tribadism,” a word that has nothing to do with the play itself. Third, the person must be offended by the word, and change their perception of the University. In a fast-paced world, students doubt that this complicated chain of events will actually occur from a driver’s glance at the scrolling marquee.
Theatre majors and others involved in the play feel cheated by the CSULB Administration’s decision to not promote the title. The marquee is an important advertising tool to get the word out about their show.
However, 24 theatre majors managed to make up for lack of advertising by gaining attention through an unusual protest.
The protest strategically took place around noon, the school day’s highest traffic time, on November 17th and 18th, in front of the fountains at Brotman Hall. Some of the 24 protestors demonstrated the act of tribadism by sitting in scissor positions. Their mouths were sealed shut with two pieces of tape in the form of an X, and their shirts featured the word “Tribades” in bold black letters. These students sat in silence while others passed out fliers explaining their position on the issue.
Rhianna Maras, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies major at CSULB, said she is not surprised about the school’s decision. Maras said, “Topics such as lesbianism and homosexuality are seen as threatening [to the University] because they challenge traditional gender role with regards to sexuality.”
According to Maras, CSULB is built on patriarchal values and will not allow itself to be represented by anything that goes against traditional roles. “The marquee represents the school and what the school stands for, and the school does not outwardly support those that challenge its patriarchal foundation (i.e. gay men, lesbians, feminist ect.).”
Maras also talked about an article written by the Student Union newspaper in September entitled, “How to Get Laid: A Girls’ Guide for Guys.” The satirical article contains advice such as getting a girl drunk to have sex with her. This article is offensive and thought by many to be inappropriate for a newspaper representing the school. The article “justifies the sexual assault of women, especially on the CSULB campus,” Maras said.
If the school allows a newspaper to distribute hundreds of copies of this article joking about rape, how can they censor a word that simply means “lesbian?”
The censoring of this play’s title conflicts with other actions made by the school. Earlier in the semester, CSULB held a week-long series of events in support of National Coming Out Week (see article, “Lady Vajayjay Stirs Things Up at the Nugget” post below). The school held these events to celebrate the rights of LGBT, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered, individuals, and to spread the word of the hardships they must overcome to live in our society.
CSULB can talk the talk of equality, but with the censorship of this title they have proven that they can’t walk the walk.
SIDEBAR: The National Coming out Week events celebrated by CSULB spawned from National Coming Out Day. NCOD is celebrated on October 11th every year. This movement was founded by Robert Eichberg, psychologist, and Jean O’Leary, politician, in 1988, with its' first headquarters located in West Hollywood. Since then, recognition of the day has spread to all fifty states, and has even crossed international borders to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom. However, the day is celebrated on October 12th in some places outside of the U.S.