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We are NOD your sex doll

By Yiyi Yang and Ariana Zhu     10/24/23 11:17pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

As we approach Night of Decadence, one of Rice’s most highly anticipated publics, we find ourselves facing a concerning theme for this year: “NODie Dreamhouse: Cum On Barbie, Let’s Get NODy.” This playful twist on “Barbie Dreamhouse: Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party,” inspired by the recent “Barbie” blockbuster, has led us to question the theme’s level of inclusion.

We feel compelled to raise concerns about this year’s NOD theme due to its troubling sexist undertones. The phrase “Cum on Barbie” used in the theme fundamentally distorts the female empowerment that the movie “Barbie” aims to convey. By replacing “come” with “cum,” the phrase deviates from the original meaning, which was to extend a party invite to Barbie. Rather, it diminishes Barbie’s autonomy and reduces her to an object designed solely to satisfy the cisgender heterosexual male’s desire. Such language reinforces heteronormativity and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes.

Given that the theme was chosen through a college-wide majority vote after nomination, it prompts us to question whether the Wiess College Cabinet and members have fully considered the implications, though we believe they have no bad intentions. We understand that it can be challenging to craft an attention-grabbing theme, but we are confident that this can be done without causing offense. Looking through all past NOD themes from 1972 to 2022, we noted that while many themes have sexual allusions, none explicitly objectify people based on their gender to the extent that “Cum on Barbie” does. Searching on Google with some relevant keywords, it is evident that the verb come / cum itself applies to all genders, but cum on is predominantly, if not exclusively, hegemonized — in linguistic, visual, and overall narrative terms — with a male subject and a female object. In a sense, whoever is represented by Barbie is the female object here.

You might want to ask, is this issue worth thinking about that much? Are we just being too sensitive and wasting our time and energy on what might seem like a minor concern? Well, what we want to target here is not only the problematic NOD theme this year, but also patriarchal language. This language is so embedded in our daily life that we employ it without much thinking and without noticing its underlying toxicity. We hope to draw attention to the theme so that we can use it as a starting point to discuss the language we use every day and advocate for greater inclusion at Rice. Let’s not fall into the patriarchal trap, as it harms not only women, but also men and people who identify with all other genders.

To promote inclusivity at Rice, a public theme that contributes to male gaze, misogyny and heteronormativity should be avoided by all means. After all, Barbie, being objectified and deprived of agency could be you or me. 

Wise students can be creative in a more inclusive way than that. We urge the Wiess College Socials, Diversity Chairs and Cabinet at large to take responsibility for ensuring a safe and respectful environment. There are many on-campus resources to help as well. Diversity Facilitators from the Multicultural Center and the Student Association Diversity and Inclusion Committee are good resources to reach out to before finalizing the theme. The Rice Women’s Resource Center and Rice Pride can also help identify problematic wording based on gender and sexuality. 

As we involve the Rice community in this collective reflection, let us not only consider the importance of respecting each other's body sovereignty but also acknowledge and address any potential perpetuation of a heteronormative culture stemming from the theme and beyond. Through these efforts, we aspire to foster a more inclusive and compassionate community at Rice.

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