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Hustler Article and Fetish Ball Eclipse Town Hall Meeting

Vanessa Marlin

A Town Hall meeting was held on Monday night to discuss gender
relations on campus, yet the subject on many of the attendees’
minds was the controversy surrounding an article published in the
September issue of Hustler Magazine about the Mills Fetish Ball and
written by a former male graduate student.

One man and over 20 women attended the lively, yet peaceful
discussion, which was hosted by Mouthing Off!, the queer club on
campus, Mylls Women Collective, and the ASMC.

Vala Burnett, a senior, came prepared with her laptop cued to
speak up for the “straight, white women,” who she believes are the
“silent majority.” As a Mills student, Burnett said she does not
feel comfortable with the Fetish Ball as a public event on

“I don’t want to be associated with a college in Hustler,”
Burnett said. “I think the reputation is damaging to the

Even though event facilitators tried to focus more directly on
gender relations rather than the controversy surrounding the
Hustler article and the Fetish Ball, the commentary persisted.

Lauren White, president of Mouthing Off!, the club that
organizes the Fetish Ball, said that in her mind, she “will never
give up” on the event. White said student polls consistently find
that about 35 percent of the women at Mills are not straight and
that they feel the Fetish Ball is a safe space for them to express
their sexuality.

“Putting the blame on women erases Sam Ospovat’s [the author of
the Hustler article] blame,” White said. “It is unfair to take the
focus away from him.”

“The misogynist, homophobic aspects of the article is what
offended me,” said Erika Rickard, ASMC co-president.

Many students weighed in with their own perspectives about the
controversy, yet many felt the underlying issue is gender relations
at Mills.

Alexandria Brown, a senior, said that she enjoyed the Fetish
Ball and was not offended by the Hustler article. Yet, comments
from a posting on student news calling for students to beat Ospovat
with mag-lites and professor emeritus Diana Russell, who was quoted
in the Weekly as saying she wished Larry Flynt had “died in his
mother’s womb,” disturbed her more than the article itself.

“Militant feminists is not what Mills is about,” Brown said.

Event emcee Kasey P. Lindsay, president of the Myll’s Women
Collective, stressed that, “there’s a difference between being
angry and being militant,” and invited attendees to work together
to come up with ideas so that men and women can comfortably coexist
on campus.

Towards the end of the meeting, a committee on gender relations
was formed and a survey on the issue is in the works. A meeting
about the Hustler article is planned for the spring semester,
around the time of the Fetish Ball.