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Students protest movie

By Harold A. Stern

Over 25 people protested pornography at MIT Saturday afternoon. Pro-femina, a women's group on campus, sponsored the demonstration. The protest coincided with the Lecture Series Committee's (LSC) showing of The Opening of Misty Beethoven, a sexually explicit film.

Members of several MIT and non-MIT groups gathered in front of the Julius A. Stratton '23 Student Center and walked to 26-100, the site of the screening. The protesters entered the lobby of Building 16, where tickets for the movie were being sold.

Approximately 20 of the demonstrators bought tickets for the first showing, according to Gordon E. Strong '85, an LSC representative. The protestors walked around the room before the showing began.

"When the movie started, a few of them jumped up onto the table on the stage," Strong said. "When they would not take their seats, we turned on the lights and had the Campus Police escort them out."

LSC refunded the protestors' money, he added. The protestors proceeded to the house of President Paul E. Gray '54, where they remained until the next showing. There were no further incidents at any of the later screenings.

A statement prepared by Pro-femina said: "Pornography is a direct cause of violence against women ... at MIT, many women have been both verbally and physically harassed before and after the showing of pornographic films."

The statement cited the "misrepresentation [of women which] changes the way men think about women and the way women think about themselves" as a cause of harassment.

Laura Hastings G and Gretchen Ritter G, two participants in the demonstration, said the lack of awareness on the MIT campus of the extent of sexual harassment is a problem. "There is a lot of subtlety to harassment ... A lot of things are not open or recognized by men, or by women, as harassment," Hastings explained.

Hastings and Ritter hoped the protest would "help people to come together and realize what it means to feel degraded," Hastings added.

The effort "will not stop after the movie," Ritter said, predicting "the fight is going to go on for a long time."

The major problem, Hastings said, is the attitude of students. The women on campus "want to become one of the boys," and do not want to do anything that will "get them noticed," as far as speaking out about harassment.

Ritter also said that men's attitudes toward women here are "horrendous." Pornography is "symptomatic of the larger disease of male attitudes towards women at MIT," Ritter said. The two, who were undergraduates at Harvard University and Cornell University, respectively, believed that the situation is much better elsewhere.

Emily Fierer of the Wellesley Women's Alliance agreed. She said "intercollegiate attitudes at MIT are weird as all hell." She believed men's opinions of women are "based on fantasy," and that men at MIT are unable to "understand what females are like as people, not playthings."

Fierer accused LSC of not trying to find inoffensive films. She claimed LSC "does not want to bother finding erotic movies. They are content to show pornography."

Although she believed the Ad Hoc Pornography Screening Committee was a step in the right direction, she said they "do not have input from people sensitized to pornography."

Pro-femina's newsletter, however, criticized the committee's efforts to find a sexually explicit film which does not objectify women. The newsletter referred to the committee as a "smokescreen committee."

A lesbian organization associated with Pro-femina showed an alternative film Saturday night. Fierer believed "the movie was inappropriate" calling it "a little silly." Over 400 people attended that screening.

Over 1300 people bought tickets to The Opening of Misty Beethoven, according to LSC. Das Boot, LSC's alternative movie, attracted 973 people. More than 1500 people attended The Dancers, an X-rated movie screened by LSC at the end of spring term, 1984.