On March 8, Harvard celebrated its fourth annual Feminist Coming Out Day. A day later, Adams House uploaded its housing video for 2013. The two events would seem to bear no relation aside from falling on the same weekend, but the Adams video shows how much progress remains to be done to combat sexism on Harvard’s campus.
The video parodies Kanye West’s 2005 single, “Gold Digger,” and features first-year girls who feign interest in Adams men in order to gain access to Adams House. The main “gold digger” gets plenty of screen time to dance suggestively while swiping into various parts of Adams while two male rappers brag about the wonderful amenities that attract the females to begin with. The “gold diggers” described rely on the lead rapper for their every need whether it’s access to fun Adams events, free frozen yogurt at Berryline, or even free Adams clothing. The video is clearly meant in jest, and it makes Adams look like a fun place to live. However, the video makes it seem like the perks of Adams are enjoyed by men, or someone who can gain the attention of one.
It’s not that the very concept of a female gold digger is offensive. There are many women (and men) who feign interest in romance to take advantage of their partners. What is problematic about this particular video is that while the two male leads get to flaunt their clever rhymes and (well-choreographed) dances, the women are relegated to slinking along anonymously in the background, or worse, nodding along to the list of sexist traits attributed to them. In one scene the lead rapper refers to the friends of the lead gold digger as her madams (clearly to rhyme with Adams but still an uncomfortable word choice). In another, the gold digger rises from beneath a table in Adams library, emerging next to the lead rapper, an image with awkward implications.
The video could easily have been both funny and fair to women by featuring gold diggers of both genders. As it currently stands, it is a sign that Harvard still has a way to go toward gender equality.