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Monday, November 12, 2012

An Open Letter to Converse Women

Dear Sisters, both Pink and Red,

Some people may wonder why our reaction to "Roxie the Red Devil" is so strong. They may not understand the common bond we share that is masked in class warfare: Devils vs. Panthers. They may not understand why we love Richard despite his toothy grin, or worse, they may not understand our deep-seated respect for Converse Tradition and, most of all, the college's fundamental mission to empower every type of woman. 

Perhaps 1889 Week wouldn't be so invigorating if we didn't know, at our core, that we believe in the same things: empowering women to be thinkers, doers, and leaders. All women. We don't believe in empowering only the ones in the sexy red dresses, and we don't stand behind only the ones who, like Roxie, love a polka-dotted sash.

Would we devote ourselves to dances and powderpuff games if we didn't know that classes before us had also tested their loyalty and sisterhood while carrying around these ridiculous yet lovable icons? I don't know about you, but I want to meet Converse women for years to come who identify with Richard and Pantera. It's part of what makes us sisters - a shared experience that few others understand. 

The Roxie advertisement used the slogan "Beside every great man is a Converse woman." Since when has that been the value we claim? We find our worth not in the wonderful men (or women) beside us, but in our own capacity to learn, love, and be contributing members of society.

Roxie insinuates that we - as Red Devils, and Pink Panthers - have a preconceived notion of what constitutes success. Our mascot, the image we choose to represent us, now singles out a small sect of Converse Women. It highlights them as being a preferred variety. Richard didn't do that. There was a piece of Richard in all of us. Richard had that boyish bowtie, but he also has those feminine lips. Richard defies stereotypes, just like we do. Richard makes people stop and look twice. That's what we, Connies, want, isn't it? We want people to stop and look again, because we're different. We don't want to look like the next girl in a red dress. We want to stand out and stand together.

I don't see myself in Roxie. I don't see my lesbian friends or my musician friends or my Model League friends in Roxie. I especially don't see the values I equate in my heart to Converse in Roxie.

Comment on this post to "sign" our petition. Let's save our little Richard.





See Roxie here

UPDATE. Completely overwhelmed and inspired by the multitude of personal stories and thoughts shared about Converse today, there is now a real petition. Please sign and share!




55 comments:

  1. Richard for the win! (And this from a Pink Panther, mind you.)
    PS: Lauren, have you thought of sending this to B. Flem or other higher-ups?

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  2. Though i am a pink panther i am truly pulling for richard to come back! Lauren you are so right and i was appalled when i saw the roxie slogan "beside every great man is a converse woman". Those are not the values that we learned by as we grew in to young women and one of the things i loved about converse was the support in being a strong independent woman. Stay strong red devils!

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  3. I agree with how you put that. Richard is diverse. Roxie is like a model in a magazine who gives women an impossible ideal.

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  4. Really love this, Lauren. Completely agree with everything you said. Save Richard!

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  5. Beautifully written, Lauren! Truly.

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  6. Bring back Richard!! And yes, I'm a Pink Panther, but I believe in Converse TRADITION!

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  7. I'm a Red Devil that married a Richard. He'll always be my Red Devil. Roxie doesn't stand for anything, and that slogan is HORRIBLE.

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  8. Lauren, I appreciate you taking the time to write this and hope that all of the students involved in designing Roxie and writing her slogan are ashamed of themselves!

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  9. Bring back Richard, and if they want him to have a partner named Roxie she should at the very least be wearing a power suit and a strand of pearls.

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  10. This spouse of a Red Devil thinks the Richard should remain. During my wife's 10th Reunion, I attended with her, and I wore her horns. Being Richard the Red Devil for those couple of days brightened the experience for many a Converse Alumni. I was constantly being asked to join with a group of graduates spanning several decades who felt the bond with Richard... their Richard the Red Devil. I caught a shadow of that unity across the generations of Connies. I can only imagine how strong the direct tie is for each of them personally. Don't cut future Connies off from this link to prior graduates. Sometimes Traditions are worth keeping.

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  11. This is ridiculous. Proud Red Devil here, class of 1997, and Roxie must go. She is not me and the image of "standing behind" my man makes me want to puke. Not exactly how I was taught by my professors in my Converse years.

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  12. This Pink Panther is very disappointed in the new Red Devil. Richard is an icon, same as the Pink Panther. As a Converse Alum, we all have a part of both mascots in us. Roxie is provocative in dress, shaped nothing like a real woman and perpetuates all the very ideas that Converse taught against when I was a student. And her face is pink. Why? I am very disappointed. I agree with Richard Eicher, sometimes traditions are worth keeping.

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  13. One of my most treasured memories involve being a Red Devil with Richard as my mascot. Roxie just does not compare...

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  14. ...and you may garner a little more responses if you do away with the word verification...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Monica. I didn't realize I could do that. It's changed now.

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    2. No problem :) I wouldn't want that to hamper any comments in favor of Richard.

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  15. Yes! Long live Richard and to hell with the Bratz doll Roxie!

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  16. I am not opposed to change, but whenever something changes it should become BETTER. We would be reacting differently if this new mascot didn't come with an absurdly distorted body image and a catch phrase implying that we really just want to marry rich and successful men.

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  17. I can't even count the number of times that I, as a Converse alum, have had to explain that I didn't go to a finishing school, that women's colleges are about creating a safe space for young women to become their full selves despite the sexist expectations of the larger world. I'm sure that current students still hear stupid jokes about it being "a girl's school" and plenty of small-minded questions from high school friends about how they could ever go to a college without men, as though learning can only happen in the presence of Y chromosomes.

    What we've always been able to point to in response is the amazing community of women that Converse provides. The special tradition of Big Sis/Little Sis is a big part of that, being that it is so inclusive and uplifting. It's a far cry from the sorority model of success so often seen on other campuses.

    Likewise, I have always been proud of our bizarre little Red Devil mascot and the attention he garnered. There's something really lovely about the way we set the usual female imagery aside to embrace the silliness and absurdity that Richard stands for while we pulled together as a group. So yes, it's a slap in the face and more than a little concerning to see him replaced with a red carpet-ready beauty queen, and even more so to see the hideous, sexist slogan that was used to tease Roxie's unveiling.

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  18. Rachael Hicks JamisonNovember 13, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Another Pink Panther here... I am offended by Roxie and her implication that a fancy dress and a slender figure are so important, but I am absolutely horrified by this slogan. This is Converse; why is there any mention of a man at all?? I have nothing against men, but this just supports all of the male-dominated culture that Converse strives to teach its students to overcome. Why the giant leap backwards? Please, please rethink this, Converse.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. I'm a pink panther, and I proudly stand with my sisters in protest of the new mascot. My waistline looks nothing like Roxie's, and I don't need a great man to stand beside me so that I can be a great woman.

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  21. As a Converse 'husband' I'm giving the students, faculty, and alumna who came up with, approved, and implemented this new mascot an A for effort (excellent artwork and clever name), but a solid D- for execution, forethought, and relevance. This image, as it stands, perpetuates a stereotype which I don't believe any of the women involved in that process would ever intentionally support, and a stereotype which stands in direct contrast to the brilliant Converse ladies I knew and respected during my wife's time at the school. Converse College has, in my humble opinion, been a standard for single gender education in an age where that concept has not always proven popular. In fact, Converse is the reason why I am now an ardent proponent of single gender education. This scenario brings to mind a now famous phrase originally penned by President Roosevelt (Franklin) for a speech which he was never able to give; it seems appropriate here. The President wrote that the Second World War taught us that ''great power involves great responsibility'. I have no doubt that Converse is still very powerful, but for the first time I now find myself questioning how responsible she is.

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  22. Seeing as how most of those opposed to Roxie are alums, have they considered how this MIGHT affect monetary donations and support???

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    Replies
    1. They need to consider it. Roxie gives the wrong impression of Converse.

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  23. Are they renaming the panther patsy as well? My heart will only belong to Richard!!

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  24. One of the things that I treasured most about my time at Converse was the tradition. . . to share in those events particiated in by countless women before me and to know that new Connies would share those experiences for years to come. Whenever you meet an alum, whatever year you are from, you immediately had common ground that you shared. Losing Richard is just one of the many things that have happened in recent years that make me question whether Converse is the wonderful place I remember. Yes, change must occur in order to move forward but holding on to those long standing traditions remind us from where we came as we move forward. . . I hope that Converse pays attention to the outcry from alumni and reinstates Richard!

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  25. Converse will lose all support from me if they do not reinstate Richard.
    Pupu on Roxie!

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  26. Degradation will be the cause of less and less funding for Converse. I will never support a college that disrespects women using socially accepted icons versus true icons that promote individuality, strength, independence, and class.

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  27. Roxie belongs in Vogue magazine where women wish they could survive on salad and air to look like Heidi Klum, not on the Converse College campus where Red Devils and Pink Panthers alike learn the true value of themselves. Particularly the unfortunately inept slogan. Faculty guiding the design should be ashamed...

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  28. Thank you for posting this, Lauren. I stand with Richard and the class of '05!!

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  29. I just read the announcement on the Converse webpage. They referenced the decision of the class of 1975 to create Richard after "Modine" went missing and said the current class asked the administration for the opportunity to create a new red devil mascot now since Richard is missing. Though I love tradition, I understand that change does and will take place (Converse is no long the All Stars...remember.) However I don't think this class thought long term or what alumnae would think. Roxie is very creative but does not exemplify a Converse woman....and her motto is awful. A proud '02 panther

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  30. Although I am a pink panther whole heartedly I love my devil sisters just as much. I agree, Roxie with a sexy red dress, to me sends the wrong message. Has Pantera ever gone missing? I hope that enough people will take note and decide to bring back Richard and all the he stands for! GO GIRL!!!!
    -Kelly Orner

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    1. If Richard really is missing, they can make another one. Richard was broken while I was a student there. With all the effort and funding that has undoubtedly gone into making this new Roxie creature, I don't see why Richard can't be re-made. IF he's really missing. Oh, and I'm a pink panther too!

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    2. LBC again-

      Please let it be known that he is NOT missing!!!

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  31. Traditions are part of our core at Converse and the fact that we are strong ass kicking women...not divas who stand beside great men...I am so shocked and disappointed I have run out of words... Alum money up in the air here...fancy kitchens? Co-ed high end dorms? And you make a mascot of a diva...guess it fits. We are losing the core of the institution we love so much and put our sweat and tears into.

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  32. I completely agree - save Richard!!!

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  33. I agree with all the above comments. I believe there should now be a petition on change.org that can be emailed and sent to everyone, both Devils and our Panther classmates. This is definitely a way Converse will lose alum support. The current students obviously do not share our passion and traditions. If they did, this new mascot would new have even been created. Shame on you, Converse students!!!

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    1. Stephanie, here's the petition: spread the word!

      http://www.change.org/petitions/converse-college-bring-back-richard-an-essential-metaphor-for-converse-values-2#

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  34. As a current Pink Panther in the class of 2014, I strongly agree with the move to bring back Richard. Though he may not have been the cutest to look at (I may be biased haha) I would rather they have improved on his image or gave him an update. What appalled me most about the change was that there was not a vote from past, present, and future red devils. On top of that the image was found quite quickly after the reveal to be something from google than was photoshopped! As a girl who loves sunglasses and pearls, I feel that Richard embodied the quirks of Converse. He was lovable because of the way he was. Our own SGA president who is a Red Devil said during reveal that Richard was a joke on FB for all to see. Even more insulting is to now here this slogan of hers. One reason I came to Converse is because of their strong women and something they bragged about was that when placed in classrooms with boys we competed equally if not better. Please know that you are not alone in your sentiments. If anything there are more of us that are displeased than we are letting on. <3 Your sister LBC.

    Ps. If there is a petition I would reccomend getting as many signatures as possible and mailing copies of it directly to our SGA president, Dean of Students Molly Duesterhaus,the alumni office, and of course Betsey Fleming.

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    1. 2014 Panther, Thank you for your comments. I was surprised to see that instead of standing their ground & backing the reason for the change the FB page deleted the picture & the section with the reasoning & our comments. I have yet to see ONE current student go to their fb page and defend their decision. I sent my letter to Dean of Students & cc'd the alumnae office & President Fleming. I hope their mailboxes are flooded tomorrow morning! All contact information for them is on the Converse website! I also encourage everyone to write their favorite professors as well bc the faculty support is another part of what makes Converse great. They need to hear how we feel too!

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    2. You, sweet panther, just made my day. THANK YOU for supporting us and for upholding what Converse is about. We are so, so proud of you. If you have classmates who agree, please share this petition!

      http://www.change.org/petitions/converse-college-bring-back-richard-an-essential-metaphor-for-converse-values-2#

      Delete
  35. I cannot believe that anyone thought that "Beside every great man is a Converse woman" would be a good tagline. I was pretty sure that the whole point of a Converse education was to stand on our own. I proudly wore Richard as a good luck charm on Jeopardy, both to remind myself of everything I learned there and to honor the community that we formed. Plus, he was a good conversation piece; Roxie -- although I will admit I like the name and the tail/pitchfork cross -- is just another of the thousand generic women. (A version of this comment was removed from facebook; I can't remember the exact wording).

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  36. Roxie is not an acceptable substitute for Richard. I do not understand how the past red devils of Converse could be disregarded and disrespected by this.

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  37. Everyone, I am overwhelmed by your support today. I have never been so proud of my fellow Converse alumnae. The responses here, and on Facebook, have been thoughtful, intelligent, and meaningful. For that, I thank you. And now I ask - please sign this petition and share with your devil and panther friends!

    http://www.change.org/petitions/converse-college-bring-back-richard-an-essential-metaphor-for-converse-values-2#

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  38. Let me first say how proud I am of my wife, Lauren Maxwell.

    Also important is the complex issue of gender equality - not only through our laws, but in our hearts and minds as well.

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  39. This is most infuriating! The idea that Roxie is what represents a Converse woman is absurd and I certainly do not intend on being the woman beside a great man. I found myself at Converse. Like many women before me I struggled to find my true sense of self. Converse taught me that the woman looking back in the mirror is just as important as any man. I think I am different because I grew up at Converse. Literally. I watched these traditions from birth. I remember attending 1889 events as a child and enjoying the class rivalry. I think that Roxie representing a class is a huge injustice to the women of Converse. I look nothing like Roxie and it took me years and years to be ok with that. What are we telling the future women of Converse? If you don't look like this and you aren't willing to be the woman behind a great man you are unworthy? To me this goes against everything Converse stands for.

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  40. I, like many others, agree with what has already been so eloquently said. I would also like to add that while I do understand (and, in some ways, agree with) the move to create a female mascot for current and future Red Devils, I'm disappointed by the steps taken to enact this change. But what I am most disappointed in is the loss of a mascot who taught us to love differently. That is, Richard certainly wasn't going to win any beauty pageants, but what he did win was us. Creepy? Maybe. A little odd? Definitely. Despite this, we loved him. We loved him because he taught us to love ourselves--to love our strengths and our weaknesses, to love our sisters in times of great happiness and great annoyance, to love others because no matter whether they were in pearls or pajamas, they were a part of our family. His difference was something to which we could all relate. Who hasn't, at one time or another, felt like the Richard in the group? The one standing on the edge of the crowd, not sure of her place, but, despite all this, still being welcomed and fiercely loved.

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  41. Update for Everyone. Please share.

    http://laurenmaxwell.blogspot.com/2012/11/update-for-converse-women.html

    ReplyDelete

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