Feminism: a word that inspires images of a bold woman speaking her mind against society, or eye rolls. A woman seen as a dreaded feminist is most likely ugly and butch – she obviously can’t get a man, so she hates them – probably lesbian and in the process of shouting about chauvinistic pigs at any man to cross her sight whilst burning her bra. Everybody knows that, right?
Of course this isn’t true. Any woman with a brain can perpetuate feminist ideals and can, as such, be labeled as a feminist. Feminism isn’t about giving up your religion or hating all men. Anyone who is passionate about women’s rights or feminism will be able to tell you that these movements are about equality between genders. A look at our own campus this past Wednesday would reveal a mass of over 400 students, male and female, marching to support women’s rights. They chanted against rape and violence well into the night.
Like any movement, feminism can have its flaws. Some people take it too far with ideals such as inequality in favor of females and ignore issues that affect both men and women. Accusations of being anti-feminist can shut down intellectual debates and criticisms that might help the movement to progress.
The statistics are out there. They’re scary, but even women ultimately ignore them. Rape remains the most unreported crime in America. Stigma is attached to the victim of rape, unlike victims of other violent crimes. The woman was asking for it by wearing skimpy clothes or being drunk and alone, or she’s making it up because she’s ashamed of having consensual sex. Unfortunately, rape is included in the list of crimes riddled with false accusations, and it undermines the severity of the crime. We must never forget that men are also raped, although the demographic for the rapist who preys on men is very different than the rapist who preys on women. A man who is raped is also stereotyped, perhaps being gay and also asking for it. Does anyone see people walking up to others and asking to be raped, gay or straight or otherwise? Didn’t think so.
During Oswego State’s eight-week women’s self defense course, college women learned anti-rape techniques ultimately designed for the woman to get away safely. The class ended with a rape simulation in which each female has to fend off her attacker and get to a safe space. The comments the instructors make, implying vulnerability and perverse sexual deviance seem humorous. Some of the comments seem like something any guy would say at a bar, and some of them strike a chord as taking things too far. None of these matter after you’re grabbed and suddenly it’s a fight for your life.
College students must constantly face sexism and the offhand nature in which these issues are confronted. Boys will be boys, girls will be girls – these kinds of mentalities are not helping any cause. When a man is criticized because he does not conform enough to Western ideals of masculinity, or a woman is called a bitch or a slut in what she sees as a joking manner, nobody is furthered. Last year, Duke University was under scrutiny after a derogatory email was sent around to all college females on a fraternity’s mailing list inviting them to a Halloween party saying, “Whether your [sic] dressing up as a slutty nurse, a slutty doctor, a slutty schoolgirl, or just a total slut…” Many women probably went to this party, and many probably ignored it as crude humor, but one got mad and posted the email all over campus. With this public display the scandal was released to the media, and only the media and that one girl made this an issue.
So when you’re out this Halloween, be sure to be safe. Go with a group and know your limits, which don’t have to involve simply remaining conscious. You also probably shouldn’t go to those parties who advertise like the Duke fraternity, but you have the freedom to do so anyway. Know that rape can happen to you, and that you don’t have to be a victim. Understand that there is an entire campus of people who will support you. Feel free to dress like a nun, a cheerleader or even a slutty cheerleader, because you aren’t asking for it.