Mini Course in Feminism

[ By on June 10, 2014 ]

I wrote the following blog posts as my final project for a mini-course in feminism that I took this semester.

I wish it were socially acceptable to say that I am a feminist. Because I am. And the word “feminist” has such a negative connotation and is associated with man-hating women who want special privileges based on gender. Right now, we are overwhelmed with the implicit message that we’re bitchy if we speak our minds because if we do that, we fail at our job of catering to everyone else’s needs. And heaven forbid we try to take leadership roles. If a man gives directions, he is a good leader, but we are bossy if we do the same thing. Oh, and let’s not forget that we aren’t supposed to have sex drives either. We need to cater to men’s uncontrollable, constantly present sexual needs. Men are congratulated for seeking out and having lots of sexual encounters with women, whether these encounters are in one-night stands or serious relationships. But if a woman tries to have as much sex as is socially acceptable for a man, she is a whore and her friends will often be judgmental about her behavior. But women are whores anyway because they get high-powered positions in companies by sleeping with superiors. So apparently, women wanting to be seen as equal to men would be a special privilege that women just can’t have because then the world would be overrun with bossy, bitchy, sex-crazed women, right? Yeah, okay. Bull*%!#. I’m not going to settle for the double standards that dominate our society.

Note: The following post contains conversations about rape and victim-blaming.

“If you get really drunk and get raped, you are asking for it.”

This past April, I did an overnight at the college I will attend this fall as part of an admitted students visit program. During my overnight, some current students gave other prospective students and me a tour of the campus. We passed by a fraternity house that a current student said was known as a hotbed for rape at parties. We started talking about rape on college campuses and one prospective student, Anna*, said that if you get raped because you were drunk at a party, you were asking for it. I said, “No one deserves to get raped” multiple times, but Anna did not change her mind. She eventually said, “I know I’m a terrible person, but you are still asking to get raped.” I wish I could say I was surprised by this encounter, but I was not. So many people take the attitude that a woman is responsible if she gets raped while drunk, but what about the (sober) men who take advantage of drunk women (or men) or the men who get too drunk to control themselves and rape people because of it? Where is the responsibility on people who commit rape? This attitude downplays the problem; a former Harvard student who is a survivor of rape said that someone at University Health Services asked her if her drinking habits were the issue, since they had apparently led to her sexual assault. Looking back on this incident, I realize that Anna was either removed from the fact that rape is a real phenomenon in the lives of many college students, had internalized the idea that women are responsible for the sexual crimes men inflict on them, or both.

*Anna’s name has been changed to protect her privacy

“Yeah, guys are just horny. They have their needs.”

I have heard these words so many times because this sentiment is deeply ingrained in our culture. If men just have these monstrous sexual needs that constantly demand satisfaction, what are women? Vessels for fulfilling these needs? This idea of men’s needs is reinforced by some* facets of the porn industry. Violent scenes provide an outlet for men to live out their sexual fantasies, and the men who watch these scenes prefer them to real women because women have their own needs. Why is it noteworthy that girls have sex drives, anyway? I think the stigma against female sexuality comes from our culture of male entitlement, which so many men have internalized. A man murdered multiple women because he blamed women as a whole for his sexual inexperience. He said, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it.” Men have been taught that women are prizes to be won. Since women are just rewards for doing well in life, how can they possibly have their own needs and desires?

*I am aware that there are some areas of the porn industry where women are treated with respect and that there are scenes that are not violent. I don’t think all porn is bad; my opposition to some forms of porn stems from the fact that those aspects change men’s attitudes toward women and the porn industry as a whole was created explicitly for men, not men and women.

“It’s wrong for girls to touch themselves down there.”

So many people have an image of masturbation as something teenage guys with raging hormones do in order to fulfill their sexual needs. Masturbating to Playboy magazines and Internet porn is seen as a normal activity in a teenage boy’s life, but that is far from true for girls. Women must not need it, since they only exist to please men, anyway. And even if women do it, it has to be to satisfy men, since apparently, female masturbation is only acceptable in porn. So many women are taught that masturbation is dirty and wrong, and by that logic, women are dirty if they do something that only benefits them and not a man.

“You can’t gain weight because if you do, guys won’t find you attractive.”

This sentiment is deeply ingrained in our society and in women’s minds. I mean, isn’t a woman’s only purpose in life to conform to society’s standard of what is attractive? Women need to exercise all the time and live on a diet of vegetables because carbohydrates are evil and anyway, why should women bother being healthy for the sake of being healthy? It won’t benefit the men who want to sleep with them, so it must be pointless. And if women gain weight, that’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to them. They’ve failed at their job of pleasing men.

“You took that hit like a man.”

At a field hockey camp I went to, one of the coaches said that to me after I took a hard hit to my stomach (I’m a goalie, so I was protected by my equipment) and kept playing. While I was pleased by that compliment, I couldn’t help but think about how loaded it was. Apparently women just can’t be tough, so on the rare occasions they are tough, they are like men. So if being like a man is a compliment, being like a woman is an insult.

 

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