On being a University woman
A call for action and a Gender Studies requirement
“Hey, bitch, give me your number,” one yelled.
“I lost my number. I think I need yours,” another called.
I wanted to turn around and give them all the middle finger and tell them why their actions were wrong, why their words hurt not just me, but themselves too. But I just stared ahead.
Experience has taught me not to acknowledge the 20-somethings who perch on the wall across from Boylan Heights. Experience taught me to put one foot in front of the other during my mid-afternoon walk to my apartment from class. Experience and culture enforced the denial and forgetting of catcalls and misogynistic comments.
When home during Christmas, my dad told me that I hit the “genetic lottery.” I never want for food, a roof or new clothes. More importantly, I have been given an educational experience 99 percent of the world would die to have.
Yet in this moment, walking in the biting cold from a history class, I questioned whether or not being born a girl really means winning the lottery. Furthermore, I questioned whether my exceptional education was attempting to reconcile and eliminate the negative effects of being a woman.
My history class this semester, Women in South Asia, has 57 students. Of these 57 students, there are only four men enrolled. On the first day of class, my professor said, “Look around. These men are your allies. They didn’t need to take this class.”
The point of this article is not to blame male students who don’t want to take a gender studies class. Rather, I wish to examine the academic culture which simultaneously produces the misogyny of students on the Corner, and a Women, Gender & Sexuality program which caters almost entirely to female students.
Gender relations are not a newly debated topic. Many have long acknowledged that the world works differently for women and men, and, in many ways, women are objectified by a society that puts significant pressure on them to become both a sex object and a CEO.
In the past week, while nearly 1,000 girls trudged through sleet and rain to participate in sorority recruitment, fraternity boys sat and threw frozen waffles at them. A few nights ago, a random student groped my friend at a bar. In the infamous statistic, one in four women will be sexually assaulted while in college. To state “women are treated equally here” is to deny the experiences of many women.
I believe the University has an obligation not only to respond to sexual assault charges in a more punitive manner, but also to create an environment which prevents these assaults from occurring in the first place.
I acknowledge that our generation is rapidly changing, and the University itself has become a place which fosters this kind of discussion. Just this past week, a fellow Life columnist tackled the use of the word “slut,” showcasing the growing trend of discussion-based approach to the gender gap.
But even as we see progress, I am not satisfied with my position as a woman here. In hearing male friends deny female exploitation, the skewed number of males in leadership positions, the catcalls and frozen waffles thrown to silence and degrade, I feel it necessary to call for reform.
Ultimately, I wish for an open and fear-free environment for the women of this community. I think this can be possible with a requirement in the Women, Gender & Sexuality program, or an equivalent class focusing on women’s issues. As important as increased education efforts by peer-groups such as One in Four remain, I feel that there is a lack of understanding and awareness of gender issues in the community that needs to be addressed.
I call for a University which promotes individuals, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or religious background. This promotion is naturally coupled with a protection of the University’s students, and punishment taken toward those that infringe upon these rights.
Grace’s column runs biweekly Fridays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.