We need to hold institutions accountable for reinforcing and perpetuating rape culture!

11 02 2009

We live in a culture in which rape is pervasive and sanctioned through sexist attitudes and beliefs that make violence against women seem like a normal, natural and inevitable part of society. Misogynist jokes, glamorized imagery of sexualized violence in the media, objectification of women, sexual harassment and the public / government dismissal of sexual violence as mere women’s issues help shape a rape culture and enable it to thrive.

The mainstream media is a strong arm of rape culture and frequently depicts violence against women in a way that sexualizes and glorifies it. Violence against women is so ubiquitous that we don’t see it because we see it everywhere which makes it so normalized and ingrained in our everyday lives that most people don’t even think twice about it. Paradoxical as that may seem, the oversaturation of violence in society has made us desensitized and numb to it. It makes us accept violence as a given part of life. The constant bombardment and oversaturation of these images in our society indoctrinates people into rape culture, degrade women, and eroticize violence against women.

Here are some examples of outrageous media advertisements that perpetuate rape culture. The images speak for themselves…

8 airbags. Really? Breasts as airbags?

8 airbags. Really? Breasts as airbags?


This woman looks like she is a Barbie doll in her original packaging.

This woman looks like she is a Barbie doll in her original packaging.


Tom Ford is notorious for having disturbing and incredibly misogynist ads. ...Just wow is all I have to say...

Tom Ford is notorious for having disturbing and incredibly misogynist ads. ...Just wow is all I have to say...


Again, this ad completely astounds me.

Again, this ad completely astounds me.


We need to hold the media accountable for their sexist representations and treatment of women and we need to hold the media accountable for perpetuating a rape culture. In order to do so we have to de-familiarize and de-normalize these offensive and toxic images and see them for what they really are – a misogynist vehicle that sustains our rape culture.

Rape is the most underreported crime on college campuses nationwide and is a silent epidemic that remains for the most part unaddressed and ignored. Most colleges discount sexual assaults on campus, prioritizing protecting their reputations instead of the safety and wellbeing of their students. They have flawed sexual assault policies that lack specific, concrete disciplinary procedures and re-victimize survivors. Further, many administrators and faculty members lack awareness about and training on how to deal with sexual assault on campus.

It is imperative that institutions of higher education assume leadership in ending sexual violence on their campuses by providing effective sexual assault education and implementing equitable sexual assault policies that enable survivors to pursue justice, thus ultimately working to transform a rape culture. In a rape culture, women especially live in fear and their freedoms are limited which prevents them from maximizing their productivity in society. Educational institutions have a moral responsibility in ensuring that this basic human right is realized and upheld, especially if they are committed to social justice and their goals are to prepare students for active civic engagement in society.

The Sexual Violence and Health Advisory Board is being launched to provide a direct way for students to provide feedback to the Tufts administration about the realities of sexual violence on campus and what resources, policies, and programming need to be updated or implemented in order to make Tufts a safer campus for everyone. The board’s first meeting is next Wednesday, February 18th at 7:30 pm in Room 202 of the Campus Center. Come for a chance to critique and help reform Tufts’ sexual assault policy and to start an important conversation that concerns everyone at Tufts.

I Just Wasn’t Into It

11 02 2009

Before reading on, this probably has some spoilers so if you have the uncontrollable urge to see this mediocre film, you may not want to read this post.  This weekend I saw “He’s Just Not That Into You.”  A bunch of ridiculous gender stereotypes, making men look selfish and inconsiderate and women look like tittering boy-crazy idiots are topped off with a completely not plausible ending in which all of the movie’s supposed relationship lessons completely switch.  The female characters in the movie are easily duped by men who just aren’t “into them.”  The single women are left as either blubbering messes or psycho stalkers, misinterpreting all of the men’s cryptic “signs” as interest.  

The main women characters fall into a few roles:  the “desperate internet-surfing one,” the “really really wants to get married one,” the “never sleeps with her husband and therefore is ruining the relationship one,” the “really quite adorable psycho stalker” and “the unabashedly cheating on her boyfriend with a married man one.”  The male characters are “the committed but not committed enough for marriage one,” “the lying, cheating on his wife with the girl from the grocery store one,” “the pathetic has a girlfriend but not really because she never sleeps with him one,” and “the rude dude sexy player who is unable to express his feelings but somehow is still a relationship guru one.” 

In general, most of the characters act irresponsibly or selfishly.  Then, at the very end, the rude dude falls in love and finally learns how to express his feelings (Well, just his interest.  Feelings would be too much.) to the former psycho stalker girl.  Some of the characters switch partners and everyone lives “happily ever after.”  The only character who held his moral position against the institution of marriage gives in and presents his girlfriend with a ring at the end of the film.  And the audience sighs and claps in glee.

The movie is topped off with lots of stereotypical gay men running around distributing relationship advice to heterosexual couples.  The moral of the story:  In heterosexual relationships, if a guy doesn’t call you right away, gives you his number (instead of taking yours), or shows one or more of a laundry list of “signs,” you can basically count him out.  The film’s mantra is that if a man is interested, he will make the relationship happen no matter what.  Advice for men:  if a woman doesn’t sleep with you, she isn’t waiting for the right time or holding out until marriage.  She just isn’t “into you!”  The film suggests that if a man doesn’t exhibit hearty masculine confidence he isn’t “shy”;  this is not a personality characteristic allowed in the masculine and confident modern man.  Oh, but if someone acts awkward and exhibits little self-control, you have probably got them hooked.  The relationship “signs” in the film, though admittedly presented with humor, are rather ridiculous and pretty much inaccurate. 

For gay men, the movie recommends that if your initial eye contact doesn’t last at least three seconds, the other man isn’t interested.   That, however is about all that is said on that issue.  The movie is, after all, about heterosexual young upper-middle-class white (oh, and good looking) couples, and the gay men are really just there for comic purpose.  The bi, lesbian, and trans community is, of course, completely absent.  The film’s characters all seem to have tons of money, but the few work scenes that are shown include either mindless chatter, surfing Myspace, or a love-triangle office sex scene that ends in one woman hiding in a closet (how original!)

I can’t say I’m surprised at the film’s quality.  I knew what I was getting myself into just by reading the title.  And, sadly, it was rather enjoyable at times.   But seeing it in theaters is not worth your ten bucks.  I am disappointed at how many top actors and actresses were involved in this rather mediocre and stereotypical film.  But then again, we live in a society in which racism, sexism, etc. is often invisible until pointed out.  Many of the people who saw the film seemed to enjoy it immensely and completely overlook the underlying messages concealed behind the cheeky wit of the actors’ banter.

Here are some favorite moments from the film:

Scarlet Johannson tells Brad Cooper that he has an ass that makes her want to dry hump.  Brad Cooper is impressed.

Justin Long tells Ginnifer Goodwin that he likes her, but follows it up with “don’t go doodling my name on your binder. I like you like a Basset hound because you’re kinda pathetic.”

Ginnifer tries to make a move on Justin.  He recoils and shouts “If a guy wants to date you, he will make it happen. Did I ask you out? Why do women do this? It’s insane!”

“Ooooh giiirrrl,” says a gay Asian man.

The gay men at the party assert that “gay signals are totally different from straight signals.”


Not the ivory tower…feminism in everyday life

11 02 2009

One of my main struggles as a feminist is how to live feminism and how to stay true to my feminist beliefs and values in my everyday life and relationships, be they platonic relationships, romantic relationships, familial relationships, professional relationships, etc. Imagine these two scenarios:

1. Thanksgiving dinner. Back home with the good old fam to celebrate the holidays. Everyone’s talking around the dinner table and your strange uncle who you never really liked repeatedly tells racist jokes that he thinks are hilarious. Do you sit there, bite your tongue and just silenty explode with rage inside your head? Or do you call him out on it? And if you do, how do you articulate yourself without being offensive or starting drama at a family dinner?

2. You are hanging out with your friends who you haven’t seen in a while. You start talking about various things and you mention how you are a feminist. Some of your friends start laughing and making fun of you, asking you if you shave your armpits, hate men, that whole thing. Someone makes a joke about “rounding up all those feminists and putting them where they belong.” You begin to get upset and you want to enlighten them and tell them what feminism is really about, but you don’t have the words. How do you start to explain what feminism is and why it is so important to you? Or do you just sit there silently and annoyed, waiting for someone to change the subject?

I tend to surround myself with like-minded people who share similar progressive beliefs and values. I’m not used to having to assert and explain my opinions because most of the people I hang out with understand and agree with me. Therefore when I encounter someone who does not know about feminism but is quick to negatively judge feminism and write it off, I never have the words to articulate myself with. Do people have similar experiences? What do you do instead? What advice or suggestions do you have?