I was browsing SayAnything, one of the blogs frequented by Vassar students that provides a space for anonymous posting, which isn’t usually a good thing to do if you want to retain your faith in the general goodness of Vassar and humanity.
It’s a good site because it allows people to air their opinions without fear of being individually and personally targeted, however, many people use it to post hurtful or bigoted points of view.
Lately it’s been full of posts on cultural appropriation, feminism and white privilege; I admit I cringed on the inside when someone posted that they’d gotten into Vassar basically because they had money.
Vassar has a need-blind admission policy (aside from the transfer and international students), so this was quite surprising to say the least. But for the most part, I like to think that students at Vassar are the smart, talented people they seem to be.
As I was scrolling, one post in particular caught my eye; it was about having to defend yourself when saying you are a feminist, especially if you’re a female-identified person. As a female, this seems really unfortunate and frustrating.
The post mentioned that often times, women feel the need to separate themselves from extreme feminists- the ones that go out and rally, burn bras, that type of thing. But why is it necessary to distinguish what “type” of feminist you are?
Standing up for your much-deserved rights isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it is an absolute fact that women still don’t have equal rights or equal opportunity.
Even if the fight for women’s rights has been less dramatic than the civil rights’ fight, that doesn’t make it less important.
I read an article on some guy’s blog. He was the sort of typical bro- polo shirts, beer and all judging by the pictures on the website- and he had several articles dealing with women. One of them had been posted on SayAnything, and it was about the telltale signs of a slut. (Return of Kings, “24 signs she’s a slut” 09.04.13) The article was basically a lesson for guys on how to tell whether they’re going to get laid, based on how slutty a girl acts.
Additionally, there’s the email from a Georgia Tech fraternity, detailing how to hook up as well as instructing every guy to constantly be attempting to hook up, or they’ll be thrown out of the party and possibly out of the frat. (The Huffington Post, “Georgia Tech frat email about ‘Luring your Rapebait’ condemned by everyone”, 10.08.13) It’s things like this that perpetuate the idea that it’s okay for women to be objectified.
Women as the weaker sex, as being unable to make their own decisions: these are ideas which should have been left in the dust long ago. Instead, they invade modern times in the form of rape culture and slut-shaming, covering up and baring it all.
Women are criticized for adhering to the media’s idea of beauty, but shamed for not meeting those same, skewed ideas. If a woman chooses to dress modestly and/or not have sex, she’s called a prude, if she dresses and acts more provocatively, then she’s slammed for being a slut or a whore.
And even if a girl manages to strike a healthy balance and find a happy medium, they still can’t escape the rampant sexism exhibited by all the random men one meets in day. It’s impossible to leave behind the chains of misogyny and patriarchy that dominate society worldwide.
So where does that leave us? To give up the fight is unimaginable—no, the fight must continue- but is it a fight that can be won? There has been progress, mostly in the last century or so, but things are a long way from being equal. Every gain that has been made has been strongly and bitterly contested as long-held beliefs are forced to give way to social change and efforts for equality and progress.
However, as everyone knows, equality under the law does not necessarily guarantee equality in practice.
There are countries which are more advanced that the United States, and some which are far behind. But truth is, there is no truly equal country in the entire world. And what does that say about humanity?
Feminism isn’t, and should not be, a religion. It is a way of life. It’s people standing up and saying that women have the right to be paid the same and treated the same as men. It’s saying that possession of different organs is not a way to determine superiority or dominance. Feminism isn’t about being a woman or a man, it’s about equal rights for everyone, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
—Lily Elbaum ’16 is a prospective independent major.