What the f- y’all birds talking about?
Get the f- out of my house
‘fore I grab you by your hair and slap d- to your mouth. . .
“Domestic Violence” by RZA
Oh wait, the question was about gender issues at Williams wasn’t it? I was distracted by the above lyrics posted on an entry-mate’s door.
And I didn’t hear you the first time you tried to bring me back to happy Williams-land. That’s because the shouts of “Slut, slut, slut!” are still ringing in my ears from the fantastic Winter Carnival rendition of Singled Out, when the male contestants decided to contribute to the atmosphere by screaming this at the female ‘prize.’
Furthermore, I could barely tear my eyes away from the stack of porn in one of the male bathrooms in my dorm.
There is an interesting dynamic at Williams in regards to gender relations. On one hand, there are extremely intelligent women who have important roles and make valued contributions to the community. Incidents such as the ones highlighted above, however, show that things aren’t as rosy as they appear.
The idea of community is often emphasized at Williams. It’s a community that says it values diversity and the learning that can occur by recognizing these differences. At the same time, the difference in gender results in the devaluation of the human dignity of half the campus.
There is an undercurrent present that tacitly condones the objectification and degradation of women. Yet it is so hard to fight against these infringements because on the surface, everything seems fine. In addition, we’re so concerned with not infringing on the free speech rights of others that we neglect to object to things that degrade and objectify half of the campus population.
Objection and protest is seen as “non-p.c.” Free speech, however, is not the same as having a monopoly on all discourse. Discussion is needed to challenge existing ideas and perceptions of what being female really means. Our apathy can be disguised as the endorsement and respect for fellow students’ opinions. What happens though, when these opinions blatantly disrespect you?
Even when some of these issues are deemed worthy of conscious attention at Williams, they are still subject to being delegitimized through parody. To take a recent example, the Health Center distributed posters portraying a realistic scenario in which the message of the link between over-consumption of alcohol and date rape is portrayed by a stark black and white photograph with an accompanying message.
Rather than the message acting as a wake-up call to remind students of a grim and all too present reality, there are new posters made. Instead of a constructive message, this poster adds that the woman won’t be the only one to not get over it; neither will the male. The reason for this is not a person wracked with guilt; rather his friends will never let him forget that he slept with an ugly Williams woman. A support hotline number is then listed for survivors of such horrible instances.
Women’s issues are relevant to Williams. The prevalence of disordered eating is one example. The fact that women need to manipulate their bodies and deny the basic instinct of hunger to fit some ideal, whether athletic or beauty-based, should lead to the realization that these ideals need to be reexamined. Not only that, but our reactions to such “ideals” should also be scrutinized. Though one might not actively encourage such attitudes, are they condoned by one’s inaction?
We cannot be content with the major victories of feminism; we must eradicate the remnants of inequality. These “small” incidents continue to perpetuate a culture of degradation and oppression of women. By our inaction and apathy, we give an implicit acceptance of a worldview that objectifies women.