I woke up this morning and decided I was going to be an angry feminist. I got out of bed, burned a few bras, called a ton of guys in my entry chauvinist pigs and got a buzz cut. Next on my list was to go off on a rant about how men are ruining my life. After a few hours of picketing on Paresky lawn, I decided to end my feminazi terror spree and go back to my day to day routine. If it’s Friday night, that means I’ll slip into a cute dress, have a few drinks and go out.
As nights are pretty predictable around here, there’s a solid schedule of what goes down – I’ll wander around with friends trying to find a fun party to settle at for a bit until the energy dies out, laugh at some corny jokes and have my a** grabbed at least once by someone I may or may not know. This is no exceptional routine for many girls around campus; in fact I think it’s more than fair to argue that this is pretty standard for most of my friends.
All too often while recapping the night’s adventures with friends at brunch the next morning, I hear people say, “Yeah he definitely grabbed my a**, but he was drunk. It’s not a big deal,” or something to that effect. This is then followed by some joke about guys being jerks when they’re drunk. Usually, this is a minor talking point: We all glaze over the storyteller and move on. Why would we care to talk about something no one seems to care about? After all, what’s the big deal?
According the American Association of University Women’s 72-page report on sexual harassment on college campuses in 2005, sexual harassment is defined as “unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior, which interferes with your life.” The same study also showed that almost two-thirds of college students have experienced some sort of sexual harassment. Sarah Lawrence College defines sexual assault as “when an individual engages in sexual activity without the explicit consent of the other individual involved.” The moment that words like “assault” or “harassment” come out of a girl’s mouth, an inevitable cringe usually follows. The reality is that we have been conditioned to avoid these trigger words for fear of doing something wrong. Taking that notion a step further, no one wants to be labeled as a “rapist.” Language in this sense is very powerful and often underestimated tool for us. By using terms like “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” and “rape” we actively choose to categorize different uncomfortable sexual experiences, but rarely do we take the time to actually define what each of these means.
I’m going to climb back into my scary feminist costume and hop on my soapbox for a minute here – so bear with me as I scream profanities and throw tampons at men. It is absolutely our responsibility as a community of men and women to collectively address sexual harassment around campus. Seeing a girl getting her a** grabbed or hearing any sort of inappropriate comment being directed at a girl who is clearly uncomfortable is by no means acceptable (side note: Sorry for being so super heteronormative, but for simplicity’s sake, stick with me). Sexual harassment should not be a scary phrase that we refuse to acknowledge – especially when it is the appropriate label for something as seemingly innocuous as grabbing a girl’s a**. I, for one, did not choose to donate my a** to the public domain and would prefer that grimy hands would keep off of it. I don’t care how tight my dress is, nor do I care to blame your drunkenness as an excuse to touch it.
So why should you care what I have to say about this? Let’s break this down. We live in a complex and diverse community of individuals and must understand that we all operate under various and unique notions of what is comfortable or OK for ourselves. But it is our job to take collective action and consideration for the way we interact with one another. Whether we would like to admit it or not, even our smallest actions will contribute to the culture of the College and ultimately decide what is normal or acceptable around here. I am not OK with the amount of sexual harassment around this campus and the fact that the commodification of a woman’s a** around here has become so commonplace. At this point, you’re probably either ferociously nodding your head in agreement, or you probably tuned out three and a half paragraphs ago once you realized I was actually making a point and not just making caricatures of feminists. But if you’ve gotten this far, thank you. This op-ed is just one tiny step in the right direction. We need all hands on deck for this mission to eradicate sexual harassment – not all hands on a**es.