Monday, October 28, 2013

Reasons Why I'm a Feminist This Week

Last week, I had the pleasure of getting to hear a personal hero of mine, Jessica Valenti, speak. She gave an inspiring and powerful talk that reaffirmed all the reasons that I call myself a feminist and am proud to do so. In my teaching work, I meet a lot of young, intelligent women who are hesitant about the label, usually because they imagine it means they have to stop shaving their legs and start attending man-hating rallies. Or just get a lot more pissed off about stuff. As Valenti noted, a quick Google image search confirms these stereotypes - the first subcategory that comes up is "angry."

Valenti began her talk addressing this issue of young women not wanting to call themselves or be called feminists. And then she explained why she was a feminist THIS week, as in, the recent events that fuel her to do the work she's doing (which is blogging about women's & gender issues for The Nation and generally being an awesome activist role model).

So I'm going to steal a page from Valenti's playbook and tell you why I'm a feminist this week.

1. The reports coming out of Emerson College (where I went to grad school) re: their failure to take sexual assault reports seriously. This is the case on far too many college campuses -- administrators prefer to handle the matter without actual police involvement, and as result, rapists get wrist-slaps and the female students brave enough to come forward and report their assault end up feeling traumatized all over again.

2. On a related note, this well-intentioned but highly problematic Slate article by "Dear Prudence" columnist Emily Yoffe, which implies that if college women get less drunk, they would get assaulted less frequently. So if you're drunk, you're kind of asking for it, maybe? A firestorm of debate has erupted over this piece (and some great satire, like this piece that reverses the genders and advises men to drink less so as to not end up raping women), and while obviously underage binge-drinking is a problem in its own right, suggesting causality (as opposed to correlation) is dangerous and dumb. If you need a refresher on causality vs. correlation, this graph does a good job: 

3. Speaking of rape culture, this video by an Indian sketch comedy group is the best thing I've watched on the internet in a while. It's funny and also incredibly disturbing.

4.  The fact that Plan B costs $50. I don't know why that's bugging me this week, but it is -- it's legal without a prescription, which is good, but it's not exactly in an accessible price range.

5. Finally, I came across this over the weekend when I was perusing a website listing 100 easy Halloween costume ideas.

                          53. Gift box or Christmas gift (suggested for a young girl)

Emphasis mine. I'm really dying to know why this is a great costume for little girls -- to further remind them that they are a prize waiting to be unwrapped? Sounds a lot like the subject of Valenti's 2009 book, The Purity Myth, which was also made into a documentary. Watch the trailer here:

Young women shouldn't grow up thinking that their self-worth and their sexual identities are intertwined. Your decision to have sex or not have sex does not impact your value as a human being. The whole mythos surrounding the hymen is out of control - as this excellent "How Stuff Works" podcast explains, it isn't, as most people think, a membrane that can be punctured, but rather a ring of tissue that gets stretched from a variety of activities (and never, even when "'intact," completely covers the vaginal opening). SCIENCE!  

So that's what's making me a feminist this week.