Archive | April, 2013

Socially Conscious Trolling (Or Why I Read Georgetown Confessions)

29 Apr

by Kat Kelley

I read Georgetown Confessions, because its large readership demands the presence of alternative voices.

In other words, I primarily read Georgetown Confessions because I fucking hate rape culture.

According to Force, rape culture, or rather our culture is a culture in which we are

“surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as ‘just the way things are.’”

Now I realize words like “patriarchy,” “misogyny,” and “rape culture” can turn away those less willing to acquaint themselves with the feminist movement. But stick with me just for this piece.

So why do I read Georgetown Confessions? Because there is a lot of misogyny and perpetuation of rape culture, and while I could boycott the page, I don’t want Hoyas to merely get that perspective (also, real talk, I do often enjoy the posts, and there is a lot of humor there).

We can’t change our rape culture if we don’t acknowledge it. I appreciate awareness, but sometimes I have people approach me regarding their realization that sexual assault is a big deal and super prevalent, or that feminism is still relevant, and I want to hit my head against a wall. So I love calling out rape culture. I love showing people that rape culture exists, that we need to acknowledge it, and most importantly, that I won’t take it lying down. 

Our generation is so easy to manipulate via social media; for example “facebook likes” are a powerful tool for punishing negative and reinforcing positive behavior. If someone posts their racist or elitist meanderings on Georgetown Confessions and they receive a shit storm of angry responses, they are likely going to (1) never vocalize those beliefs in a non-anonymous context, and maybe even (2) question their beliefs in light of the chorus of dissent. If someone admits that their guilty pleasure is Fall Out Boy and 55 people “agree” via likes, then they will know that every throwback playlist needs some “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me.”

So when I saw “Name gets rapey at Tombs” on Georgetown Insults’ page, I left a link to Force’s Upsetting Rape Culture page. Someone may call me out for being the politically correct police, but they are also going to think twice about trivializing rape in the future. And on these anonymous pages, people are testing the waters- they are throwing their thoughts out there, and getting feedback without having to take ownership. So I troll Georgetown Confessions to offer a counter point. 

So as many of you may be suspecting or aware, this piece has in fact been prompted by specific events. I was recently attacked via Georgetown Confessions. It started at tame, and then rapidly escalated.

It started out with me calling out rape culture. Some unknowing rape apologist asserted that women cannot complaining about unwanted attention if they dress in a certain way, and I pointed out that their post perpetuated the “she was asking for it” myth.

And anyone who has chatted with me about sexual assault, knows I hate rape myths, or commonly held assumptions that invalidate or deny the experiences of survivors, and justify the actions of perpetrators of sexual assault. These include the beliefs that it doesn’t happen here, women frequently lie and falsely report about sexual assault, that there is a fine line between consensual actions and sexual assault, that a man could “accidentally” sexually assault a woman, that women are “asking for it,” that perpetrators are evil strangers hiding in bushes, and that all perpetrators are men and all survivors are women.

However either the original author or reader didn’t appreciate my comment, and consequently a post appeared the next day, addressed to the “Ladies of Georgetown, Specifically @Kat Kelley,” claiming that if one is “wearing a whore’s uniform” the cannot “complain” that they were “verbally abused etc or sexually harassed.”

I had a lot of thoughts. Fortunately, someone else pointed out that sexual and verbal assault are never warranted, and my friend Jayme came to my defense. I benignly responded that such a comment was insulting to men- they aren’t animals, and the idea that they can’t help themselves around scantily clad women is offensive. I merely took a positive outlook- I didn’t use the word misogyny or patriarchy.

I anticipated that the author and readers of the submission would for a hot second realize that rape culture might just be a thing, and that their behavior and words perpetuate it. Or at the least, they’d avoid slut shaming in the future.

Instead, they attacked me, personally, claiming that despite the fact that I am empowered and a feminist I am still a slut. Fortunately, I immediately found an outpouring of support. A plethora of people commented in support, including people I’ve never met. And each of those comments was liked on liked on liked. Georgetown Confessions themselves apologized, promising to be more intentional about weeding out cyber bullying in the future, and deleted the first comment. And I realized that my friends are fucking awesome.

And you know what? Not only do I feel supported and validated and reinforced despite the prevalence of one hater- but the message is more important for all the other readers. 

Georgetown Confessions has 1696 followers, and as someone who runs a facebook page with 191 followers, yet has had statuses that have been seen by over 1000 people, and blogs read by over 1700 people, chances are, a fuck ton of people read that post. And while a few agreed that I’m a dirty whore and even more came out in my defense, the vast majority of those readers have learned- not only that you don’t fuck with Kat Kelley, because my friends are fierce activists who know quite well that “well behaved women (or men!) rarely make history” (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich)- but that slut shaming will not be tolerated by the vast majority of Hoyas (at least when it is in an obvious enough format that they can identify it…) and that sexual harassment and assault are never warranted.

Who Are the Sluts?

25 Apr

by Anonymous

I have one, very simple answer to this seemingly complex question, which has recently been hotly debated on the forum known as Georgetown Confessions.

My answer is no one.

I remember when, freshman year, being called a slut was one of the most shameful things that could happen to you. It has happened to girls ranging from my friends who were virgins who made out a lot, to girls who were sexually active and happy about it, to girls who were lonely and turned to sex as a source of companionship, to girls who lacked confidence and found sex reassuring, to girls who have sex they’re afraid to say no to, to girls who are proud of their bodies and like to show off regardless of whether they want to have sex with anyone.

I disagree with all of these definitions. I think that the word slut could be removed from the English language, and everyone would be better off. The word, its implications, and its effect do not, ever, add value.

Sex is complicated. People have a vast range of reasons for having it or not having it, from love to loneliness, from pleasure to pain, from reconciliation to rebounds, and sometimes just for fun.

College, for many of us, is a process of figuring out which of those do and don’t work, and hopefully finding the ones that do and embracing them. It still very much matters that process does not cause others harm, question or demand their consent, or put the sexual health of anyone involved at risk. Given these very important conditions, which are not factors of slut-hood but simply issues of human respect, it is the business of absolutely no one but the person involved (and their partner) to judge how good or bad any of those reasons may be.

Very few of us will make the perfect choices right away. This is why a support system and ongoing conversations about consent and safety and the importance of valuing yourself and your own boundaries is so, so important. I find it so exciting that resources, the space for these kinds of conversations, and an environment that fosters comfort saying yes when we want to and no when we don’t are being developed. These are the kinds of positive, active steps that foster the changes that people who slut-shame might think they’re encouraging when actually they only contribute to the problem.

Calling someone a slut IS NEVER part of fostering sexual safety, agency, or honesty. The more people shame others for acting in a way they deem “wrong,” the more they encourage fear of the conversation and discourage anyone from being honest with themselves or others about what they do and don’t want.

Shaming people for their choices does not invite those people, or anyone else attentive to the conversation, to come forward with uncertainties, insecurities, and questions.

Telling people they aren’t valuable because they haven’t valued themselves does not send them the message that they deserve value.

Calling someone a slut for acting out of low self-esteem WILL NOT help her recover from it.

If you look at someone you know, and are genuinely concerned about his or her sexual behavior for the sake of his or her well-being, that is a conversation worth having. Where we are still calling people sluts, we need to be asking people where they are, what they need, what their questions and confusions and hardships are.

We owe it to one another not to shame, but to support, helping each other cultivate healthy relationships to ourselves and our own self-worth and sexual agency. Make it OK to talk about where you are, regardless of where it is, so we can all move towards places that allow us to value our own sexual preferences, whatever they may be.

Learning Self Care

24 Apr

by Erin Riordan

Being a feminist can be really hard. Being a part of any progressive social movement, any group campaigning for social justice, is exhausting and frustrating. As important and powerful as this work is, sometimes I forget how to take a step back and just breath. I have been reflecting for a while on the idea of self-care and how to balance this with a greater concern for activism and action. Recent events, both those involving my brilliant, beautiful friend Kat Kelley, and the experience of Adria Richards at a recent tech conference, have pushed me to begin figuring out this negotiation between concern for myself and concern for the movement at large.

Kat, one of the most passionate activists I know for women, sexual health, and sex positivity (and co-founder and co-coordinator of this blog), was attacked via social media for the incredible work she does to advance these causes. Adria Richards called out two men for making sexist jokes at a tech conference, was fired, and then received a barrage of criticism, including rape and death threats, in response.

Whenever you are doing work that challenges oppression there are going to be people who hate what you are saying and doing and will challenge you on it. Not everyone is going to be thoughtful with their engagement. Some people will use slurs and ugly words and make threats and personal attacks. This can be disheartening and frustrating, sometimes it can be scary and, when one comment piles up on top of too many others, devastating.

As a writer on this blog, and a self-described radical feminist moving about in an occasionally hostile world, I certainly encounter my fair share of criticism and personal attacks, and am equally effected by attacks against my friends and feminist activists. I don’t always know how to respond to this. I am torn between a desire for retreat, not as an admission of defeat but as a break from all the hate and negativity, and a need to feel safe and supported again. The other half of me feels that I have a duty to stand up to all of this, to challenge every comment, poster, and article that is misogynistic (intentionally or not) and perpetuates the patriarchy. I don’t always know what to do or how to balance these two different instincts.

What I have taken away from the feminist community is that it is ok, and good, to take breaks. It is important that we take care of ourselves and take a timeout from engaging with all the negativity when we need to. Whether it is a particularly vicious commenter or a week spent reading and writing about sexual assault in Steubenville, it is ok to acknowledge that these things have an impact on us, that we are human and can be hurt and sometimes we need to focus on taking care of ourselves as a result. If this means taking a day or a week or a month, it is important that we do that, and not be so caught up in fighting misogyny or racism or classism or whatever else that we forget to give ourselves the time we need to heal, to reflect, to recover.

It is also important that we develop the resources we need to handle the emotional side of feminist and social justice work. This means developing strong communities of support- family, friends, fellow bloggers, and anyone else- who can offer love, support, hugs, and a little André when we need them.

However, it is also important to acknowledge that this sort of backlash is a reality of any work that seeks to challenge and change norms. As a mentor to the fantastic Chloe Angyal, of, said, “If you say things of consequence there will be consequences, but the alternative is to be inconsequential.” There can be empowerment found in the words that are meant to tear us down. It means that what we are doing is having an impact, that we are being heard. Even a person who responds with hatred or vitriol is engaging with us, and even if it seems like they are not taking anything productive away from the interaction, they have at least been exposed to ideas they might not otherwise be aware of. Ultimately what it means when we are attacked or harassed in our work is that we are challenging oppression, we are experiencing success in this challenge, and maybe, just maybe, leaving the world a better place.

Regretful Hook-ups and Practicing Consent

23 Apr

by Anonymous

This past fall I hooked up with a guy at a party and regretted it. Before the party I pregamed at a friend’s apartment and got very, very drunk. While most of my friends were barely tipsy, the vodka I drank hit me all at once and I ended up very drunk very quickly. The party was not particularly fun, and we wandered between the basement (where no one was dancing, much to my disappointment) and the backyard. I was sitting on the porch steps next to my friend when a guy I vaguely knew walked up the back steps. It took me a minute to recognize him because at this point everything was a little fuzzy, but when I did I leaped up, shouting his name and engulfing him in a hug. There was another guy with him who took that opportunity to wrap me up in a hug as well. I immediately felt weirded out by it because I didn’t know him, and I felt like he was maybe just excited to have found a really drunk girl.

I said I was bored and wanted to go dance, so my friend and the guy I didn’t know, Pete*, went downstairs to the basement. I stumbled down the stairs as Pete kept touching me- my arms, my shoulder, my waist, the small of my back. I realized at this point that he wanted to hook up with me but I had decided that I didn’t really want to hook up with him. I tried to talk to my friend and ignore him, but he was persistent, and wouldn’t stop touching me. My friend turned away for a minute, and Pete took that opportunity to kiss me, pressing me up against the brick wall behind me.

I realize that I should have stopped this all from happening, but I remember feeling like I just didn’t have the energy. So instead of shoving him away I just turned my head away. And when he kissed me again I let it happen, and this time I kissed him back. After a few minutes he suggested we go upstairs, but I protested that I wanted to stay in the basement and dance. He ignored me, pulling me up the stairs behind him. When we arrived in the backyard he kissed me again before suggesting we go to his house. I said no, and in response he kissed me. Then he asked me again if I wanted to go back to his place, and as he pulled me closer to the gate I said no, again. I remember telling him that I was having a good time at the party, that I didn’t want to, couldn’t, leave my friends, and that I didn’t want to go. He ignored me. This process repeated itself a few more times before he unlatched the gate and stepped out onto the sidewalk as I continued protesting.

He held me up as we walked down the sidewalk, and I remember feeling deeply discontented with the situation as we walked along. At least once I remember saying, drunkly, sloppily, “No, but I said I didn’t want to go home with you. I wanted to stay with my friends!” to which he would reassure me that we would see my friends and we were just going to have a little fun.

He unlocked the door to his house and I stumbled into his bedroom. I wished I wasn’t there but at the same time didn’t feel like I had the energy or willpower to leave. At that point I figured I might as well stay, hook up with him, and get it over with rather than leave. He led me over to the bed and I fell back onto his mattress as he climbed on top of me. We began kissing again, and almost immediately his mouth left mine and trailed down my neck to my breasts as he pulled my dress and bra down. We continued on like that for maybe ten more minutes, and then, without warning, he slid my dress up and his hand down beneath my tights, and slipped his fingers into my vagina.

I was shocked, caught totally off guard. I decided I would let it happen, but it began happening before I made that decision. After a few more minutes I sat up and told him I was ready to leave. He seemed frustrated and asked me to stay, but I refused, pulling my clothes back on and standing up. As I walked to the door he passed out on his bed and I went back to the party to rejoin my friends.

What happened that night was not sexual assault or rape, and I am not claiming it is. I ultimately consented to what happened that night and I take responsibility for that. But it matters that a guy decided to finger me without asking for my consent, and without thinking to check in with me first. This is not what consent should look like. Both people involved in a hook up should clearly give their consent, and it is not ok to assume the person you are hooking up with is consenting to everything that is going on. Simply because you are consenting or you haven’t heard otherwise from your partner does not mean that they are consenting. Pete had no idea whether or not I consented that night. I did consent, and that is important, but he never asked and never tried to ask. That is not ok. When we were making decisions about where to go earlier in the night he ignored me, and that is not ok. People need to understand, respect, and ask for consent.

It is also important to recognize the agency I had in this situation, the agency that for the most part I didn’t use. I protested when we left the party, and I ended the hook up before things went further than I wanted them to again, but there were other times in the night when I could have said something and could have stopped what was happening. I could have stopped Pete after he kissed me, and I certainly could have said no once I was hooking up with Pete in his room. For stupid reasons I felt like it was easier to go along with it, and that’s fucked up. I should feel like I have more sexual agency than that, because I do have more sexual agency than that. That is both my responsibility and the responsibility of a society that does a shitty job of teaching teenagers, and especially girls, about sex.

I have thought about writing this piece for a while, and was finally pushed to do so after reading Anna March’s piece My Bad Sex Wasn’t Rape. Her article was in regards to a particular sex scene on Girls, the ubiquitous T.V. show, in which Natalia is sexually assaulted by her boyfriend Adam. March contends that this was not a rape scene, as Natalia has more sexual autonomy than we give her credit for, and that just because a woman does not give consent does not mean that a woman was sexually assaulted. There is a lot wrong with March’s argument, not least of which is that her writing discredits and diminishes the stories of many survivors, but I also think it is worth discussing consent and how we talk about consent. It is not valid to assume every woman is capable or willing to say “no” even when she is not consenting.

Part of why I wrote this is because March wrote in her article that, “We can say yes and we can say no…We have to respect that agency no matter how someone chooses to enact it, whether that’s having sex they don’t really want to have in silence, or saying yes to it, or saying no and walking away.” While I agree with many parts of her message, she stresses again and again that women have this indomitable agency that is being miscategorized as rape or sexual assault in many cases. I disagree. I think that often it is hard to say no. And while sometimes consent can go unspoken and still be present, as in my case, other times someone might not feel strong enough or safe enough to say no, and that is not simply a failure on their part to act on their sexual agency. I think empowering women (and everyone else) to act on their sexual agency is wonderful and necessary, but it is also important to recognize that there are many times when people do not feel they can act on their sexual agency. And those times are not “gray areas” or “murky sex” or “bad sex”- those times are rape, and they are sexual assault, and it is important that we recognize that, act on that, and take the stories and experiences of survivors seriously.

*Name has been changed

Why the Day of Silence is Still Necessary

22 Apr

by Amy

Let’s be honest: Georgetown is pretty gay.  That’s exactly why the Day of Silence is so important, though.  It’s a reminder of what young students experience across the nation every day.  For me, it’s a reminder of high school.

I’m from the home of the ever-famous Don’t Say Gay Bill.  The legislation itself was not necessary, though.  No one talked about gay issues anyway.  I felt alone and I was scared.  I didn’t know how to reconcile my sexuality with my faith; I didn’t know if any of my friends or family would still love me; I didn’t know anyone who was openly gay; and I had no support.  It wasn’t that nobody was an ally, but nobody talked about it, so I had no idea.

While participating in the Day of Silence is nothing like this personal fear, it is the closest I can come today to once again experiencing the need for expression of myself.  Many times during the day, I will have something that I really want to say, and I will not be able to say it, because I have taken the vow of silence.  Not being able to express myself can even be somewhat physically painful as excitement or tension builds that cannot be released with words.  As I grow frustrated, I will remember that so many students in America have it much worse for so much longer than one day. This reminder is why the Day of Silence is still necessary.

Even though Georgetown is an open and supportive place for the LGBTQ community, many places are not, and participating in the Day of Silence is a way of remembering how much work we still need to do to ensure that all students feel comfortable expressing themselves.


Why is Fat a Feminist Issue?

18 Apr

by Emily Coccia 

When I look around me—at magazines, at television, at literature—I feel like in everything I see I find a focus on the female body or, more specifically, the ideal of the female body. While one magazine tells me how to lose weight and tone my abs to be ready to “rock a bikini this summer,” the next assures me that “curvy is sexy.” I hear ads for diet pills designed to make me drop weight instantly next to commercials for Wonderbras to accentuate my somehow-lacking female form. While the media criticizes women like Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera when they gain weight, instantly plastering photoshopped and unflattering photos of them across tabloid covers; the women who are rail-thin receive criticism for not being “womanly” enough, for lacking the hips and breasts that a real woman should have. Even feminist literature focuses on the idea of the female body. Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach posits that women become fat because they eat compulsively in response to living in a sexist social system; whereas Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney Martin argues that the feminism taught to women of our generation—the idea that we can do anything—led us to believe that we must be everything, including being rail-thin, and drives us to the extremes, including self-starvation. While Orbach and Martin examine different results, both authors find the root of the disordered relationship between women and food in the mother-daughter relationship and the female identity.

While the conversation about what feminism and gender inequality might be doing to the female mentality and body image is important to have, I have to wonder, why do we keep having this type of discussion? Why must we focus on a woman’s body, on her weight? Why does everything I hear have to do about my weight, about what I should weigh, about how that weight should be distributed on my frame—not for my health, but to appeal to the male gaze, to the societal expectation?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of being healthy, but somehow, the “fat issue” is no longer about health. When I saw the title Fat is a Feminist Issue, I assumed it would confront this idea that we have gendered the issue of weight. Instead, I found a book that discussed gender inequality as a root cause of female weight gain, further casting weight into the realm of the feminine, a “problem” faced by women. When the entire nation is facing an “obesity epidemic,” why am I receiving gender-specific reminders to lose weight for summer? And more importantly, why is the motivation provided always something about appealing to men? While this semester in Italy might have strained my commitment to a healthy lifestyle, I normally tend to promote good habits, eating well and going to the gym. But the point is: I do that for me. I don’t sit down with a box of Twinkies because I don’t particularly like the idea of eating something with a shelf life longer than my life expectancy. I work my butt off at the gym because I enjoy it and it makes me happy (I mean, I certainly don’t do Zumba because I look good doing it…). So why do my body and my weight have to be things for society to associate with my identity as a woman?

One of the reasons I got to thinking about this is the recent influx of comments on the “Georgetown Confessions” page, ranging from women confessing to having eating disorders, to men preaching their love of “full figured women,” to other women criticizing those in Yates. It was absurd. And the absurdity—to me—sprung from the fact that all the attention focused on women. I appreciated some of the responses from people who pointed out that they work out because it make them happy, but no one seemed to notice those comments. Instead, the debate raged on, perpetuating this idea of physicality as feminine, and as on display to the public. And it’s not a Georgetown-specific problem. We see it in the media, pervading our culture. We use gendered terms to talk about weight—when’s the last time you heard someone call a guy svelte or curvy? We focus on the bodies of female celebrities, noticing the second they gain an ounce and typecasting actresses based on their body types. And this discussion always seems to come back to what we find attractive and appealing, instead of what we know to be healthy (which research shows is not necessarily synonymous with thin). So rather than discuss the merits of thin or curvy, why can’t we focus on our own personal health? After all, I’d be much more interested in reading something with a scientific basis than some tips about what type of squats to do to get an “attention-grabbing butt.” If we all put our wellbeing first, maybe, just maybe, we can see that the focus on fat, not women being fat, is the issue for feminism. And maybe, just maybe, the solution lies in treating men and women’s weight the same way, in talking about health and good habits instead of sex appeal.

The Guilty Ones

17 Apr

by Christina Crisostomo

There are few things I love more than thriving online feminist communities and folk-rock musicals based on 19th century German plays about sexually repressed teenagers. So when I managed to meet editors Chloe and Lori and watch Mask and Bauble perform Spring Awakening in the SAME WEEK, you can probably imagine my fangirl frenzy. What I didn’t imagine was that, through these events, I’d be confronted with what I perceive to be some huge problems here at Georgetown.

But let’s start with the fun stuff. Spring Awakening is The Best Musical Ever. At least, it was to me when I first saw the original touring cast pass through my hometown at the tender age of 18. Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s Tony-winning musical spoke to me in a way no musical ever had before – and that’s because it got it. Based on a controversial (read: banned in Germany at the time) play written by Frank Wedekind in 1891, Spring Awakening portrayed topics like sexuality, abortion, child abuse and suicide the way no after-school special ever could: realistically, unapologetically, with humor, cursing and nudity and set to the tune of gorgeous folk-rock songs, of course! This angsty, musical-loving teen girl couldn’t get enough. I went to opening night without expectations – and returned to watch the show again the very next day. Yep, the guy at the box office recognized me and looked at me weirdly. But little did he know just how loudly the play had struck a chord within me.

After all, I was going through an “awakening” of my own. I could totally relate to Wendla’s confusion, guilt and shame about exploring her sexuality in the face of a religious upbringing – especially as I too was melting into a puddle at the sight of my very own atheistic Melchior Gabor. I understood the pain of not knowing: my mother, despite being the most awesome woman I know (and the first person to see Spring Awakening with me!), did not broach the topic of sex with me until I asked. And so I knew the pain of asking, rooted in my fear of disappointing my parents. This play marked the start of my ongoing journey to cast off that guilt and shame and start making decisions that were right for myself .

It may sound corny, but I feel like I didn’t find Spring Awakening – it found me. At the right place, at the right time.

Naturally, I was curious to revisit the play, four years later. Would it be as good as my first time? I was even more curious to find out: How were we getting away with this at Georgetown? If the play’s subject matter wasn’t enough to convince you of the oddity of performing it at a Catholic school, take this line from “All That’s Known”: Thought is suspect / And money is their idol / And nothing is okay unless it’s scripted in their Bible.

As my friend Morgan so eloquently explained, discussing many of the themes presented in Spring Awakening in a public, institutionalized setting at Georgetown is a considered a no-no, given its Catholic heritage. But it soon became clear at the Feministing event that students crave school-sanctioned safe spaces to talk about “taboo” topics like pre-marital sex, contraception access and abortion. The urgency of the hands raised and voices presented during the Q&A was telling. Our conversation jumped from sexual assault, to reproductive health, to contraception access, to free speech zones, to the policy against talking about abortion on our university radio station, to the lack of collaboration between feminist and POC communities at Georgetown…and this was not led by the Feministing editors, but by students, who clearly had opinions to share but seemingly had no place to say them. It’s one thing to write blog posts and speak about these issues among friends – but it’s another to feel like we’re really being listened to.

Spring Awakening managed to find me once again, at the right place, at the right time – but not the way I expected. I kept flashing back to moments from the Feministing conversation as I watched the play, especially as I watched Mask and Baublers jumping around jubilantly and freely while belting out the lyrics to “Totally Fucked”. How could Georgetown put on a play like this – whose ultimate message is to warn of the dangers of silencing and shaming young people – and simultaneously alienate so many of its students? As a school, are we only okay with addressing these themes in fiction, but not in reality? Why do we, as students, accept this? I thought I would watch Spring Awakening again and marvel at how much I’ve grown since I first saw it. But it many ways, I still feel like the teenage girl afraid to disappoint her parents – or in this case, afraid to disappoint Georgetown, which I love, but is certainly not without its flaws.

So now I’m speaking out. Following the Feministing event, I felt energized and empowered to voice my views. I suspect after watching Spring Awakening, others may feel the same. Like the play’s ending, in spite of the darkness I remain hopeful – hopeful that these conversations will continue beyond my graduation five weeks from now and turn into actions that create the safe spaces students need. I’m hopeful we will be heard.


16 Apr

by Amy

Male privilege is endemic to the Muslim community, even that here at Georgetown.

Let me begin by saying that Islam itself if not misogynistic.  But that’s not my current focus, so let’s move on.

In the Muslim community on campus, male privilege is not just an occasional occurrence, but a regular one.  This is a newer problem, one that has risen to prominence during the current school year.  This has caused many women to become less engaged in the Muslim community, which is very disheartening, but completely understandable.  I am also one of those who have forgone spiritual gains to avoid feeling excluded from my faith community.  Personally, it hurts more when my spiritual and moral behavior is attacked than other aspects of my personality.

“If I were a woman, I wonder if I would have enough faith to wear the hijab.”

Now, I don’t wear the hijab (the headscarf), but my decision in that regard has nothing to do with a lack of faith.  The only time I consistently wore the hijab was during my time in Egypt.  I wore it to avoid harassment and doing so felt like the harassers had won.  I felt ashamed and disgusted with myself, and the hijab became a symbol of oppression.

Clearly, when I hear people connect the hijab to better or more faith, without considering the wide variety of women’s experience with the headscarf, I feel like my struggles are invisible and invalidated.

And when it comes to gender segregation, I’m used to it.  Then a soft-spoken Imam is giving the khutba (sermon) and I, being relegated to the back, cannot hear any of what he has to say.  Not wanting to interrupt and seem rude, the women sit in silence, patiently waiting until the Imam has bestowed some sort of spiritual knowledge on our male counterparts, who never even notice that we are left out.  At least in Egypt, engineering students and maintenance men worked very hard to set up working speakers to ensure that the women were included fully in the most important prayers.

Here at Georgetown, we have (or have had) a “Boys Quran Circle,” wherein male members of our community are invited to become better at their recitations with help from others, while the women are left to our own devices (aka the internet).  In this instance, the women have not just been not included, but we have specifically been excluded from this activity.

I know that this problem is not exclusive to the Muslim community.  Through my own personal experiences, I’ve learned that you have to be beaten over the head about your privilege a few times before you even realize that it exists.  And I’m not arguing that everyone should take up arms with me to change things.  What I am saying: Boys, check your privilege at the musalla door.

You Don’t Need 10,000 Hours to Have a Voice

15 Apr

by Kat Kelley

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers he refers to the “10,000 hour rule,” or the idea that one becomes an expert in their field after 10,000 hours of focus.

I remember watching History Channel documentaries in elementary school in which experts in obscure and specific fields- “1570’s Christian-Inspired Murals in Spanish Trading Posts” would discuss their expertise.

And yesterday I was called an expert and was quite impressed by my accidental fraudulence- how did I swing that title?

Yesterday, Erin Riordan and I led a discussion for The Wandering Minds Society titled “What Is Feminism? Exploring the Movement and Its Role in Today’s Society.” We discussed our backgrounds, what brought us to feminism, our blog, and our reasons for starting the blog.

We were referred to as experts. Experts. And after examining past events hosted by The Wandering Minds Society, we felt inadequate in comparison to the past discussion leaders. We felt quite a sense of “impostor syndrome” – and then of course we considered that maybe we really just need to “lean in” and not question our knowledge because that’s just the patriarchy teaching us to not take ownership of our achievements as women. Right.

And when Georgetown Women’s and Gender Studies Professor Bonnie Morris introduced herself, or made all the most succinct and thoughtful points ever, I became painfully aware that I had never take a Women’s and Gender Studies course, or that I really couldn’t differentiate between the waves of feminism.

But that is my feminism. It isn’t academic, it isn’t a wave, it isn’t perfect, and it definitely doesn’t demand expertise.

I just really think gender equality should be a thing. Is that too much to ask for?

Feminists are merely united by the belief that all genders and sexes are equal, and that we should probably do something about the fact that they aren’t treated as such.

“Feminism” is often called the “f-word.” I frequently hear strong, empowered, women dissociate from the feminist movement, and while there is an external stigma, there is also a failure on behalf of those who self-identify as feminists: a failure to include diverse voices, to make the movement approachable, to listen and ask and answer questions without automatically denouncing those unfamiliar with the rhetoric else as misogynists.

Being a feminist is exhausting. I see injustice everywhere and I am a privileged white heterosexual cis-gendered American at a top-tier education institution. And not everyone has 10,000 hours to spare, not everyone can dedicate their lives to the movement. We must lower the threshold for feminists, if we want to succeed. We must look for creative ways to connect with feminists of all ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, political affiliations, and interests. And we can’t put our expectations for other feminists and other women on pedestals.

I watch Modern Family and I don’t always think about the fact that all of the women are stay-at-home mothers, and that Cam and Mitch are totally perpetuating stereotypes about gay men. You can’t be hyper-vigilant and endlessly cognizant- you’ve got to pick your battles. Not only is it impossible, but no one wants to jump into a conversation when they don’t know what the hell “the gender binary” is or the difference between trans and cis-gendered. Yes, language shapes our world, and yes, I am always demanding more of myself, challenging myself to be a better feminist, but it’s okay to stumble over the terminology, not know who Audre Lorde is, or not read 17 different articles debating whether or not Margaret Thatcher was a feminist icon.

Everyone has a voice, and everyone’s voice is valid. But not all voices are equal. I want to hear more male voices amongst feminist dialogue, but every now and then I do have to pull the gender card and say “no you don’t know what it’s like” because you have not grown up being treated as a woman in our society. And there are plenty of times I have to check my own privilege. As a privileged white heterosexual cis-gendered American- there are a lot of forms of oppression that I really just “don’t know what it’s like.” We must validate all voices, we must listen to others, not merely speak for them. My feminism is not only unique- derived from 21 years of experiences and conversations- but also dynamic and ever changing. My feminism demands and desires a challenge.

I would never call myself an expert on feminism, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have nuanced knowledge and valid thoughts on the topic (even if late night rants were to be included, I wouldn’t have a fraction of those 10,000 hours). I learned so much yesterday- so many participants in the discussion divulged thoughtful musings that I had never considered, or eloquent versions of nebulous thought clouds in my head. I felt that every participant challenged me to further examine and uproot my beliefs and formulate them in a more thoughtful manner.

My feminism isn’t a state or an identity, it’s a process, a way of life, a pledge to challenge myself and to challenge the status quo.

Consent Culture

12 Apr

by Tiffany Sun

Consent is an important part of healthy sexuality and both people should be involved in the decision to have sex. It must be verbal, affirmative, voluntary, and continuous with each new act.

I’ve always thought of myself as independent and outspoken – never afraid to say “no” and never embarrassed to say “yes.” Naturally, the grayness of mutual consenting sexual activity always seemed somewhat removed from my life. Even amidst Georgetown’s strong hookup culture, I was pretty sure I could take care of myself and put the brakes on anything if I ever felt uncomfortable. However, I slowly began to realize that this was not the case; the lack of a consent culture, a culture in which mutual consent is the principal narrative of sex, on campus affected my daily life a lot more than I thought.

For one, I was frustrated with the fact that my hookups were usually quick to jump to the conclusion that my initial consent to making out with them was also an OK for them to do more. I was frustrated with people not respecting my “no” by trying to convince me otherwise. And most of all, I was frustrated with myself for not always knowing how to say “no” because I didn’t want to ruin the moment; wanted to avoid awkwardness; and wanted to please my partner. The bottom line being, the lack of a culture of verbal, affirmative, voluntary, and continuous consent made me feel vulnerable to sexual assault.

So how do we change this and create a safer environment, one that focuses on preventing sexual violence and promoting healthy sexual relationships?

First of all, participate in active consent! Ask your partner before each new act and respect his/her answer! In fact, you’re probably already doing it just by asking: “can we try XXX,” “is this ok,” “can I kiss you,” and “what do you want to do?” By giving him/her the agency and the chance to voice what he/she likes or wants, there is less room for miscommunication and you don’t run the risk of doing something your partner may not want to do. Basically, you’re looking for enthusiastic consent, “Yes! I want do that!,” that is, consent that is unambiguous, voluntary, informed, and without hesitation. As Erin Riordan previously said here, “consent is not the absence of a no; it is the presence of a yes.” Anything less is not consent and you should stop what you’re doing and accept their decision gracefully. Eventually, once you know your partner and his/her preferences well, you can begin to rely more on passive consent (although active consent is still encouraged). Secondly, when you witness nonconsensual sexual activity (such as when an individual is intoxicated or being pressured), put a stop to it! Step in and make sure that both parties are consenting adults. And finally, incorporate consent into your daily life outside the bedroom! A big part of creating a consent culture has to with asking about and respecting others’ boundaries. For example, try asking someone if they would like a hug before hugging them; don’t force/pressure a friend to try something if they don’t want to; and in general, accept that “no” means “no.”

Ultimately, while asking for consent may seem unsexy, awkward, or inconvenient, it’s better to err on the side of caution, especially with new partners or practices. Besides, there doesn’t have to be any awkwardness because in all seriousness, what is hotter than knowing your partner wants you just as much as you want him/her?


If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Tiffany and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week.