Archive | November, 2013

Ban the Burqa?

30 Nov

by Rebecca Chapman

Current obsessions over women’s clothing or lack thereof is all that seems relevant to ‘women’s news’ nowadays. It would be easy to trivialise such discussions as meaningless gossip, but when a government attempts to intervene on the issue, it ought to concern everyone.  Though we’ve heard about the rights and wrongs of Miley’s outfits, what really should be on the agenda is the burqa and the niqab. Of course, this contentious issue of women’s dress has never really gone away, but with two incidents in the UK in both the classroom and the courtroom, these items are once again back at the forefront of national debate. Back in August, a Muslim woman accused of intimidating a witness was ordered by a judge to remove her niqab when giving evidence; around the same time there was an overturning of the niqab ban at Birmingham Metropolitan College after a number of pupils protested. Both these events would have passed with little concern were it not for a certain section of the government using these stories to stir up debate around the issue. The burqa and the niqab apply to the most conservative form of Muslim dress, with the former being a full veil covering the whole head and face and the niqab leaving only a small slit for the eyes, and it is these items that are being called into question by the current government.

Let me start by saying this article is not here to discuss the rights and wrongs of Muslim dress, nor will it be addressing whether there is something inherently sexist about a woman covering her head and face. The sole purpose of this article is to ask whether a government has a right to legislate on the issue.

Amidst the recent discussion, non-Muslims have been voicing their desire to ‘liberate’ and ‘free’ women from the grips of such obvious patriarchal oppression. People with almost no knowledge of Islamic cultures and traditions have professed their outrage at women being forced to wear the burqa against their wishes. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying it was time “to stop delegating this to individual institutions as a minor matter of dress code and instead set clear national guidance.” Comparing the burqa to an “invisibility cloak,” she claimed, “Women should be clear that the burqa is a symbol not of liberation but of repression and segregation.”  Perhaps Sarah Wollaston is making some valid arguments here, but as one may be able to detect from her name, Sarah Wollaston is in fact not a Muslim. In fact, her insular view provides a perfect representation of the tidal wave of opinion coming from non-Muslim women about an issue that is solely concerning Muslim woman.

With the push for the ban coming exclusively from the non-Muslim community, I can’t help but question the real motives behind this ban. The irony of a right-wing government presenting the issue as concern for women’s rights is not only laughable, but it is also irony of the worst kind. It’s difficult to believe that the current party in power in the UK, which has systematically and unapologetically attempted to curb the rights of women since its origins, has suddenly gained a conscience. If David Cameron is so concerned with women’s voices being silenced maybe he ought to have given more than 4 women a place in the cabinet of 25.  This is a policy of fear and ignorance, in which a minority of a minority are persecuted, posturing as a policy of liberation.

MPs are often in the habit of presenting complex issues as very simple ones and this is no different. Consequently, prominent voices in the Muslim community have raised concerns about the impact of the proposed ban. Salma Yaqoob, formerly a Birmingham city councillor, said: “The women who do wear the face veils are a tiny minority within a minority, so the thought that they’re any kind of threat to British society as a whole is beyond laughable. But at the same time, [these debates] do, of course, increase the vulnerability of Muslim women as a whole. Time and again, verbal and physical attacks on Muslim women increase when we have these so-called national debates. In emotional and psychological terms, I think it does a huge amount of damage.”

The argument behind the banning of the burqa and the niqab is grounded in creating a freer, more integrated society, but evidence provided by European examples suggests it does the exact opposite.  Since France’s introduction of the ban in 2011, Muslim groups have reported a distressing rise in discrimination, reflected by a legal system which has seen an explosion on physical attacks on women wearing Muslim dress. The law has given self-styled vigilantes the opportunity to use Muslim communities as a scapegoat (if the state discriminates against a minority, it stands to reason that certain individuals will follow suit). Confronted with the choice of defying the law and facing verbal and physical assaults, women are opting to stay at home, hidden away from the world. This law has made prisoners of law-abiding citizens, whose only crime is to choose to express their religion and culture through their dress. Despite the fact that every woman brought forward to answer for her ‘crimes’ expressed that they wore the burqa of their own free choosing, the French government have refused to relent.

Supporters of the ban have raised the point that nowhere in the Qur’an does it dictate that a woman must be covered from head to toe, but nowhere in the Bible does it dictate that Christians must where a cross around their necks. Instead, it is a personal choice taken for all kinds of reasons, not necessarily religious ones. In 1970’s Iran, the CIA-backed leadership outlawed the burqa and the niqab; women had their clothing ripped from their faces and, as a result, some choose to stay inside. But some chose to keep their veils, seeing it as the only way they could signal their opposition to American domination of Iran. This compulsory ‘feminism’ is both insensitive to cultural practices and ultimately useless. If there is to be a feminist movement within Islamic cultures, it must, and will come from within the community on their own terms. The reality is most Muslim women in the UK do not wear the burqa; the women who do, do so of their own choosing. As feminists, we ought to understand the importance of a woman’s right to choose.

It is not to say that there aren’t instances when the burqa or the niqab are inappropriate: passing through airport security where it is vital for the authorities to identify people moving in and out of their borders is one example that springs to mind. But there has been no argument from the Muslim community or instances in which there have been objections towards reaching a pragmatic solution.

Of course, clothing is not solely a Muslim problem, given that in their most orthodox forms many other religions provide strict rules for women’s clothing. And even in the relatively secular west, woman are frequently told what length their skirt should be, how much cleavage is appropriate and if their dress is sending out the ‘wrong signals’.

Men have presumed the authority to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies for centuries. As feminists we must resist it any way we can. A husband telling his wife she must cover her face is no worse than a state telling her she cannot. It is possible to disagree with the principle of the burqa or the niqab but object to legislature against them. And whilst the burqa may be considered a symbol of the oppression of women, it is most certainly not its cause.

The Obruni Diaries: Relationship Checklists

20 Nov

by Allyn Faenza

Earlier this semester I was tuning into the local radio station to hear two friends’ weekly radio show. Each week they present a controversial topic and ask Ghanaian and international students to express their opinions on air. Seeing as they are both males in their twenties and trying to appeal to their audience, more often than not the weekly topic is about romantic relationships. One week, the conversation centered around the “relationship check-list” and attraction. There were four Ghanaian women, two Ghanaian men, and two international students involved in the talk.

My DJ friends began the talk by asking the participants to name five qualities or attributes that would attract them to someone of the opposite sex. My international friend responded first by saying that she was looking for someone who shares the same religion and work ethic as her, is compassionate, physically attractive, and musical. As she was explaining her list, I could hear some of the Ghanaian women giggling. The DJs asked them to comment on why they found her list amusing, and all four of them responded that the list was valid, but she was forgetting one huge point.

As the show went on, each of the Ghanaian women listed the attributes that must be present for them to be attracted to a man. While their answered varied due to their different personalities and backgrounds, all of them said finances were the main factor that would make or break their opinions about a man. One girl stated, “If a man likes what he sees, he should have the money to maintain it! That means paying for my nail and hair appointments, taking me shopping… I am just playing the game.” The girls hummed in agreement. Some chimed in saying, “A man’s job is to work and provide for me.” “He should take me places, give me things.”

These relationship expectations seem problematic to me. I do not know if my expectations of romantic relationships come from my experiences with my own family, from a result of culture, or from a combination of the two. But with a culture that is so family-centered and anti-individualistic, I thought the radio show conversation would be about how men and women work as a team to create something together, something beyond just one person’s capabilities.

I have been to different parts of Ghana and spent time with a few families. Each of them has a complex familial structure that would take years to fully comprehend. Neighbors support one another and the people who occupy the physical space of the home is a fluid group. In the native language Twi, the word for cousins is the same word as sibling, and all female relatives are referred to as “maame.” I was confused to find the women their age interested in maintaining the gender roles that leave males and females confined to traditional jobs, responsibilities, and behaviors. I thought the women would want to be empowered by their education; I thought they would be searching for more, expecting more of themselves, striving to create new expectations for women in Ghana.

Enforcing the patriarchal structure is as simple as maintaining gender expectations. When women in Ghana question why the men in their lives don’t support women in the workplace, I challenge them to look no further than their relationship check-lists. I challenge women to look beyond their wants and see how their actions are playing into the larger system of gender normativity. Because, after all, there is a difference between playing the game and playing into an oppressive patriarchy.

The Obruni Diaries: Cab Driver

13 Nov

by Allyn Faenza

Sitting in this hot cab is torture. It’s bad enough that the sun never ducks behind the clouds here and the temperature is always nearing ninety, but why can’t this cab driver turn on the air conditioning? Poor Eden is lying down in the back about to vomit once again because of some illness the hospital we were just visiting cannot diagnose due to a combination of staff incompetency and apathy. Here I sit in the front seat on this short drive trying to direct our driver back to campus, so Eden can lie down and rest.

Then it happens.

It is not the first time it has happened here in Ghana, and I hate that it won’t be the last either. I was warned it would happen, because after all, I am exotic here. Uneducated men have seen movies and television shows of women who look like me, who come from America. These men have the expectation that I will act how those actresses, adult film stars, or singers do. They may have even heard stories about American women in Ghana who are give their sex freely and indiscriminately. But mostly, I think they see me as a foreigner, vulnerable with confusion and wide-eyed from the culture shock. I am easy to violate. These men see an opportunity, and they take it.

This cabbie, just like some other men have done, places his hand on my lap and tries to work it under my short skirt. I look in his eyes to see a smile stretch across his face. He is amused by violating me. Does he think he is getting away with something? Does he think this should be a natural position for me or maybe I deserve this? Does he think I want this too? I speak up. Finding the inner strength, I slap his hand away. I say, “Daabe! No! You don’t get to touch me like that!” when I see his smile is transforming into a laugh. “You should be ashamed. You have no right,” I shout. He mumbles something that sounds like a half-hearted apology.

Now I am grabbing the door handle and walking out of the cab with Eden, feeling ashamed by his cheapening touch. I feel alone and scared. I am tainted by this, feeling like a little piece of my self-worth and strength has been taken from me. I should have been smarter. I should have never gotten in that cab. I should have known. I know I am giving him power over me by reevaluating my own actions and cursing myself for sitting in the passenger’s seat instead of the back with Eden, but I feel somehow responsible for letting this happen to me.

I feel powerless. I feel so powerless.

This piece is part of a weekly column about the author’s experiences abroad in Ghana.

Because Lists Are Trending and This One is Needed

12 Nov

by Stacey Lynn

This post originally appeared on Stacey’s blog Homeward Bound

After reading Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege for the first time, a friend asked me if I had a good article to send her way on male privilege. She was looking for a gender-related equivalent to help raise some flags around the way sexism functions in our lives. This left me sitting with the question: how have I experienced sexism alive in my life? It made me think about the day-to-day comments and assumptions that litter my social experience, all upholding the ideas that (1) gender is neatly defined in two boxes with distinct traits (2) which correlate to our biological sex with (3) one box being superior to the other.

So I made a list of the ways I’ve seen 1-3 played out recently. This list is nowhere near comprehensive and is certainly filtered through my experience and other identities, particularly as a White upper/middle class American cis-woman. It is not angry and it is definitely not exclusively a list of microaggressions perpetuated by men towards women. It is a series of observations on the ways in which I see myself and the people in my life promote a view of gender that keeps us locked into an oppressive system.

Here goes…

  1. On a date recently, the man I was meeting ordered a colorful drink with cherry grenadine and I proceeded to order a whiskey. His jaw dropped, “Are you really going to emasculate me like that?” he inquired. Here’s the thing: the extent to which I do or do not perform according to traditional gender roles should have no bearing on someone else’s sense of self. The expectation that it does puts undue pressure on me to be someone other than who I am so not to threaten their sense of and confidence in being someone other than who they are.
  2. One of my students suggested— on more than one occasion— that my anti-war sentiments were likely rooted in deep-seated anger and resentment from my previous relationship with a man in the military. The thought that I could have an independent, rational opinion about institutional violence seemed less likely than me being blindly driven by an emotional charge from past love.
  3. A dear friend (and many women I’ve been acquainted with) seems to think “bitch” is a term of endearment. The idea that an animal being female (originally stemming from a reference to a female dog in heat) is insulting is misogynistic. Thus, for me, the use of this word casually indicates a comfort with the aforementioned view, condoning language that literally equates one’s genitalia and hormones to a lower social value. The same is true of the pervasive use of pussy, cunt, sissy, and tit as insults. When my body and its cycles are used as derogatory terms, my very self is relegated to something one would never want to have— or be.
  4. Every time I go to a wedding, or fill out a form, I am struck by the archaic symbols that persist in our unions. The changing of names, passing off of the bride, donning of a white dress, all stem from the idea that a woman (and her virginity) is property being passed from father to husband. I understand that people engage in these rituals without holding these beliefs. Yet, in sharing my critique of them, many have defended traditions— such as asking a bride’s father for permission/blessing— as being respectful. My question is, respectful to whom? The extent to which we fail to question the origin of our traditions— and the messages underpinning them— is connected to our acceptance of the power structures in place. My issue is not in maintaining tradition, but in neglecting to raise questions around the histories, significance, and ramifications of such practices.
  5. A close friend, who identifies as a feminist himself, told me that he is uncomfortable walking through a door when a woman holds it open for him. Do I really need to elaborate?
  6. As a lot of this is about the messages we take in, lets collect some data. How many songs on the pop-radio station do you hear that aredevoid of lyrics that treat women as objects and/or hyper-sexualized beings, or use language that condones violence against us? How many books have you read in the past year with a female protagonist whose main storyline did not revolve around her relationships with men? How many television shows do you watch with a female lead? Really, I am asking you to count. Or, the next time you flip through a magazine or look at the tabloids while standing in line at the grocery store, ask yourself: how are women being portrayed in these stories and ads? Essentially, what does the media teach us about what it means to be a woman and what her place is in society? (This same question should also be asked about men)
  7. While reading on the porch this week, the three boys (ages 6-8) we are staying with mocked me for having hairy armpits. “Gross!” they squealed. “Girls aren’t supposed to have hair there,” they explained to me. The idea that women are not “supposed to” have hair where itnaturally grows— be it leg, armpit, or pubic— likens women to children and dolls, both of which you control and hold power over. (NOTE: I understand that this preference is socialized, that’s my point)
  8. I increasingly struggle to identify with most worship music within my faith tradition, as gendered images of God are exclusively masculine. And I know that this complaint, or advocating for moving language from mankind to humankind, or problematizing using “he” as the default pronoun, is bashed as being overly concerned with political correctness. I am not interested in being PC. I am interested in my existence as a part of the human race being acknowledged and valued equal to that of a man’s. In learning herstory too. In letting the divine be reflected in images beyond those conjured under patriarchy’s reign.
  9. I learned growing up that being “cute” is something women are valued for. At some point, I thought small sneezes fell into this category. I am still working on unlearning the habit of putting my tongue to the roof of my mouth to suppress a sneeze and make it “cuter”. I just rewrote my “About me” for this blog with the recognition that this same pattern of a socialized cute-Stacey drove my initial description of myself (chocolate is not actually a core tenant of my self-image or understanding).
  10. Some people who read this list will dismiss it on the basis that I am yet another “overly sensitive” woman. Within this criticism is the underlying acceptance of gender norms and prioritization of rationality and logic, categorized as “masculine” traits. From this perspective, emotion holds little weight and women’s voices fall into a category less worthy of being heard. My sensitivity, my attentiveness to my emotional experience, is not indicative of my sex, nor is it a handicap. And it does certainly not provide grounds to stop listening or to delegitimize my claims.

There was a point in my life when I would have internalized all of these exchanges as indications of the way I am supposed to behave— measuring my value against the extent to which I performed my gender. Drink fruitier drinks. Shave more. Let’s not put too much stock into your thought in case it’s actually coming from your heart, or your menstrual cycle.

Still today, I find myself believing some of these messages— finding myself less-than for the ways that my natural tendencies, interests, and desires don’t fit into the neat package of a “feminine” woman. This is so far from the liberation I yearn for: a world where people can be who they are and want to be, without power or inferiority imposed on them for this choice.

You don’t have to hate women to contribute to a system that oppresses them. You don’t have to identify as a man, or have a penis, to perpetuate sexism. You merely have to believe the messages you received since your birth announcement, likely scribed in blue or pink. In fact, you don’t even have to be as active as the word belief implies. You just have to live your life without noticing or finding fault in the patterns described above.

I invite you to practice noticing with me. How have you seen sexism alive in your life?

The Obruni Diaries: A Break from Expectation

6 Nov

by Allyn Faenza

This weekend, nine of us on my program traveled to an area known as Bonwire, which is a small town outside of Kumasi, Ghana. We were divided into small groups and placed with families that spoke little English; we stayed for three days and two nights. We did our best to integrate ourselves into their families by cooking meals, playing with the children, observing the parents in the markets, and attending church services if we felt comfortable. The trip was intended to be an experience for us to learn how Ghanaians in rural villages use their resources to make a living and to see how village life compares to the city life in Accra. And it was just that and much, much more…

A large topic of conversation in my sociology, theology, and history classes at the University of Ghana is the role of women in the Ghanaian family structure of the past and present. The message I keep getting is that wives are largely responsible for housework, cooking, and childrearing, while husbands are expected to leave the home each day to earn the family’s income. Women may work, but they are very rarely the breadwinners for the family; if they do earn the main source of income for their families, it would be emasculating for the man to admit it is so. I have heard students and professors reaffirm these gender roles, and often males and females make no dispute that these roles are the “natural” or “proper” roles for wives and husbands.

With this knowledge of Ghanaian culture in my rearview, I expected to see nothing different in my rural home stay, but my expectations shifted suddenly when I met a two-year old named Hattim Muhammed and his father. This weekend my friend Kaela and I shared a home with small family of three children plus their father and mother. Also at the home were the family’s son-in-law and his son Hattim, who were staying at the home for a long visit. However, during the entire weekend, Kaela and I never saw Hattim’s mother. Hattim’s father told me his wife was working in Accra as a nurse, and he was in charge of raising Hattim until they returned to Accra together as a family. I was so taken aback by this gender role swap that I forgot to ask more questions so I could better understand this family dynamic. Hattim and his father played with toys, ate meals, and practiced their English together. The two of them shared an intimate relationship that comes with comfort, respect, and love, which led me to believe that they have spent a good amount of time with one another. Perhaps this was a break in their normal parental roles, or perhaps it is exactly as it appears: the mother is the breadwinner for their family and the father raises Hattim and keeps house.

But what about those traditional gender roles fulfilled by mothers and fathers that my classmates and professors talk about being inherent in Ghanaian culture? Is Hattim’s family the norm or the exception? What would Ghanaians have to say about this family?

This situation was the first time I have seen a father alone with his child. I always see women carrying their babies or young children, and on the rare occasion I see a man carrying a child, his wife is never far behind. Hattim’s family was a dramatic break from my previous experience and education on familial relations in Ghana. I still have questions about this family, but what I am beginning to understand is that Ghanaian culture is very complex and ever-changing. While women in the workplace and men in the home may be the cultural norm of the past and present and future, their roles may be more flexible than I originally thought. I must keep in mind that Ghana is not in a vacuum, completely unaffected by the current trends of international integration of values, norms, expectations, and products. Ghanaians are changing to meet the demands of their country, and slowly but surely this also means Ghanaian families are stepping up to gender normativity to meet the demands of their jobs and children despite traditional roles.

This piece is part of a weekly column about the author’s experiences abroad in Ghana.

My Identity is NOT My Consent

5 Nov

by Anonymous

We have all heard (hopefully) of the phrase “My costume is NOT my consent,” but apparently it’s not the costume that makes me vulnerable but my sexual orientation and gender. I am a bisexual woman. This Halloween I opted out for a more conservative costume. I wore pants, a sweater, and a backwards cap; not exactly what we consider a “sexy/slutty” costume. I was at a Gay Pride party, which is usually a safe space, until the party was crashed by male students who were unaware of a common theme of the party—that most people present were of the LGBT community or allies. I was asked by one guy if everyone at the party was gay. I told him that most people did identify that way. He then asked me if I was gay. I told him the truth that I was bisexual.

Because I am not out at home, I don’t hide it at school. Here I can be who I really am and will not hide it just to avoid an unwanted situation. Apparently this fact was enough consent on my part because he proceeded to put his hands on me, forcibly turn me around, and began to pelvic thrust against my behind. I was not asked to dance, I did not consent to him putting his hands on me, yet the fact that I am bisexual was enough for him. Obviously, because I am attracted to guys, I am therefore attracted to him and don’t mind him placing his hands on me. Because I do like men, I obviously like all men, including him. I let him know that my sexual orientation did not give him consent and that he should think twice before putting his hands on anyone in that manner, and I walked away.

Later that night after the party was over, I waited in a school square—a very public place at the time. I was awaiting a text when a group of guys proceeded to come out of an apartment. A group of three headed my way up the stairs when one of them proceeded to comment on my ass, then grabbed it, and just walked away. At this point I was too stunned to say anything and saw them walk away; his friend gave the excuse that he was drunk. His friend would rather make excuses for his behavior than confront his friend about it. This Halloween, I learned that “my costume is not my consent,” but sadly my sexual orientation and gender are. The fact that I am a female who is still attracted to males is enough consent for unwanted advances. It does not matter what I wear, my own identities—that of a bisexual and that of woman—make me vulnerable.

In my opinion, society has failed. Not only does the majority of society place the blame on women who dress “slutty,” rather than the men who assault them, but even when a woman is dressed in what is considered a conservative outfit, she is still harassed. And society continues to make excuses. The excuse for the man who slapped my ass was that he was drunk; he placed the blame on something other than himself. Even in the first situation, blame was still put on me. When I shared this story, one response I heard was: why not tell the first guy that you’re lesbian? To this I respond: why should I lie about who I am? Why does my sexual orientation give him consent to my body? Because I am bisexual does not mean that I consent to all advances.  What happened last night was not my fault, it was society’s. 

How JUPS Changed My Life

3 Nov

by Margaux Nielsen

I fervently believe that everyone should take at least one Justice and Peace Studies (JUPS) class during their time at Georgetown. Full disclosure: I was peripherally involved in the recent formation of the JUPS major, so I may be a little biased. On the other hand, I took my first JUPS class on a whim, and it completely challenged and transformed the way I think – so I may be an example of how important and powerful JUPS can be.

JUPS provides you with a different lens—a different perspective on the world and its problems. Johan Galtung’s conflict triangle, depicting the interconnectedness of direct, structural, and cultural violence, is one of the most significant and foundational concepts in JUPS. In a nutshell, Galtung argues that violence exists in forms other than physical, direct violence. Cultural and structural violence are imbedded in the system, largely unseen but intensely felt. Cultural violence is the intolerance for people who “refuse” to learn English and the dearth of non-whites in media and popular culture. Structural violence is the state of our inner-city public schools and the way men and women assess a woman’s appearance and judge accordingly. These covert forms of violence surround us and influence the way we think and act. JUPS causes you to examine, if not outright challenge, their prevalence and influence in our lives.

Concepts like Galtung’s pushed me to reassess the world around me. And as I opened my eyes to subtle systems of oppression, I realized my place within them. I realized that as a white woman I experience privilege and oppression simultaneously. While I have the opportunities and social standing given to whites in a society structured by white supremacy, I also experience the invisibility and objectification faced by women in a patriarchal society. Both realities helped me to confront the white supremacy latent within me, a constantly ongoing process, and identify myself firmly as a feminist. I credit my life-changing personal growth to JUPS and to the people who teach and take its classes. Both the material itself and the intelligent people who digest it have confronted me with the oppression faced by people different from me and people like me, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Once JUPS introduced me to the idea that structural violence contributes to and sustains inequalities, I saw it all around me. Since my boyfriend and I have become a recognizable couple on campus, many men seem perplexed as to how to interact with me. It seems that if I can’t be treated as a sexual object, I can’t be treated as anything at all. And so, in many – especially male-dominated – social interactions, I stand next to my boyfriend invisible.

“Hi, I’m John.”

He extends his hand to my boyfriend, arm around my shoulder to the right of me. Then, a hesitation. I look directly at him, waiting for the expected, standard introduction. But he doesn’t look at me. Instead, his gaze clumsily stumbles to the ground until it turns to my friend Will.

“Hi, I’m John.”

He extends his hand to Will, to the left of me. Then, he walks away, without even a first glance at me.

I wish I could assure myself that it was an isolated incident, just social awkwardness or a harmless oversight. But it happens all the time. In groups where I am the only woman, I stand physically in the circle but socially outside of it. Conversation flows back and forth, but no one even looks at me, let alone speaks to me. I never realized how much I valued eye contact until I was denied it. Eye contact is so much more than a look; it is recognition, appreciation, respect, and humanity. When I stand in a group that looks at one another but never at me, I can’t help but feel inferior – like my voice and self are not even worth a listen or a glance. No matter how often I speak up or how many faces I defiantly stare into, my comments are dismissed and my looks ignored. Roughly around the fifth separate occasion that the members of these groups interact with me, I am begrudgingly admitted into the circle and bestowed with a glance every now and then or even an occasional chuckle at one of my remarks.

Unfortunately, most of my interactions with most men are tainted by the structural violence of patriarchy and sexism and their dehumanizing implications. JUPS prompted me not only to notice this behavior but also to understand it. Just as I have been raised with the ideology of white supremacy, men have been raised with the ideology of male superiority. Television, film, advertisements, teachers, mothers, fathers, and friends have, both explicitly and implicitly, taught them that women should be beautiful, thin, agreeable, quiet, and obedient. Even though most people would not deny that women can be plain, chubby, assertive, ambitious, and assertive, it is not what we should be or what we are expected to be. And so, women are treated like the one-dimensional objects that society depicts them as. If everyone always told you that dogs hate chicken, you would assume it was true, even as their eyes beg for the drumstick on your plate.

And so, I return to my most fervent belief: everyone should take a JUPS class. Black and white, rich and poor, SFS and MSB, men and women, and everyone that falls in between those stale dichotomies. Structural and cultural violence create both oppressors and oppressed, and we all need to work together to ensure that we are neither. Though the task is undeniably daunting on both a personal and societal level, we can and must apply the JUPS lens to collectively topple the violence that surrounds us and establish the stable, positive peace that each and every one of us deserves. So please, take that first JUPS class, whether it ends up being a random elective, a minor, or a major, I promise it will impact you for years to come. And I mean, pre-registration starts November 4th, so you can take that first step sooner rather than later.