Category Archives: Uncategorized

Barnard College President Spar on How Young Women are Embracing Feminism

This is a re-post, courtesy of Barnard College. The original can be found here. All words ©Barnard. 

Dare to Use the F-Word is a new monthly podcast series created by and for young feminists. Street harassment, food activism, body image and slut-shaming are among the diverse issues discussed in the series, which is produced by Barnard College and the Barnard Center for Research on Women and aims to spotlight contemporary issues and activists. The podcast is available for download on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to the series.

In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, President Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.

jamia wilson and debora spar (©Barnard)

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The fallout of waning superiority

This morning, my husband brought an article  to my attention, which deals with the increasing rape of young women in India [major TW]. He pointed out to me one paragraph in particular:

“In a rapidly changing country, rape cases have increased at an alarming rate, roughly 25 percent in six years. To some degree, this reflects a rise in reporting by victims. But India’s changing gender dynamic is also a significant factor, as more females are attending school, entering the work force or choosing their own spouses — trends that some men regard as a threat.” [NYT]

This analysis is very much in line with what I have  previously stated on this blog. Highly patriarchal societies, in which social change is happening in favor of women or other marginalized groups, are bound to produce generations of men who will lose their former privileges. In response, they will reject these changes, but because they are often irreversible, they will become angry and frustrated and will try to regain their wounded masculinity by submitting women violently. It doesn’t surprise me to see this development happening in India, which is rapidly progressing and opening up its white collar professions to women. One can only hope that Indian women will stay strong and fight against this backlash.

Men, Privilege and Violence

Today, one year ago, a young man set off a bomb in the middle of a city, then drove to a near-by island, calmly crossed the water, and started shooting dozens of teenagers.

Today, a couple of days ago, a young man went to a movie premiere, equipped with ammunition he had acquired for months, and started shooting dozens of viewers of all ages.

Today, almost a year and a half ago, a young man went to a local constituents meeting and started shooting the Representative as well as dozens of bystanders.

This list could go on for pages. The Washington Post has a timeline with some of the deadliest mass shootings around the world. What they all have in common is the mostly public setting, the victims who were often unrelated and didn’t even know the perpetrators, and of course the perpetrators themselves who are almost always young-ish males. Continue reading

Netiquette

In light of recent events (see comments on last post), I have decided to finally add a netiquette button to the top of my homepage. I urge everyone who’s interested in commenting here (or already comments) to read it. It’s not a final version and may be subject to change every now and then. I’m also open to feedback. And yes, it is a bit snarky, but I couldn’t help myself after being criticized on how I manage my own blog…

Do you like me?

After I’ve been ranting about Facebook quite a lot on this blog, I can’t spare you the inevitable: you can now “like” my new Facebook page to get all the latest updates, to post comments or feedback, and whatever else this is useful for.

To all my followers, readers, commentators and accidentally misguided Google users: THANK YOU for stopping by and making me feel important enough to take this step.

Male Consent, or Can Women Rape?

I don’t need to tell you about how much feminist activists have done to reveal the proportions of rape culture. How they have fought to make unconsensual sex within marriage a crime, created rape crisis centers and hotlines, and made SAFE kits, also known as rape kits, obligatory in the U.S…. All of these measures were taken in order to help women who become the victims of some men who rape. Unfortunately, that’s well-understood. But can women rape, too?

The short answer is yes. However, those cases are often hard to detect, because they are legally not defined as such. In England and New Zealand, for example, rape constitutes the forced penetration by a man’s penis, which would make it virtually impossible for a woman to rape in legal terms. In most nations, however, a woman having unconsensual sex with a man can be punished for committing sexual assault rather than rape.

Call it whatever you want, I’m sure we can all agree that forcing someone violently to have sex against their will is not right and should be punished, regardless of the victim’s or the perpetrator’s sex. But of course, life isn’t always black and white; there are these damn grey areas, for example when people seem incapable of clearly stating what they want and do not want. As feminists have pointed out over and over again, a sleeping or highly inebriated person cannot give consent. But what about that hot girl you meet at a party, who may have had a few drinks too many but is dying to go home with you? What about the shy one who is too nervous and embarrassed to speak up?

via le-anyblack

These are particular situations many of us will know all too well. In order not to end up in a dodgy situation, feminists have come up with the concept “Yes means Yes”, also known as enthusiastic consent. It takes the saying “No means No” one step further, where the only sure road to consensual sex is asking for it and being explicit about what you want, ideally by saying that you want it.

This concept is not one that everyone can easily agree on, it seems. Some argue that it may kill the mood or the mystery of a sexual situation. Others claim (mostly rape apologists) that it will ruin their chances at sex altogether, because women are socialized/”cunning enough” to say no, even though they mean yes. After all, most of the time the discussion revolves around the question of women’s consent. Apparently, she has to be the one to call the shots, she is the only one that needs to be asked, because men are implied to always want sex by default. This presumption is, of course, just as dangerous as the assumption that women are much less sexual than men. Both open doors to sexual violations, because the specific needs and desires of an individual are completely disregarded.

I am mentioning this, because for every temptation in the shape of a drunk party girl, there may be a drunk party boy; for every young woman too shy to voice her likes and dislikes, there may be a young man too inexperienced and insecure to say no to sexual advances he doesn’t welcome. Some of us women may have been in situations where we violated someone’s boundaries without even realizing it, because both men and women perpetuate the stereotype that men will never mean no, and they certainly will never say it.

As women who believe in enthusiastic consent, we need to make sure we don’t hold up double standards. Education about consent needs to be directed at everybody, regardless of gender. Just like women, men need to learn to speak up, but most importantly, women, too, need to learn to insist on consent and how to get it.

An erection does not equal consent. Agreeing to sex does not mean agreeing to unprotected sex, to sex with other people, or to rough sex. A man can be too drunk to fuck, but a man can also be too drunk to want to fuck. Of course, these guidelines require a certain level of maturity and responsibility from both partners. If this level is not a given, you should ask yourselves whether you should be having sex at all.

After all, who would want to have sex with someone who doesn’t enjoy it? Only rapists would.

If you’re interested in learning more about enthusiastic consent, go here! Already a pro? Here’s the advanced version.

Because of the particularity of man-woman relationships, I have focused on heterosexual relations, but fortunately enthusiastic consent is a concept that works for all sorts of constellations!

Bragging Rights

I’m a little embarassed because I haven’t actually published anything on Gender Across Borders yet, but have a look at my intern profile! My first article is due tonight, so I will keep you posted.

UPDATE: My first article has been published. You can find it here.