Why Feminism Needs to Exist on our Campus

CLARIFICATION NOTE: This article has been modified from its original version to protect the identity of a certain group. The original article also potentially misconstrued whom a comment was referring to, and that phrasing has since been corrected. The Redlands Bulldog’s reporters, editors and advisor had no intent of negatively affecting the reputation of anyone on campus.

It is the first week of classes. I am sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the middle of Orton, waiting for Laci Green to come speak to a large group of students during RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) week. My friend sits in the empty seat to my right and tells me that on his way over, he heard a group of students excitingly talking about another male. “He’s just so cool,” they said. “So good at everything. He’s even good at rape!” I was shocked to hear that people speak so candidly about sexual assault in the middle of the commons. To my left is a new friend I made, a freshman, trying to make it through her first week of classes in college after being assaulted the previous Sunday at the first party she went to. I look at her and she rolls her eyes about the rape comment, her fingers clutching her iPhone, which I notice is wrapped in a pink case that says “Girl Power.”

I’d like to talk about the importance of girl power, so let me quote an article that has been shared by my peers, entitled I Am a Female and I Am So Over Feminists by University of South Florida student Gina Davis: “I’m all about girl power, but in today’s world, it’s getting shoved down our throats. Relax feminists, we’re OK.

As a woman and a feminist, I would like to say that we are not OK. The lack of understanding about why feminism needs to exist, not only on this campus, but throughout the entire world, is sad to me. On Oct. 7, a video capturing a conversation between Billy Bush and Donald Trump about women was released. In it, Trump says things like, “[I] just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”  When the topic comes up a few weeks later in my class, a girl says that it is just “locker room talk,” that we should focus on the important things in the presidential race, and that this isn’t one of them. I didn’t understand how she couldn’t think this isn’t important, and I explain to the class how mind-boggling it is to me that we even have a candidate in the race who brags about something that I, and other women, have been in fear of our entire lives.

Ignoring my comment, another girl says that we need to concentrate on the strength of our candidates and their love for America. She says that Trump isn’t too bad. He’s a family man. He loves his family, and he loves America. And Hillary, well, she just wears small heels.

Well, I think this is an important discussion. I think it important because the existence of rape culture in these “locker rooms” is what our athletes are immersed in for the time they play sports. Rape culture is why Brock Turner got the idea that it is okay to rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Rape culture is what made the athletes at our school think it was okay to literally grab girls by their pussies at parties without their consent. Are these victims “OK?” No. Though I can’t speak for Turner’s victim, my friend who was assaulted at a party during her first week at Redlands was urged to go on a leave of absence if she didn’t feel safe leaving her room. Is it “OK” that girls ask me which fraternities are “rapey?” Is it “OK” that my friends and I now have a fear of walking on campus alone at night? Is it “OK” that Public Safety waited until a second girl “allegedly” had her drink spiked at a party to send out an email reminding our students that “adulterating food or drink with a drug without the knowledge of people who may consume it is not only extremely dangerous, but is potentially a felony crime.”  

It is not OK that I can’t walk from the Commons to the Chapel alone after dark without someone yelling at me from their car what they want to do to me. It is not OK that our freshmen orientation focuses on how not be raped, not on how not to rape people. It is not OK that women on this campus think it is appropriate to say, in a classroom, that Trump’s rape accusations (of many women, including a thirteen year old) are not important.

It’s not OK that “feminist” is a dirty word that people don’t understand. As a feminist, I do not hate men. I do not get mad when someone holds a door open for me. I do not think that women are superior to men. The point of feminism is equality. What does make me mad is the fact that articles like Davis’ claim that women have never been more respected in history and that our goals are asking too much. Is it asking too much to ask men stop telling me how they want to have sex with me when I walk through the Trader Joe’s parking lot? Is it asking too much when my stepmother wrote a letter to my twelve-year-old sister’s PE coach asking that he tell the boys in her class to stop calling her a slut for having big boobs? Is it asking too much that I be paid the same amount as a man working the same job that I am? Is it asking too much that we stop thinking that if a girl wears a short skirt, she is asking for it? Is it asking too much that we recognize that feminism needs to not only exist for American women, but also for the women in other countries who are having their clitorises cut off forcibly so that they aren’t “dirty?” Or for the 96% of women in Rwanda that think it is acceptable for their husbands to hit them? Is it asking too much for our school to have offered my friend more resources to feel safe on campus rather than just telling her to take a leave of absence?

No. It’s not asking too much. And as a feminist, I will continue to fight for my rights as a woman. I will fight for the rights of my friend. I will fight for the rights of women in countries where they are treated better than me or worse than me. And I will fight for the rights of the women in my class who desperately hate feminism and love Donald Trump, ignoring the fact that they support a candidate who would “grab them by the pussy” without a second thought. Because that is what feminism is. It is girl power. It is supporting women who can’t support themselves. It is fighting until we, as women, are considered equal to men. It is fighting until I feel safe.