A Hidden History of Sexual Harassment

By Caitlin Panarella

Amidst the waves of stories of sexual harassment in the last few weeks, the recent flood of accusations against those in government must be scrutinized.  From supervisors to Congressmen, sexual harassers still threaten women in every level of politics.  Though this fact is not new, it reveals the extent to which women still are deterred from partaking in the “public sphere” due to a danger that largely targets them.

According to the New York Times, “in more than 50 interviews, lawyers, lobbyists and former aides...[said]... that sexual harassment has long been an occupational hazard for those operating in Washington politics.”  In one account the Times reported on, a lawyer said that a former representative called her into his office and asked her to twirl.  Soon thereafter, he gave her a $1,250 bonus.  Literally objectified, the woman was appraised for and diminished to her sexual value while trying to do her job.

At the moment, Senator Al Franken and Senate candidate Roy Moore are two of the most high profile cases of politicians sexually harassing women, but others must not be ignored.  We must ask: How can we trust our lawmakers to protect us when we are not safe working for them?

History has the tendency of forgiving and forgetting the sexual violence and deviancy of men in power.  Sexual assault and abuse of power are important, of course, but aside from that he accomplished great things.  Somehow, a man’s use of his position of power to coerce or harass women is not a disqualifier; the more powerful a man is, the less his victims are afforded credibility.

Georgetown University recently held a symposium on the legacy of former president Bill Clinton, hosted by the McCourt School of Public Policy and its Institute of Politics and Public Service. The event celebrated his achievements and vision, and Clinton spoke to an audience filling Gaston Hall.  His sexual relationship with then 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky was not considered or mentioned.  It’s a mark on his record, to be sure, but “the Lewinsky scandal” is attached to her name, not his.   

There is this American ability to easily separate the man from the politician, and only deem the politician’s actions as relevant.  This ease is indicative of a larger refusal to take sexual crimes seriously, and to dismiss survivors because of everything else the man supposedly has to offer.  How can anyone forget Judge Aaron Persky’s statement when lightening the sentence of Stanford University rapist Brock Turner: “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”

Sexual harassment is not an inconvenient truth anyone can whisk away anymore.  It cannot be treated as footnote in the otherwise venerable politician’s biography.  To do so sends a clear message to survivors- that there are more important things to remember.

With the slew of stories emerging about the sexual harassment part and parcel with the American political system, or any system of power for that matter, it is imperative to support women legislators.  If men continue to make up the majority of figures in positions of power, and women constitute the majority of those lower on the totem pole, our needs will continue to be ignored.   Women must not be dissuaded from partaking in politics for fear of objectification or harassment, as their voices are necessary for the protection of all women’s rights.  

 

Source:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/us/politics/sexual-harassment-congress-capitol-hill.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/us/politics/gillibrand-bill-clinton-sexual-misconduct.html

Yes, I am that stereotypical, overly emotional girl

By: Izzy Wilder

Females are often associated with being overly emotional and dramatic, and to be perfectly honest, it is amazing to me that I’ve ever even had a boyfriend. I am the stereotypical, overly emotional girl who cries too much, gets too attached, and requires far too much cuddling. Recently though, I’ve been trying view my emotions as something positive, rather than as something annoying and undesirable.

For as long as I can remember, my emotions have seemed to far exceed my physical capacity to contain them. Yes, I cry when I see puppies, but I also cry when I read, hear, or see something moving. Sometimes, just the sheer beauty of a fall sunset makes my eyes water. When my friends cry, I cry, because to me, one of the worst experiences is seeing a friend sad or hurt and feeling powerless to do anything about it. Often, I myself don’t even understand why I’m crying. I’m truly amazed my body possesses so much water as to allow me to cry as frequently as I do. I feel everything so deeply, and most of the time, it feels like a curse. Emotions can be excruciatingly painful; they can make you feel like you don’t have enough air, like the whole world is crashing down around you, like you’re being sucked into a black hole of your own negative emotions and thoughts. In relationships, I’ve found that I get attached easily. I’m all too happy to just spend a Friday night cuddling and watching Netflix, as opposed to going out with friends. I was in a relationship for a year and a half, just as I was entering college. He went to school eight hours away from me. Needless to say, the long-distance killed me. Despite the many other problems with our relationship, the sheer distance between us seemed like an impossible barrier to overcome. I became obsessive, always worrying about what he was doing, when we were going to see each other next, etc. When things finally ended between us, I was absolutely crushed. Granted, he was my first love, but still, I sat on my living room couch for five straight hours until early in the morning, struggling to breathe as the waves of tears poured from me.

As truly painful as emotions can be, they also make you more human. In my experience, they make you more empathetic, because when you see a friend who is upset, you really get it. I have a friend right now going through a really rough patch, and for once, my emotions have been useful, because I can relate to what he is going through in a way that few people can. One useful outlet I can pour my emotions into is music. I have been playing the flute for around a decade now, and being able to express myself emotionally through music, to create meaning and beauty when I lack words, has been an enormous help. Strong emotions also mean that while being sad is almost unbearable, being happy is one of the most incredible emotions I can feel. I am able to forget about everything and simply take in the joy of the moment. When I’m happy, I’ve been described to have a noticeable aura about me. In my more recent relationships, I’ve learned that my emotions can be a positive thing. Yes, I require routine cuddling, but I’ve also been described as spontaneous, genuine, and generous.

For those of you, regardless of gender, who identify with at least some part of what I’m saying, I urge you to embrace your emotions. There is a stigma around being emotional, around being vulnerable, but I think emotions just make us all the more human, and are something to be embraced, not hidden away. It takes time to learn how to channel emotions into something positive, and trust me, I haven’t found the formula just yet, but I’m learning to appreciate my feelings, instead of hating myself for them. The next time you feel like crying, don’t stifle it. Embrace the moment, let yourself have a good cry, and remember that your emotions don’t make you a terrible person, they make you a more genuine human.

An Ode to Working Mothers

By: Maddy Forbess

Dear Mom,

Thank you so much for waking me up every morning before school and packing my lunch even though you have to finish preparing your talk and clean the kitchen all before 8:00am. Thank you for picking me up from school to go the doctor’s in the middle of your work-day. Thank you for making my favorite dinners, and thank you for helping to load the dishwasher afterwards. I have so many other things to thank you for, but they would not all fit on this page. I think I speak for everyone when I say that you do so much for us. Whether it is helping to make Halloween costumes or bringing snacks to our sports games, you are always there. It is the extra “second shift” you work after you come home from your paid job that we take for granted, and for that I am sorry.

 I promise to pay more attention to all that you do, especially the household duties that still seem to fall under your domain. In an age when women are increasingly active in the workforce, it is not fair that women, wives, and mothers still do the majority of domestic labor. Studies have shown that women have broken into the public sphere yet they continue to hold the same about of private sphere responsibilities. As a result, working mothers experience the extra load of cooking dinner, cleaning the dishes, and, in many cases, providing child care in addition to their professional occupation. For balancing all that you do with an air of grace and humility, you deserve much more than a simple thank you. Not only do you deserve credit for the “second shift” you work, but you deserve help—help that your capable, loving husband and children can provide.

You take the dogs for walks, arrange for our appointments, and somehow have time to dictate all of your office notes, too. Even if you are traveling to a conference for the weekend, you make sure to leave an extensive to-do list so that everyone can somehow manage in your absence. I am in awe of all that you are capable of, and I resolve to tell you more often how much I admire you. Your “second” household shift seems much more outdated than the progressive dual-earning model your and Dad’s marriage ascribes to, but it is a testament to how much you do to make our family run smoothly. That is not to say you should have to do all of these domestic duties. Our society’s sexual scripts must continue evolving before we rid ourselves of the historical sexual division of labor. Until then, gendered roles in household labor will still linger despite the liberal family structures with which many families in the United States identify. But we do not have to wait around for some external stimulus to bring about this change. It is each of our responsibilities to contribute more. We can help in a myriad of ways. By simply taking the trash out in the morning before school or making a dinner schedule for the week, we can more equally divide household tasks. I know it seems we are all increasingly busy in today’s market-driven society, but we must not lose perspective. Yes, school is time-consuming and it is difficult to make time for seemingly mundane chores, but my point holds. Household labor should not fall upon one person’s shoulders, regardless of how incredibly strong a mother she is.

 

Love,

An aspiring woman in leadership

The Case for Ecofeminism

By: Brooke Claflin

            In many feminist circles, it is largely agreed upon that a middle to upper-class largely white and largely heterosexual group of women should not represent the movement as a whole. Instead many feminists have argued for an intersectional approach to feminism and on top of that have even argued that any brand of feminism that is not intersectional fails to really get to the heart of the movement. Intersectional feminism takes into account everything about a person, ranging from sexual orientation to race to socioeconomic status to religion. Thus, a successful brand of feminism bases itself on solidarity not unity because not all women share the same experiences, but all women do share the desire to be free from oppression and subjugation.

            In her essay “The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism” Karen J. Warren goes beyond the importance of inclusivity in the feminist movement and explores how the feminist and environmentalist movements are inextricably linked. Warren claims that an oppressive patriarchal conceptual framework exists in our world and that this framework serves to justify the domination of women and nature. In general, nature is seen as inferior to mankind due to its incapacity to change the world around it and, at least in western culture, women are identified with nature and the physical making them also subordinate to men. Thus, the subordination of nature and women to men are linked in their ties to the same logic of domination.

            These interconnections amongst oppressed entities are important in that they are similar to the interconnections amongst different oppressed communities of women; although nature and women do not share the exact same problems, they should work together in solidarity because they are both oppressed by the same patriarchal framework of values. In general, a feminist ethic, according to Warren, ought to be an inclusive one.

            In the past, I had not really considered how such distinct movements as feminism and environmentalism might be connected and probably would have even denied the existence of any such fundamental link. However, after reading Warren’s article, I now acknowledge the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of naturism and sexism. Oppression cannot just be fought in one place for one group, but rather all the oppressed must work together in solidarity to overthrow the logic of domination that arbitrarily considers men superior. A new logic and conceptual framework of society cannot be established until the old one is completely rejected, and the oppressed come together to re-vision the world order.

 

 

Source:

Warren, Karen J. “The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism.” Environmental Ethics:           Readings in Theory and Application, edited by Katie McShane, Louis P. Pojman, and Paul Pojman, 7th ed., Cengage Learning, 2017.

The Chick Flick: Trends New and Old

By: Caitlin Panarella

 

Let’s talk about chick flicks.

 

That rather unfortunate term, “chick flick,” usually associated with romantic comedy films, suggests that these films are of particular fascination to women.  The target audience is usually women, due to some notion that men would have no interest in relationships or sappy happily-ever-afters.  If romantic comedies are indeed geared toward women, they offer an important study in the messages aimed at their target viewer.

 

This past summer, I realized that when it came to cult classic films, my vocabulary remained largely empty.  I had seen some favorites, but for many I had only secondhand knowledge of their iconic moments.  I made a list of ones I wanted to watch.  Many of the fan favorites included romantic comedies, which had their heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s.

 

While I never expected these romantic comedies to be the stock image of equality and feminism, I felt disturbed by some of the trends I saw repeated in many of them.  To quote Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger, “once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.”  

 

One of the first movies I saw was You’ve Got Mail (1998), a beloved Pride-and-Prejudice-esque movie about competing professionals in the bookstore industry.  Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a small bookshop, tries to keep her business afloat when Joe Fox, the head of a corporate chain bookstore, moves in across the street.  Meanwhile, the two fall in love through their online personages.

 

I was very excited to watch this movie, making its ultimate disappointment all the more regretful.  Bookstores? Pride and Prejudice undertones? A matrilineal business? Done, done and done.  The film was funny and well-acted, and the leads had great chemistry.  

 

Unfortunately, however, Kathleen loses her business toward the end of the film.  This in and of itself is not what turned me off.  It reflects a sad reality: corporate chains often kill off small, independent bookshops.  What upset me most was the end of the film, when Kathleen discovers who he is and the credits roll as soon as they kiss. I felt left in the lurch- what about her business?  What is her next move career-wise?  

 

This is not the love of equals; that ended when Joe found out who his online interest was and continued to pull the strings.  He was her superior both in business and in knowledge of the relationship.

 

This inclination to disregard a woman’s career, or any part of her life outside her relationship with a man, reappears in other “chick flicks” such as “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (2003) and “The American President” (1995).  In the former, while Andie tries to leave New York to pursue a job, her love interest Ben claims she is only leaving because of him.  Ben has just received a promotion.  The latter ends with President Shepherd being applauded by Congress before his speech after having left his love interest Sydney Wade with a bouquet of flowers.  She, meanwhile, has just lost her job.

 

In both films, the man attains professional success while it is left unclear whether the woman does or not.  As it is left ambiguous, this information is deemed irrelevant to the ending.  

 

All of these films implicitly communicate a dangerous message to the female viewer: Who needs economic stability when you have a man to support you?  Not only is the woman’s career secondary to the man’s, it is secondary to her relationship as well.  The message that career is secondary to love is a gendered one, because all three films affirm a man’s success.

 

Fortunately, I have seen some films in the past year that may be signaling a shift in a better direction.  One of them is La La Land.  Whatever else might be said about the film, it shows a supportive partnership, albeit with some bumps in the road. Though Mia and Seb do not end up together, both helped each other achieve their dreams.  Mia took her career seriously, and did not compromise it for her relationship with Seb.  No one’s success is left ambiguous; in fact the entire film leads to an ending of mutual respect and accomplishment.

 

Though this shift is a positive one, older films are by no means out of the picture; despite their antiquated messages, they are still “classics.”  When watching any movie, one must approach it with a critical eye with regard to gendered messages.  Ask who this movie is reassuring, and what it says women should value.  Media messages can help women or harm women, and we must call out bias when we see it.

 

Source:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/14/romantic-comedies-failing-women_n_7026302.html