For the Dignity of Women: A college student’s perspective on feminism

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Panelists Erika Bachiochi, Richard Reeves, Scott Yenor and moderator Dr. Burns at the recent feminism talk. Photo by Mary Kate Leonard.

On Friday, Feb. 25, Dr. Daniel Burns moderated a panel at the University of Dallas consisting of Dr. Richard Reeves, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution;  Erika Bachiochi, pro-life legal scholar and currect director of the Wollstonecraft Project at the Abigail Adams Institute; and Dr. Scott Yenor, a political science professor at Boise State University. The panel discussed their opinions and viewpoints leading up to the question: “Should we be feminists?”

The discussion began with the panelists’ opening statements, starting with Ms. Bachiochi. Bachiochi clarified two types of feminism: feminism stemming from the sexual revolution and egalitarian feminism. 

As a pro-life feminist, she stated that the first type of feminism is the end and corruption of feminism by saying that abortion and contaception emphasize the male position of privilege during sex. 

Reeves then shared his thoughts in his statement, clarifying the differences between ideological feminism and egalitarian feminism. He defined feminist ideology as an abstract and unending stuggle against the patriarchy which seeks to eliminate the natural differences between the sexes. He affirmed egalitarian feminism as the correct option which fights for substantive rights and celebrates the differences of men and women. 

Yenor began his opening statements with the false prerogative of the need to conquer nature in order to be free, which is furthered by feminism’s spread of the idea of mastering the body to achieve freedom. He defined feminism under three pillars: the end to patriarchal socialization, the establishment of independent women and children and the end of all sexual taboos. 

However, Yenor believed that these aims were all impossible to achieve and disregarded women’s nature. At the same time, we live in a feminist platonic cave and our choices will always be influenced by the feminist culture we live in. 

The panelists agreed on many of these issues, and they concluded that rape culture does not exist in America. After their discussion, I personally queried their conclusion. Reeves answered by giving an adequate definition of rape culture: men sense they have a right to sex, frequencies in sex crimes and that there are weak legal and social sanctions for rapists. Reeves expressed doubts that this “culture” can be absolutely proved. 

I was not satisfied with this. I grew up in a culture of fear, as did many other women. Women are taught to watch how they are dressed, watch what they say and never be alone. There is an emphasis on teaching women how not to get raped and not enough emphasis teaching men not to rape. 

I do not disagree with Reeves’ definition of the three aspects of rape culture. However, hook-up culture has taught men to expect sex, because women can now easily “escape” the physical consequences. Enthusiastic consent is not taught enough; thus, it tends not to be expected. 

As far as frequency goes, one in four girls will be sexually assualted before the age of 18, and one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college according to the Bureau of Justice and the US Government’s 2014 report on rape and sexual assault respectively. Only 12% of student victims who are assaulted report it to law enforcement according to the 2014 report. 

There are weak social sanctions for rapists. Brock Turner’s father, Dan Turner, displayed this by criticizing the charges his son received for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman, “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” 

This sentiment highlights why feminism exists. The dignity of women is constantly oppressed. Rape culture exists and its ugly presence rears its head around women. The sexual asymmetry between men and women is exacerbated by rape culture. 

Rape culture is to our society as cancer is to the body. While it does not make up all of our culture, we ought not to deny its presence. Rape culture seeks to undermine women’s dignity while feminism seeks to defend women’s dignity by seeking to build a society that protects women. 

Feminist movements like the “Me Too” movement attempt to help women speak out against their abuse and validate their experiences. It has brought together women from all walks of life who have shared a common cross and who have also attempted to call out the injustices in our justice system. Although this movement had its flaws, its overall message was empathy. 

Feminism fights for a future where women don’t have to fear for their rights or safety being taken away from them. Advocacy groups like Know Your IX and Hollaback bring attention to the dangers of rape culture. 

Even more practically, feminism invites women to an open conversation about sexual injustices, without neccessarily appealing to authorities. These conversations bring about awareness not only toward women but toward men as well. 

My hope is that these conversations bring about a change of heart within men and women to be more aware of the evils of rape culture. I hope one day that feminism isn’t needed, but instead we will be able to live in a world where the dignity of women isn’t threatened.

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