The naked truth about equality
‘Full-frontal feminism’ lecture encourages students to keep fighting against sexism
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 00:03
Students gathered in the Student Union Theater this past Thursday night to attend "Full Frontal Feminism: Sexism, Activism and Justice," a lecture featuring feminist blogger and author Jessica Valenti and organized by SUBOG and the UConn Women's Center.
A prominent activist, Valenti is the founder of Feministing.com, a blog describing itself as "an online community for feminists and their allies." Though Valenti has left the site, it continues to be the most widely read feminist publication in print or online with an audience of over 6,000 readers per month. She has published three books to date, has appeared on popular television programs such as "The Colbert Report" and was interviewed by the New York Times Magazine. She also recently appeared on The Guardian's list of "100 Inspiring Women."
Valenti began by asking how many people considered themselves feminists, and admitted surprise when a vast majority of the audience raised their hands. She explained that, more often than not, people deny being feminists because the term carries many negative connotations for them; some examples offered by the audience included "man-hater," "ugly" and "bra-burner." However, she emphasized that the stigma surrounding feminism is part of a long-standing strategy meant to discourage women from getting involved and taking a stand against injustice.
"Women with power and strong voices is not something Americans are raised to be comfortable with," said Valenti, in reference to anti-feminist backlash. "We're hitting a nerve."
A common argument against today's feminism is that since women are legally equal to men, what is there to fight for? Valenti responded by highlighting current news topics, such as how a recent Congressional panel on reproductive rights did not include a single woman, and radio personality Rush Limbaugh's recent comments when he called Georgetown student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute." These instances, plus numerous others, demonstrate that although women legally have all the rights of men, there is still rampant social inequality.
A particularly resonant element of this lecture was the discussion of rape culture and its role on college campuses. Rape culture is the social view of rape is permissible, and that it is up to women to protect themselves from this inevitable threat. In one memorable anecdote, she explained that at some colleges, the only punishment for raping another student is an essay on sexual assault.
"You can see it at UConn too," said 2nd-semester American studies major Kelly McArdle. "Even with little things, like calling Hunting Lodge Road the ‘rape trail.' It's both sexist and threatening."
However, students at UConn are working to improve the lives of female students on and off campus. This past fall, UConn students participated in a campus "Slut Walk" as a part of the nation-wide movement to fight rape culture and put an end to victim blaming.
"Hate is aging out," said Valenti, expressing her hope that today's youth will continue the fight against sexism.