What We Missed

Women undergrads: still not equal. Articles about women undergrads not being equal: still running in the Style section.

Lt. Dan Choi is in federal court this week, on trial for his anti-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protesting outside the White House.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to be appointed to the SCOTUS bench, doesn’t think she could be confirmed if she were nominated today – because of her history of working with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • anyadnight

    That article about inequality on campus manages to ask why women would ever put up with social inequality or go to those degrading frat parties, but fails to ask why men are still degrading women on campus and marching around singing rape chants. It does that awesome double standard thing that tells women to learn their lesson and stop trying to enjoy their social lives on men’s terms without questioning why men are still enforcing those terms between and within their social networks. Both questions are important, I’d just appreciate it if anyone bothered to try and make men responsible. Of course, that would insight a chorus of, “what about the menz?!”

    • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

      I think the concepts addressed in the article are simply not the same as “rape chants” and other overt forms of degradation. I didn’t see much in the article that demonstrated inequality, other than adherence to the conventional “he chases, she accepts or rejects” model of courtship (they frame this as “he chases, she submits,” but also leave open the idea that “she” can simply say she’s not interested). Whether this is unequal or not, and in what direction it is unequal, is not clear. I felt like the article failed to demonstrate inequality, and attempted to prove its point by noting that women attend parties wearing relatively little clothing, and most of these parties are arranged by men. Another interpretation is that men are going to great lengths to get women to sleep with them, and that women are choosing to take part in this meat market, and probably doing at least as much work getting dressed, primping, etc., as the guys are buying booze, setting up the house, etc.. Another interpretation is that women are choosing to go to social spaces, dressing in ways they find pleasing, and choosing to hook up or not with men they may or may not find attractive, some of whom may have organized the parties. Which interpretation is correct, and whether or not the sort of social scene fostered at Duke and other universities is explicitly condoning inequality per se, or rape culture more specifically, is not made clear in the article.

      Obviously, the sort of displays put on by the Yale frat guys with their rape chant IS explicitly condoning rape culture, is wrong, and is pretty shameful. However, that is a totally different phenomenon than the “guys throw parties that women go to, wearing relatively little clothing” alluded to in the article. It’s not even clear that this type of social scene is even inherently unequal. Overall, the article felt kind of sex negative, kind of parochial, and just kind of dated to me. I’m curious what others thought.

    • http://feministing.com/members/cliff/ cliff arroyo

      By the time they’re established frat members, these guys have learned that if they tell women to come to parties dressed as sluts then a lot of scantily dressed young women will show up at their party. They’ve also learned that ‘rape chants’ attract a certain amount of female interest (note that some women defending the “rape chant” as “good fun”).

      Even if it alienates and enrages some other women as long as this strategy works (and it appears to be working) it will continue. People respond to motivation and these guys have no motivation to behave differently as long as enough females respond positively.

      No one’s stopping young women from hosting parties and telling young men how to dress (and if they did I’m sure a lot of young men would show up).

      • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

        You seem to be painting fraternities with a pretty broad brush . . .

      • http://feministing.com/members/rhyth7/ Jamie

        Most fraternity men are a lot more upstanding than you seem to think, although they may not always voice their true feelings on such subjects and just go along with it. Of course there are a few bad apples, and unfortunately they seem to have the loudest voices as well. Seems like the same thing happens in every situation, ahem *politics*.

        Maybe the women who see this as fun know that most of the men are not serious. Problem is what about the few who are? What about the few who now think their brothers share their point of view, when most of them are just paying lipservice to not be seen as weak? That is why such statements and actions are dangerous.

        As for sororities, at least on my campus (although it probably extends to all since national sororities are run by the fundamental rules of their particular organization), we were NOT allowed to host parties open to the campus on our property. We could have dances with dates in other venues or have a dance party in our basement with our members only.

        Your comment about women being able to host their own parties is true for dorm and off campus parties.

  • http://feministing.com/members/carnivalous/ Anne

    Fashion and Style :(

  • http://feministing.com/members/rhyth7/ Jamie

    The main problem, at least with fraternities and sororities, is that sororities are heavily regulated and are a lot less freer than fraternities. If sororities and fraternities were handled the same way, then an equal amount of parties would be held by each, resulting in less sexist parties. As a former sorority member, I am deeply disappointed by the inequalities of the Greek system, sororities are still coddled and ‘protected’ instead of given equal rights. On my campus, at University of Idaho, all sororities were required (by their organizations, not the school I don’t think) to be dry and any guests at dances were to be formal dates. We weren’t allowed to throw open parties or provide alcohol. Therefore parties are the fraternities domain and that will remain until sororities get up to date. I hear alumni stories of being required to wear dresses every day and having curfews and am glad that those rules no longer apply but sororities still have some trouble with treating their members as adults. I’ve never heard of a wet sorority and I think that is wrong.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

      Can you say a bit more about what makes sororities more heavily regulated and less free? I’m wanting to understand this better, not challenging your point, btw.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

      Maybe I should refocus my question to get to the point: why do you think sororities are choosing to impose these restrictions on their members? Who is creating these -seemingly draconian- rules?

      • http://feministing.com/members/rhyth7/ Jamie

        It is of course the organizations themselves (at the national level) who make and enforce the rules. Individual sororities have little wiggle room. Of course fraternities also have to deal with their nationals but their actions don’t seem to be as swift or as harsh.

        In my sorority’s case, the main concerns of nationals seemed to be PR, lawsuits, and what would alumni think. Whenever alumni visited, we were to treat them as if they were our grandmothers or even greatgrandmothers.

        While I understand respecting those who’ve come before us, we were basically only to answer their questions and try not to appear distant, which was hard to do cuz we were very afraid of alumni. If we talked freely about our lives, alumni would complain about what our sorority was teaching us, yet if we weren’t open enough, they would comment on how hostile we were. Of course our funding depends on these people, so we were always given the rundown of how alumni visits went and how we need to project a perfect image. Complaints of frigidity usually came from younger alumni who wanted to talk about the juicy exploits they had, while older ones were concerned about our morals.

        My fraternity friends seemed to love when alumni visited. They gained insight to the history of their brotherhood and seemed more relaxed. They of course were very respectful as well, but were also able to have a beer with their newfound friend too. Especially during homecoming and dad’s week. Alumni to them were mentors, not to be feared.

        To me though the biggest looming fear was lawsuits that was the main cause of all restrictions. I feel like in the public’s eye there is still the distinction that if a male makes a mistake it is because of his own foolishness, yet if the same happens to a female it has something more to it.

        Take for example rush on my campus. Fraternities were able to hold fun activities for incoming freshman during the summer and then the freshman would choose which frats they wanted to visit during rush and supposedly if a frat didn’t like you they would tell you and put your stuff out the door.

        Sorority rush was not allowed to contact incoming freshman. Rush was organized to give everyone a fair chance. The girls were divided into 9 groups and then visited the 9 sororities on the first day. Then they would pick their top 7 and the sororities would pick who they wanted to come back, and so on for 5 days. Rush is very stressful cuz it is like speed dating with a ton of people, and members would have to practice intricate switching maneuvers to try to make it seem ‘natural’. We were always afraid of making someone feel uncomfortable and then getting a complaint or threat from parents for being unfair. Being sued always seemed like a possibility.

        As a freshman, I was constantly warned about what not to do otherwise nationals would kick me out or shut our house down. It didn’t help that our chapter in WSU just had that happen a few years before and are only 20 minutes away. We were watched very heavily.

        The next year a girl from my house fell out of the window at a frat and was seriously injured. The media kept going on about how she was a freshman sorority member, though she was a sophomore on campus and her college habits were probably already set. The blame was on us. Our house was put on probation and almost shut down, we weren’t allowed to participate in anything, even philanthropies. That year was full of sadness about our member’s tragedy and fear of messing up. The added stress pulled grades down and with that came even more fear. One of the alumni, offering advice on how to prevent this, said ” Well maybe you shouldn’t go above the first floor in a frat.” Helpful.

        Earlier that week, a frat member had also fallen from his house. Although I’m sure the threat of lawsuit was equally there, the frat might have tightened things up a bit, yet they were still able to participate in most things.

        Does this help you to understand how sororities and fraternities are treated differently?

        And again with the issue about parties in the Greek system, if sororities were allowed to hold their own parties, then they could control the themes and the atmosphere. It would be nice if even alcohol free parties were allowed in our houses instead of another venue. The frats never provided alcohol at their parties, yet if you were old enough (or didn’t care about the law) you could bring your own. I’m just suggesting equality on this aspect. The suggestion to abstain from the sexist parties is unrealistic and was repeated often by the Greek council. Yes it would work if 100% participation was guaranteed, but that will never happen until a more exciting opportunity was available. In our rural college town, everything shut down at 10 and of course bars are only for those 21.

  • http://feministing.com/members/bmac/ B Mac

    I, too, was pissed to see this discussion of gender inequity on college campuses printed in the Style section, rather in a more heavy-hitting, man’s world op ed section. While the article does little to get at the deeper issues, it surfaces a number of questions, including questions about how our most hallowed academic institutions, and the students therein, support, reinforce and sustain the gender contract. Men need to challenge other men, and women need advocacy in order to back up and see the damage that this contract perpetuates. If we look at the work of the 50’s and 60’s to create some modicum of race equity, (some) whites participated in the fight. We are now at a point in history where it is no longer socially acceptable in most circles to use racist stereotypes and slurs, and most of the white folk I know would feel obliged to challenge someone who behaved in an overtly racist way or we would see ourselves as complicit, which I know I can’t live with. Why can’t men begin to look at gender inequity and misogyny in the same way and participate in the work? How is it than men can witness this sort of behavior and not feel obligated to act in resistance? Even in our most high-level bastions of intellectual capacity, it seems that men are more interested in maintaining the gender contract than deconstructing it. We’re fuct.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

      Maybe instead of throwing out rhetorical questions that imply that all men are sociopaths, you should look at context and identify variables that can be changed.

      • http://feministing.com/members/rhyth7/ Jamie

        I don’t think that she is saying men are sociopaths. I think she is just saying that if men do see the inequality, why don’t they fight against it? However, I’m fairly sure that most men do not see it, or have seen very little of it. They may not know the full extent.

        If you’ve always grown up with something how do you know if’ it’s normal or that not everyone experiences the same thing. Oppression is very clear to those opressed and probably to those who started it, but those in the middle may not see it.

        For example,it is true that some slaveowners thought they were helping their slaves by guiding their lives. They may not have been overly violent towards their slaves, they may have been very kind. To them, they were being just. Yet they still violated human rights and ignored the will of their slaves. The slaves may have been treated very well, yet they were not equal and had no agency.

        This is just an example of how point of view figures into things. Maybe men don’t see how women are unequal because it’s not obvious mistreatment. Men in the western world agree women are mistreated in other countries, because obvious and blatant. It’s not hidden like in developed nations.