Sexism and women’s right have been on my mind a lot in the last week, which is fitting because it is still women’s history month. There are times where I do not think about sexism in my life, or where I am too busy to consider all of the injustice against women that still exists in the world. This is not one of those times.
I am sad to say that sexism is still very much alive, not only in the world and in our country, but here at DePauw’s campus. There are many times that small acts and words come up and surprise me with their lack of regard for the messages and the meanings behind them. Take, for example, when I am studying and outside the room I hear guys I know talking about “bitches.” The way they use it does not seem, on their end anyways, to be referring negatively about a group of girls. Instead, they use it in the context of how most people say “guys” to refer to a group of men. Yet they use this term all the time, saying things like “Bitches love it when ….” or “Bitches don’t like it when ….” It is a small thing, but it is still offensive.
And things like that, small micro-aggressions against women, happen very often at DePauw. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, especially those “nice guys” here that seem to think that just because they don’t stand for people outright mistreating women somehow means they are excluded from acting in sexist behaviors. What about when I hear guys yelling to their friends, “You throw like a girl,” or “Don’t be a pussy”? What about the slut shaming I hear, the way guys talk about girls they’ve hooked up with, and the ways girls are treated at fraternities? Some of the nicest guys I know, and some of my best guy friends, have still engaged in sexist behavior at times, often without even realizing it. I’m not trying to attack these people, I’m just trying to point out that even those with the best of intentions still slip up, don’t realize the full extent of their words or actions, and have trouble monitoring themselves at all times.
It is for this reason (and others) that we see groups like I Don’t Give a F*ck About Your Boner forming on campus. For those who don’t know, this is a group of female comedians on campus who do skits about sexism and women’s rights. They are addressing issues on campus and in society in general, even in the simple fact that it is a group of all-female comedians, which shows our society’s lack of such groups in mainstream media. I am not a part of this group, but I love what they are doing. I think this type of discussion on campus, especially engaging them with humor and satire, is overdue. I am excited to see what these strong women do with their new-found medium of expression.
There are many issues regarding sexism and the lack of women’s rights in our country, including unequal pay for the same jobs, over-sexualized and unrealistic depictions of women in the media, slut-shaming, stuck in the past expectations of women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers, the list goes on and on. But I want to engage with an issue here that is more controversial, and one that is related to a recent Compton Center event I attended this week hosted by my friend Megan. That topic is a women’s right to her body.
Megan showed the film No Mas Bebes at her event on Tuesday, a film about the sterilization of Latina women in east Los Angeles in the 70s. Sad to say that sterilization is still something that happens today, but I will come back to that. These Latina women were targeted for sterilization the minute they came into the hospitals to give birth because of their culture, their economic status, and their immigrant status. Stereotypical and prejudiced beliefs on the side of the doctors and staff led these women to lose their right to reproduce. As they were in labor, doctors and nurses would ask the women to sign a form consenting to sterilizing them during C-section surgery. These women often did not speak English, were not explained what it was they were signing, where scared from being in a foreign situation, and were going through the stress of childbirth. They were in no position to understand what it was they were “agreeing” to, and in the cases where is was explained, often misunderstood the translations given, thinking that sterilization meant cleaning, not taking away the ability to reproduce.
While I do not think that asking the mothers if they would like to be sterilized is necessarily a bad thing, I do think the situations in which they were asked, the targeting of poor and minority groups for this procedure, and the lacking of explanation and in some cases forcing of women to go through this procedure is disgusting and violating.
But this is still happening today. Minority and poor women are being targeted for sterilization in prisons. Women are being forced to go through procedures that they do not want. While some women are being getting their right to have children taken away, many women are also getting their right not to have children taken away. Apparently, women aren’t allowed to make a choice for themselves either way.
Increasingly, women are not allowed to decide what to do with their own bodies. We love to think that women are equal in our society, but regardless of the other injustices that happen to women, the fact that we are not even allowed to decide what to do with our body, lives, and futures speaks volumes to the real position of women in society.
I hope that you all are as disgusted with this fact as I am. I hope that you can all see the injustice of women being denied the choices to control their own lives, regardless of your stance on abortion, sterilization, etc. I hope that we can do something about it.
I urge you all to be aware of the way you not only treat women, but also the way you talk, act, and even think about women. I urge you to notice when something is sexist, and to eventually be able to speak out against it. Finally, I urge those who feel strongly about a women’s right to her body and to her own choices are able to help her fight for those choices; in conversation and in legislation.