Our ode to Women’s History Month

By the women of the Delta Collegiate

womens-history-monthIn 1995, the United States officially proclaimed March as Women’s History Month. For 22 years, our nation has celebrated and shown appreciation for the women in our lives and those who shaped how women are treated in our present day society. We have made a lot of progress as a society, but we still have a ways to go. These are our stories of modern day issues that we, the women of the Collegiate, have faced because of our gender.

I want a partner, not a husband

For the longest time, women and men have been victims of the patriarchy. Maybe it’s time to change that.

I grew up in a patriarchal family structure. I wore skirts whose lengths led to my knees every day to be “modest.” My dad was the breadwinner and my mom stayed home and educated me and my five siblings. When it came time for college, there was no hard expectation that I would go to college. It was my choice to use saved-up money for tuition or for a house when I got married. I chose the former, but as I looked at colleges, I didn’t look at schools beyond a drivable distance because I was expected to stay at home under my father’s protection until I was married.

When all the pieces do their part, this arrangement works, but when my dad had a mental breakdown and moved across the continent from his family, things were thrown into chaos. My mom’s paradigm changed. She had to step out of her traditional role as mother and supporter of a man to find a job to provide for her six children.

In contrast to my parent’s relationship is the relationship of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The two married and divorced multiple times, but aside from their troubles, they had a relationship built on loyalty and they encouraged one another in their painting careers. They deeply respected one another and wanted each other to succeed. It was a partnership of two people who deeply loved each other, which was an unusual relationship concept at the time.

After seeing the fallout from my parents’ divorce and how the hierarchy of their relationship made my mother dependent on my father, I had realized that I wanted a partner like Frida Kahlo and not a husband like my mother once had.

Dressing for society

Ellen DeGeneres: comedian, daytime talk show host, LGBTQ+ community advocate, fashion icon, producer, writer, human. In 2015, Ellen created her own lifestyle collection, ED, which consists of apparel, home goods and accessories. She disclosed in an interview with Harper’s BAZAAR that her style doesn’t “fall into any specific category.” By stating that she does not favor more feminine or more masculine things, this explains her sense of style perfectly. Ellen stopped dressing for television and started dressing for her own comfort. For years she has been criticized for what she wears, how she acts and the words she says. This does not seem to stop her from dominating every challenge that she takes on throughout her career.

Ever since I was little, everyone has told me how to dress, how to act, what to do and what not to do. I’m a girl, and girls wear dresses with big pink bows and frolic through the flowers while they wait for Prince Charming. This was always a hard concept for me to grasp.

As I got older, clothes became tighter and shorter. Women wear crop tops and tight skinny jeans that their bodies plead to be let out of. Why couldn’t I wear what my guy-friends were wearing – basketball shorts and baggy T-shirts? Girls don’t wear that.

It wasn’t until I was 19 years old, shopping by myself in Zumiez when I finally gained the respect that I had been longing for. While browsing through the women’s sweatshirts, I held up one that was cut in half and asked the guy working what his honest thoughts were. He gracefully suggested that I looked at the men’s section because they are “a lot comfier.” I owe my entire confidence in life to this man.

It’s sad to think that I had to wait almost two decades not to be told what section I should be shopping in or what I should be wearing. Individuals like Ellen DeGeneres are taking strides to make people feel more comfortable with themselves in society, but it takes a community to stand together and prevent judgement on others.

Dispelling the slur of “slut”

The concept of slut-shaming revolves around the idea of a woman being called out, humiliated or shunned for exerting some type of sexual behavior according to the opinion of another individual.

History has proven that this concept existed long before a name was given to the act. Monica Lewinsky, an American activist, television personality, fashion designer and former White House intern, will always be remembered and labeled as a slut for a sexual encounter that occurred during Bill Clinton’s presidency. It is important to note that the woman involved in the scandal, who was unmarried and in her in early 20s, was ridiculed while the married man involved was given a pass in the public’s eye.

Bowling seems like such an innocent pastime. However, a jealous guy can take a great night and turn the entire situation upside down with a quick glance at a phone and a preconceived notion. Thursday nights are ritualistically spent at the bowling alley to celebrate the ending of another long school week.

As the night came to an end, I stood by a couple of guy-friends at a table while waiting for my best friend to finish getting her stuff together. One of these friends had expressed his feelings for me earlier in the year, however several complicating matters prevented the relationship from growing into anything more than a friendship. So, as I am waiting for my best friend, the three of us began talking.

My phone was placed right-side up on the table and suddenly I received a snapchat from another guy-friend, who happened to know the guy who had developed feelings for me.  I had had a previous and brief sexual relationship with the friend who had sent me the snap. The two were in the same friend group, but didn’t seem to get along, at least not when I was the subject of conversation. As soon as my friend at the bowling alley saw the snap, he abruptly stood up from the table looked me dead in the eyes and said, “That’s just perfect. Right on time, as per usual.”

He proceeded to talk away from the table, but turned around and said, “Wow, you really are a slut, aren’t you?”

I remained standing, wide-eyed while in shock as he stormed away.

Both of the situations express forms of shaming women while the men in the situations, who were at just as much, if not more, at fault, a pass on their behavior. In Lewinsky’s case she was put on blast through the media and world wide web, while Clinton received little to no criticism.

In my situation, I was called out and slut-shamed for simply receiving a snap from a friend. Regardless of my relationship with the friend who had sent me the snap, I was called the slut. Mind you, the person shaming me was in a committed relationship. Because of the previous knowledge my friend at the bowling alley knew, me receiving a snapchat from a previous sexual partner was enough of a reason to label me a slut.    

Combatting the stigma of rape culture

Women have always been seen as dainty and little. We are praised for being poised and keeping our composure despite the circumstances. We are told to speak when spoken to and to care for our men. So, what was I supposed to do when my man raped me?

A lot of people sweep sexual assault under the rug. It’s not a thing we talk about. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s hard to prove. But imagine being sexually assaulted by your ex-boyfriend. Picture yourself running out of his house without your underwear, tears falling from your eyes, and having no one to call; because how do you tell your friends, who are now his friends, that the person you loved and trusted for over two years didn’t want to hear the word “no”?

Imagine feeling so disgusting in your own skin that you shower with the heat all the way up, hoping the skin they touched will die and fall off. Imagine being bombarded with the memory of the assault while dealing with the guilt of ruining that person’s life if you told. Keeping in mind that with a simple Google search, you learn that out of every 1,000 rapes reported, 994 of the perpetrators will walk free, but you’ll always be remembered as the girl who cried rape.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, six in 10 rape or sexual assault victims are assaulted by an intimate partner, relative, friend or acquaintance, and about two of every three sexual assaults go unreported. Where many people find this confusing, I understand. As much as I despise the “put someone you love in their shoes” analogy – because a person is a person and them being abused should be more than enough to be empathetic to them – do it.

Susan Brownmiller combated the stigma that comes with rape by writing “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.” She addressed issues that nobody wanted to write or talk about by questioning the social structure. She ventured out of her quiet and dainty societal norms and influenced the way the world perceived rape culture.

Though she received backlash, she didn’t stop sharing what she believed in, which is all we as women can keep pushing to do.

Women such as Brownmiller, DeGeneres, Lewinsky, et al. have impacted and shaped National Women’s History Month into something that brings pride to womanhood. They have created a new generation of women – and men – who don’t shame a woman for having more than one sexual partner in her life or by the way she dresses herself. Yes, we are still facing challenges that come with these ideas, but now it’s our turn to shape the next generation of powerful women.

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