Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Back to school and double standards

When I was twelve or so I remember walking through a Target parking lot after a night of shopping with my mother. It was the kind of dark that can only be found during winters in the Chicagoland area. Immediately after leaving the store, my mother pulled out her keys and held them between her fingers with the sharp bit pointing outwards. She then, very seriously, looked me in the eye and made me promise to always carry my keys like that when I got my driver’s license. “Just in case” she said. Now if you’re a woman, an anecdote like this most likely sounds familiar. Sometime in your life an older woman taught you, maybe without meaning to, that the world is a scary place to be a woman (that college campuses are scary places to be a woman), and because of that you have to be prepared. If you’re a man, you probably just learned something new. Just a couple weeks ago, seven years later, my mother and I stepped out of a Target after purchasing some odds and ends that I required for the school year. Tucked away between Clorox wipes, q-tips, and extra hairspray was a fresh bottle of mace for my keychain. Just in case.
The summer before my freshmen year of college I remember comparing graduation gifts with my female friends, so many of them had been thoughtfully gifted with mace, rape whistles, and even pocket knives. Because the adults in our lives have learned that college campuses are hunting grounds, and this is the only way they know how to protect us from predators. My male friends on the other hand received boxes of condoms and even lube.
The prospect of sexual experimentation on college campuses seems thrilling for freshmen men, and seems like a scenario that could lead to sexual assault for women. Navigating college nightlife often means navigating an obstacle course of sexual menace for many women. The prospect of drinking and going to parties seems enticing until you’ve witnessed how quick some men are to fill up the cup of a woman who’s already staggering. So as men gear up with shot glasses, condoms, and other party supplies, women sit at the feet of their mother’s listening to the rules we’ve heard since we entered high school.
1. Use the buddy system
2. Keep your phone out and dialed to “9-1-”
3. Don’t take drinks from strangers
4. Pour your own drink
5. Under no circumstances should you put down your cup
Beginning college is supposed to be a monumental life event filled with amazement, but for so many women, rather they’re starting their first year or their fourth, college campuses can look like unsafe spaces. And more and more we see in the news that many college campuses are not quick to protect or defend us. Men are able to carelessly go out and enjoy party culture, many oblivious to the stark contrast between their night out and a group of women’s night out. Women must always be vigilant of anyone who may want to harm them or a woman with them. This culture of giving women weapons perpetuates the idea that it is their fault if they fall victim to sexual assault rather than the fault of their assaulter’s. Mace, rape whistles, pocket knives, and keys held in between our fingers are the only way we know how to defend ourselves, and we must defend ourselves, because no one is teaching men not to be on the offensive. This is a culture of women being responsible for protecting themselves from sexual assault rather than men being told simply not to sexually assault women. No judge can tell you that you didn’t do everything in your power if your attacker’s eyes are red from mace, or if their arm has a puncture from a car key, right? Maybe.
By no means am I encouraging students to view Augie with utter disdain, but I am encouraging students to pay attention to the double standard hitting us over the head. In an ideal world, a college campus would never be thought of as a scary place. But we live in a world dominated by rape culture and our campus reflects that. So if you’re a man and you’re excited to be back at Augie, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be. Seeing friends you haven’t seen all summer and starting classes again is all positive, but recognize your privilege. Remember that you didn’t have to purchase a weapon of self-defense just to feel safe on campus.

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Back to school and double standards