“Come party–it’s free & you’ll have fun!”

By Patricia Yancey Martin

We know far more about rape and sexual assault on campus than we used to.  Yet too often, young women are raped in their first few weeks away at college and fraternity men and athletes brag about not just blow jobs and intercourse but also anal sex, as in the chant, “No means yes, yes means anal!”  Why do such egregious practices persist? The answer is this—the “rape-prone” culture of academic institutions has changed little over the years. Yes, today most colleges have a victim-advocacy program but the institutional contexts that tolerate and facilitate, and indeed celebrate the sexualization of women students continue to thrive. Both the wider institution as well as men’s social fraternities and big-time athletic programs constitute socio-cultural contexts that facilitate rather than prevent sexual assault.

Can our colleges improve?  Possibly but doing so will require major changes in the overall institution, including the management of the Greek fraternity system and high stakes athletic programs. What can be done? First, the institutions’ presidents (or their top officials) must be educated about the connection between their practices, such as fund-raising, winning sports contests, cow-towing to public opinion, sports boosters and powerful alumni, and the prevalence and forms of sexual assault on campus. Even when they want women students to be safe from sexual assault, their concern with such issues makes them inattentive to women’s well-being. Second, when problematic behavior occurs, presidents should ensure swift enforcement of firm disciplinary policies with real consequences, such as expulsion from school and loss of scholarships.  Exceptions should not be made for members of winning teams or sons of influential alumni, and disciplinary action should not depend upon formal legal proceedings. Third, presidents should consult women students for advice on eliminating the rape-prone culture characterizing their institutions. This step requires “aware” women—and men—to step up and become proactive—like two women recently did at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill in founding the organization, End Rape on Campus.

Since publication of Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will (in 1975), feminists have demanded change. We challenged the legal system and helped eliminate laws that require a third-party witness, evidence of victims’ resistance, and other victim-blaming criteria. Under pressure, the legal system broadened the definition of rape (penetration of a female vagina by a male penis with use of force) to that of sexual assault which is far more inclusive. Rape-shield laws prohibiting evidence of a victim’s prior sexual history were adopted. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and hospitals improved their treatment of victims and “date rape” or acquaintance rape were (and are) found to be far more prevalent than “stranger” rape. Despite all this, as CNN reporter Moni Basu notes, colleges and universities did not really change. In late 2015, she wrote: “Rape [on campuses] was a serious problem then [in 1988] and is one now. One in five college women said they were sexually assaulted according to a recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.”

The rape-prone culture of U. S. campuses is as strong as ever, perhaps stronger. Women who accept invitations to a “fun” fraternity party or apartment of a star athlete may unwittingly embark on a nightmare.  A better strategy is to align with others to eliminate the rape-prone culture that sullies our campuses and to create a culture that respects women and treats them as valued friends and acquaintances.

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Patricia Yancey Martin, Daisy Parker Flory Professor of Sociology Emerita (Florida State University), has lectured and published extensively on rape/sexual assault with a focus on organizations and workers–police, rape crisis staff, hospital personnel, judicial officials–who process victims. Her book,  Rape Work: Victims, Gender, and Emotions in Organization and Community Context (Routledge, 2005), shows that organizational mandates prompt “rape workers” to be unresponsive to rape victims’ needs even when they are inclined to behave otherwise.  Her 1989 article in Gender & Society on fraternities and rape on U. S. campuses is widely cited and led to her recent participation in a CNN special report on the gang rape victim that was the inspiration for the article. A former Fulbright fellowship recipient, Martin had lectured across the US and Europe on rape and other issues. She received the Jessie Bernard Award from the American Sociological Association in 2007 and was named to the Roll of Honor Award by the Southern Sociological Society in 2008. The full article can be found in Gender & Society‘s February 2016 30 (1) issue.

Next week: look for Nicola Henry’s discussion: Violence Prevention as a Form of Justice.

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Making a Difference in Academe

By Eric Grollman

Cross-posted with permission from Inside Higher Ed.

Let’s set aside the debate over whether one can, or even should, be an activist in academia. If you recognize that inequality and other problems exist within academia, then I do not need to convince you that someone should be working to make change. But, some scholars are skeptical of “rocking the boat,” either because of fear of professional harm or the assumption that one does not have the time. Making academia a more equitable and humane place is not an easy, quick, risk-free task; if that were the case, we would probably see a lot more progress by now! But, I believe we can all make small (and big) changes, whether an activist, advocate, or simply a concerned scholar.

Here are 101 ideas of ways to make a difference in academia that I have come up with, either from experience, observation, or wishful thinking. Please add your own ideas in the comments section! Continue reading

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Gender & Society: February open access

Check this out!

The current issue of Gender & Society is open access for the month of February. The goal of the issue, Theorizing Rape through Time, Place and Relations, is to bring movement and new beginnings to the ways in which feminist scholars theorize about rape as it has occurred throughout history, in all social contexts, brought about by social relations.

We encourage faculty to share this issue with students and in the classroom and we encourage students to use the opportunity to check out the journal.

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Patterns of Global Gender Inequalities and Regional Gender Regimes

By Christine E. Bose

When demographers make cross-national comparisons about gender inequality, they often develop just one summary score for each nation. Such measures incorporate several types of inequalities—e.g., income, education, health, or political rights—into that score. For example, Iceland ranked 1st, the United States 23rd, and Pakistan last (135th) among the countries included in the Global Gender Gap Index (World Economic Forum 2013). On the plus side, feminist activists and policy-makers use low scores to prod their governments into improving women’s status and rights. On the negative side, this blending of many inequalities into one score helps create false impressions about other nations. The data above suggests that Iceland is terrific on all types of gender inequality and that Pakistan is terrible. But in reality different issues related to gender inequality occur in these two nations and women of varying race, ethnic, or class origins living there also diversely experience gender inequality.

Popular perception suggests that the most significant gender inequality differences occur between nations of the Global North and Global South. This is partly true: The two regions are statistically different in the degree to which their social institutions, political-economic structures, and inequality outcomes are gendered. But this dichotomy also is inaccurate: It treats Global South nations as if they all follow a single gender inequality regime—while in reality they are more varied due to the mixture of developing and industrial national economies included. Indeed, some Global South nations are similar to the North. For example, the women-to-men literacy ratio is 1.00 in North American and .99 in Latin America and the Caribbean; while the women-to-men labor force participation rate is .89 in North America and .85 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Continue reading

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Flirking (Flirting at Work to Get Ahead): Why Some Women Do It

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Early Childhood Education: No Place for Men?

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Forms of Femininities at the End of a Customary Marriage

By Elena Moore

Before the arrival of democracy in South Africa, the majority of Black South African married women were regarded as perpetual minors under the guardianship of their male relatives or husbands. They could not acquire or own property in their own right and customary husbands had absolute ownership of household property and the personal property (including earnings) of their wives. In the post-apartheid era new laws improved women’s access to economic resources from a marriage but evidence suggests that there continues to be structural and cultural barriers in African families and communities, making implementing these laws very difficult. For example, the pressure for Black South African women to be respectful towards their husbands and elders, including co-wives, husbands’ mothers and others, is pervasive. Some scholars argue that the dominant ideal of an African woman as submissive and respectful to males, elders and specific family relations remains. This may take the form of excusing extreme male behaviour, such as violence or infidelity.

I investigated the challenges women experience while negotiating their way out a customary marriage. A customary marriage is legally defined as a marriage in accordance with customary law, i.e. the customs and usages traditionally observed among the indigenous African peoples of South Africa and which form part of the culture of those peoples. These negotiations can take place with husbands, co-wives, and husbands’ families with whom they have unequal power relations. In particular I was interested in how their resistance operates in a broader context of disadvantage for Black South African women. Continue reading

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Why the U.S. Remains Hobbled in Protecting Women from Gun Violence

By Sierra Smucker

Cross-posted with permission from The Society Pages/Scholars Strategy Network .

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Sign spotted in New Orleans. Bart Everson, Flickr CC.

On May 23, 2014, at Isla Vista near the University of California at Santa Barbara, Elliot Rodger embarked on a violent spree that killed six students and injured 13 others, before killing himself. Police later uncovered a 137-page manifesto titled “My Twisted World,” in which Rodger expressed his desire to punish women for rejecting him on what he called a “Day of Retribution.” For weeks after the event, the nation was transfixed by the horror of Rodger’s actions. The family members of the victims called for gun law reform while others highlighted the gender themes this violent gunman invoked.

In the year 2011, of all the women murdered with guns in cases where relationships to the offender were known, 70% were shot to death by a current or former intimate partner.

Indeed, this highly publicized tragedy links two devastating challenges the United States faces: violence against women and deadly gun crimes. Gun violence in America – including mass shootings like the Rodger case – often falls on women the gunman knows. Despite decades of efforts to reduce the threats, American women continue to be at heightened risk for death or harm by gun violence. My research explores why existing policies fall short of remedying this problem, in part because of gaps in background checks for would-be gun buyers and the proliferation of unlicensed firearms sellers. I also consider why the political environment makes it hard for advocates to advance legislation to reduce gun violence. In the course of my research, the gender disparities have become evident. Continue reading

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My Boyfriend’s Beef with My Drag Queen Crush

By Daniel Bartholomay

Last weekend, my partner and I (both cisgender gay men) took a friend of ours to a drag show at a local restaurant. After a fierce closing act featuring a Tina Turner impersonator, my partner, my friend, and I got into a heated discussion about the complicated relationship between gender, sex, and sexuality.

The debate started when I made a comment that I found one of the queens sexually attractive while she was in drag. My confessed drag queen crush threw my partner into a tizzy. Given our shared gay identity, my partner became defensive and questioned how I, as a gay man, could be attracted to an individual that was impersonating a woman. “So what, you’re bi now?” he half-jokingly asked. Continue reading

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10 Ways the Beauty Industry Tells You Being Beautiful Means Being White

Originally published on Everyday Feminism.

By Maisha Z. Johnson

I have to cringe when I think about my early days of putting on makeup.

First, my mom wouldn’t let me touch the stuff until high school – which I can understand, knowing what I know now about how girls can be pressured to grow up too fast. But I was lagging behind other girls who’d learned to beautify their faces by middle school.

Then there was the long, awkward process of finding the right looks for me. It was discouraging to join white friends at Claire’s or flipping through dELiA*s catalogues (remember those?) and feel like I couldn’t pull off any of the looks.

I thought the pink lip glosses looked awful on me because my lips were too big, and the glittery eye shadows looked strange because my skin color was all wrong. I thought foundation was always the wrong shade because I couldn’t properly blend the two brown shades I’d found.

Too many times I cringed at my reflection and thought, “Why am I so ugly?” Continue reading

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