By Lee Cooper, Contributing Columnist
Published on Tuesday, October 9, 2007
It pains me to respond to -- and thus validate -- Aurora Wells '10's article on eating out ("Aurora's guide to eating out," Oct. 5), but it would be irresponsible of me to ignore its significance. The article demonstrates an acceptance of the egregious gendered double standards that thrive on this campus. However, using institutions -- such as The Dartmouth and other campus resources -- for the purpose of creating a collective voice of the oppressed on campus is a misguided approach for relieving discomfort with the "male-dominated" aspects of campus.
My gut reaction to the article is as follows: There is no way that a man on this campus could get away with writing an analogous article. Just imagine the consequences of a man writing an article about awkward freshman girls performing poorly when they give oral sex, and providing a diagram of a large, erect penis for future reference! Then, this man proclaims the need for women on campus to give oral sex more often and to do it better, even if it means, "You could be there for a while." Further, envision the response to this man when he says that oral sex "could be just a pong game away." And, this is all under the assumption that this male author miraculously received the go-ahead to publish this article. Wow.
In all likelihood, Wells will receive a fairly limited public response, consisting of maybe a few letters to the editor, and of course, my profound analysis. Most of the discussion will have occurred within small circles of friends,who read The D over breakfast at Collis. Had a man written an account based on his friends' receiving oral sex, I am nearly certain that it would be a different story -- a few days of op-ed battling, unending questions for the paper's editors and maybe even some sexual harassment accusations. So, how can we passively permit double standards such as this to exist at Dartmouth?
I consider myself to be a very open-minded person regarding gender debates that occur on this campus. I understand that women deserve equal rights and treatment, and that feminism is simply a belief in this seemingly intuitive cause. But, except for trivial instances of biological difference, equal must mean equal. Had this been a heterosexual male graphically describing oral sex and making many readers uncomfortable in the process, it could have been grounds for extensive social and public humiliation.
I don't intend to direct negative feelings toward the article's author, and I will even concede that despite my reservations I found the article to be mildly amusing (its crude, hand-drawn diagram of the female pubic region was certainly creative), and the unintentional humor was even greater (the diagram's close proximity to Aquinas House's advertisement concerning conversion to Catholicism). That said, there is something very wrong with our daily newspaper permitting anyone to write, using vulgar and aggressive language, about the sexual shortcomings of the opposite gender. The goals of sending such a message, as well as the negligible public response, are two manifestations of the same flaw in our campus culture.
Women at Dartmouth tend to feel the consequences of male-dominated institutions -- this is not exclusive to fraternities -- and enjoy voicing these opinions in a variety of ways as an attempt at bettering the problem. But this voice can often cross the bounds of free speech, and it does so in vain, because this is not the road to any meaningful solutions. It merely alienates the men on this campus who feel that any analogous social commentary would be grounds for thorough ostracism by a good portion of campus.
Men on this campus are suffering from the same problems in the public forums that their women counterparts do on more personal levels, including an inability to speak out forcefully against uncomfortable or unjust situations. Whether the problem is rooted in personal impotence or in paralyzing cultural pressures, we must find ways to communicate more effectively. Changing culture is an active pursuit, and actions are thus stronger than words.
For men, this means realizing our power in many daily interactions, but opting instead to use campus publications or administrators as viable options for solving problems. For women, it is just the opposite -- pressure your peers through more honest, personal interactions, as opposed to polarizing, public discussions.
Men can feel uncomfortable in sororities, and, like women, many have felt the pains of sexual harassment. Some people may love to "eat out," but others just might want to eat in.