Dear Wonder Woman,
In light of the recent news story, and given that we do not know the degree to which you are tapped into the media buzz (although we did see you on Facebook), we are reaching out to you. Did you know there is a story in the news that your image has been banned at one elementary school (name and location are being withheld to protect the ridiculous); this in response to a young girl who brought in a Wonder Woman lunch box, which was considered to depict, and we quote, a ”violent image”, because as a super hero, you, and we quote again, “solve problems using violence”.
Care to comment?
WTF? Don’t quote me on that – as it’s probably “too violent”. But seriously, WTF? I’m a superhero. I fight evil – and, I might add, I do a damn good job of it. How am I supposed to do that, with smiles and unicorns? With polite requests for changes in behavior? How’s this: “That’s just not nice. Please, please, stop your evil ways?” Should I shed a few tears while I’m at it? That’s not fighting evil – that’s offering a label, begging for change, and then hoping for the best. No way. Being a female superhero is hard enough without having to deal with this.
WW, a.k.a. Dub-Dub
We feel your pain. And definitely don’t beg – the data tell us that strategies like that are not effective in resisting violence. We, like you, are tired of people saying that active resistance is bad, and particularly, bad when women do it. We think you’re a role model – we want more, not fewer, girls and women to follow your example, and know that they have the right to resist. Buying your lunch box right now on Amazon.
On that note, Janes, what problems do they think I’m “solving” with violence? Disagreements on what to have for dinner? Not getting the job I wanted? Algebra? When we frame evil-doers intent on world domination as a just any “problem to be solved”, it’s no wonder that everyone gets confused. I match my tactics to the situation at hand. Read my bio – sure, I can fight, and I do when I need to, and I’m not apologizing for that. But that would only be my first strategy if I was physically threatened and that response was appropriate. Duh. I’m wicked smart, and I’ve got excellent verbal skills – both of which are incredibly useful in, as that school system might say, “solving problems”. As for weapons, I’ve got a lasso of truth and bracelets that deflect bullets. If that’s solving a problem with violence, guilty as charged.
PS. Besides, are my boys Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Superman, the Hulk, and Captain America being banned as too violent? Not that I am suggesting they should be. More likely, not only are they not being banned, they are probably making more money than I am.
There has been significant media coverage of the signs that a fraternity at Old Dominion and an all-male house of Ohio State students hung out their house windows this week to “welcome” the first-year women to their campuses. Signs like, “ROWDY AND FUN. HOPE YOUR BABY GIRL IS READY FOR A GOOD TIME!” and “DAUGHTER DAYCARE.” And posters for sale in the Student Union at Appalachian State this fall included this gem:
Good for these guys! We applaud their truth in advertising, letting the incoming women, their families, and the college communities at large know that they are predatory groups of men looking to score with wiling women, or maybe even coerce or assault women who aren’t willing. It’s an important step in acknowledging the violence and misogyny that too often accompanies life in all-male social clubs.
As September approaches, young people gearing up for college are inundated with information about freshman year – what NOT to buy for your college dorm room, tips for getting along with your new roomie, how to/why you’ll love freshman year, how to drink at college parties, and of course, the Freshman 15.
Now, all the data tells us that the Freshman 15 is a myth – the average weight gain for students is around 3 lbs (the same as for non-students of the same age), but the problem of sexual assault is not a myth. So we here at SJFB are shamelessly co-opting the phrase “Freshman 15” to give you the top 15 things you actually need to know as college students, first year and otherwise:
- You get to decide what you do with your own body. That’s right – whether it’s what you eat or who you’re with and what you do, that choice is yours, and yours alone, as long as you’re not deciding something for someone else’s body in the process.
- Trust your gut. Take the time to learn how you feel, and pay attention to it. If something, or someone, doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not, and you get to leave any situation or person that doesn’t feel right for you. As they say, there are plenty of fish in the sea (or…carrots in the field, for the vegetarian/vegan crowd…)
- See the options around you. Good advice for anywhere on campus, not just the cafeteria. Take the time to survey who and what is around you, and if something – or someone – isn’t working for you, know that you can choose a different option, whether that is where to live, where to socialize, or who you are spending time with.
- Get the facts. Even in college, and even about sexual assault, misinformation abounds. Don’t rely on what’s right in front of you – whether in conversation with friends, a statement by a professor, or a sign on the door in the bathroom stall. Fact: fighting back can be extremely effective in thwarting an assault – it’s a right you have, and a choice you can make if it feels right to you.
- Tweak your lifestyle. – For the better! Make choices (not just food!) that are good for you, and surround yourself with people who are interested in what you want for yourself, not just what they want from you.
- Swap your go-to order. Old habits die hard, and we often go with what feels familiar, rather than what feels safe and healthy. If what you’ve done before doesn’t feel good now, try something new.
- Skip the stupid aisle. Okay, in the diet magazines, they will you to “skip the salty aisle”, but we like this better. College – like life – is too short to waste with stupid people, and by that, we mean people who are interested in bringing you down to their level. Trust us – there are better aisles out there.
- Do a purge. One nice thing about college is that you get to leave high school (and middle school) behind you. We’ve all made mistakes in the past, and we will make them in the future. Don’t let them define you – a figurative purge allows you to let those go, and move forward in the direction you want.
- Healthy up your happy hour. As we’ve said before, alcohol is complicated. The connection between alcohol and assault on college campuses is well-documented, which in no way means that drinking or being intoxicated makes a person assault someone else, or makes a person responsible if someone assaults them. Know, whether or not you choose to drink, that it is important to know your limits and the risks associated with alcohol use.
- Pile on the boundaries. You get to “no” to things you don’t want, without disclaimer, explanation, or apology. As scholars who write for a living, we are here to remind you that “No” is a complete sentence. (And remember – what’s posted on-line STAYS on-line. Err on the side of caution.)
- Show some restraint when appropriate. Whether in person or on social media, remember that you are not obligated to please others at the expense of your own happiness and well-being.
- Get off the couch. Staying physically active in college is a great way to manage stress and manage your moods. Stay focused on exercise that makes you feel better—not whether it makes you look better.
- Know what you stand for. Notice injustice and oppression in your environment – your own personal space, and the world at large – and decide how you can respond to it safely. Being in college is just like being in any other community: there will be conflicts, tragedies, and triumphs. And what kind of community member you choose to be will help shape what that community becomes. Part of a group or club doing something deplorable? Take a stand—change it, report it, leave it.
- It’s always okay to ask for help. Whether it’s help with your writing skills, with depression or anxiety, or in a situation that feels unsafe, ask for what you need. You may be living on your own, but you’re not an island. College campuses have more resources than ever to support your well-being and your academic success. Know the resources out there, and don’t be afraid to use them.
- Get fired up. Take the time to get to know yourself, and then go for it, full steam ahead. Know what you want – and don’t want – and keep your eye on the prize. You’re in college to be an academic rock star and pursue your dreams. College is about making your future, so evaluate every option or course of action based on whether it will help, or hinder, achieving your goals. Believe in yourself. We believe in you.
Back when Miss USA, Nia Sanchez (we love you, Nia, even if you won’t return our phone calls), said that to combat the problem of sexual assault on college campuses more women should be offered the opportunity of self-defense training, feminist-identified pundits with access to HuffPo interviews flipped out. The concerns varied: some said that recommending self-defense training is putting the onus on women (rather than men) to prevent rape; others argue that self-defense training wouldn’t work because the likely perpetrator is someone known to the victim, and that’s not the “mind-set” for self-defense.
But the real head scratchers were those who rejected self-defense training on the grounds that it ran counter to feminine socialization. They understood that the fact girls and women are trained to subordinate their interests to boys and men, and that this feminine socialization interferes with defending themselves. Indeed, self-defense training is all about NOT subordinating your interests to men and boys. So opposing the recommendation to offer women self-defense training on these grounds (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/11/miss-usa-self-defense_n_5482117.html) seems to presume that we self-defense teachers and advocates do not understand this. What do they think, that self-defense teachers just show women a punching bag, offer them some chewing tobacco, and say “have at it”?
Let’s offer those most likely to be targeted for sexual assault the skills to intervene on their own behalf. Yes, for many of these people, and women in particular, such skills will contradict their socialization into femininity. Self-defense training is a kinesthetic experience that rattles the feminine training so tragically well suited to rape culture. That’s exactly what we like about it and why it’s so transformative beyond the individual women it helps.