To the Men of Centre College, on Whose Behalf Jesse Diluzio Spoke –
It is my understanding that you took offense to Emily Rodes’ article and I can objectively see why; you didn’t like feeling attacked or generalized, which is fair. But what I think you didn’t quite get out of the article, and possibly what you chose not to see, was that Emily’s declaration of independence was not from “Men,” but from “The Patriarchy.” These are not the same thing. Feminists don’t hate all men. I know some of us do, but that’s more of a personal hobby than an ideology at this point. However, it’s 2016 and I can’t imagine you all have missed that part of feminist rhetoric entirely. So you know that feminists aren’t trying to break down “Men”—they are trying to take down the system that has valued men over not just women but all genders, creating a very messy and complicated system of oppression.
Now, let’s break down the word “oppression.” Oppression is not a one-time deal; it is prolonged and systematic cruelty or injustice. Oppression is not, for example, being afraid that people will be mad that you disagreed with a girl on the internet. Oppression is the fact that tampons are taxed as a “luxury” item and that there are only two abortion clinics in the state of Kentucky. In the specific case of your response, it goes hand in hand with the idea of “sexism.” Sexism is systematic and often institutionalized oppression of one sex. In our binary-obsessed society, this ultimately leads to the created idea of a “dominant” sex and a “subordinate” sex. I’m going to let you guess which one you think is which. Now, this will be hard to swallow so I’m going to say it gently—Women Cannot Be Sexist Towards Men Because Men Benefit From The Systematic Oppression of Women, Whereas There Has Never Been A Systematic Oppression Of Men From Which Women Could Benefit.
Whether you realize it or not, guys, you benefit from sexism. I’m sure that you don’t love being told that because it sounds pretty bad, but it’s true. You can notice it in the little things, like the fact that if we were to sit next to each other on a bus, your legs would be spread wide apart and mine would be crossed. I have been taught over the course of my entire life that it is imperative that I take up less space in this world than a man. You have also been taught this. It is expected that any woman you are with should be shorter, thinner, and all around smaller than you because space equals power. You have never been afraid to go on a blind date. Or any date. And I don’t mean afraid like “oh my gosh I hope her table manners aren’t atrocious” afraid, I mean like “wow I hope this guy doesn’t use his physical advantage to force himself on me sexually and then stalk my apartment for years” afraid. Stalking wasn’t a crime in all fifty states until 1994, when it was made so under the Violence Against Women Act. Date rape was charged as a lesser crime than stranger rape—the victims of which are both overwhelmingly female—in many states up until the same time. That’s sexism.
This brings me to your first point. And to why you cannot equate these seemingly endless giggles from “Lilly Pulitzer, sororityletterwearing women” with the catcalling that women face on and off this campus literally every single day. I was catcalled walking to Speedway yesterday. Twice. Last month, one of my friends was walking home at night when a car full of young men stopped her in the middle of the road and attempted to get her into the car with them. Rest assured that I’m not exaggerating when I say you can ask any woman on campus and she will have a similar story. Giggling might make you feel foolish, and that’s valid, but catcalling makes women feel terrified, and that’s a fucking problem.
I’m genuinely sorry that you have been fondled and groped in your fraternity houses. That is a deeply unpleasant experience for anyone to have to go through, and should you feel the need to discuss how it has affected you, the counseling services at Parsons are an excellent resource. But again, I’m afraid the difference between you getting groped at a party and women on campus getting groped at a party is pretty clear.
When a girl groped you in your fraternity house, a territory that is yours, where the people in charge are you and your brothers, you had the upper hand. Even in a fraternity house that is not yours, you’re an athlete and in a heavily male environment and still have the upper hand. I’m guessing you were never afraid that the groping would lead to anything worse, much less anything violent. I can’t say I’ve always felt the same security, seeing as when I’m groped at a frat party, the authorities I have to depend upon in that moment are in all likelihood the brothers or friends of the person who just violated my space and my good time. However, in discussions I have had with various Centre men, both affiliated and not, they have said that they would be very unlikely to respect the authority of a female sober monitor if sororities were permitted to throw parties. A survey of college students that came out last year shows that 11% of female college students have experienced unwanted penetrative or oral sex. There’s no wiggle room in that definition of rape or assault, gentlemen, and it’s happening to 1 in 10 women in college right now. I completely agree that those engaging in the “abhorrent behavior that Emily Rodes describes” shouldn’t be allowed to go to Centre. I also know for a fact that there are those who do anyway. There are those who have admitted to sexually assaulting a girl in a court of law and were still admitted to this school, represent this school as student athletes, and attend class with women unaware of their history.
I want to be clear – I am not labeling you all oppressors. I am labeling you as ones who are privileged by the system of oppression under which we all live. This casually patronizing attitude that you’ve taken towards Emily’s outcry makes this pretty clear. You felt attacked by this article – why? Because as men you believe you have something to lose in a system of true equality? Because you don’t like that as an educated adult you’re now expected to be “politically correct” all the time? Is being “politically correct” such a hindrance to your life? I really can’t take that, because from what I know and what I’m confident you know about being politically correct, it’s really just code for recognizing when widely accepted language or attitudes are hurtful or antagonizing towards a group of your fellow human beings and then agreeing to no longer foster that language or those attitudes through continued use. So when you write a post claiming Emily Rodes is a dangerous misandrist after she speaks up about how she’s tired of her sex getting the crap end of the stick and I write a 2000 word essay in response, that’s me being politically correct. Because I could just call you whiny shit babies.
You say you have little control over this system in which you live, but that’s simply not true. As I stated before, you have been recognized and raised as the “dominant” sex and therefore hold the upper hand. I believe you when you say that “men are an important asset to equality on this campus and in this country” because they are; you are half the population. But somehow that half controls the Supreme Court, Congress, the White House, Fortune 500 companies, movie studios, television networks, universities, hospital boards, professional sports, etc., all that on top of being “the head of the house.” You’re not expected to give up your last name and therefore part of your individual identity when you get married, you’re not expected to have to choose between a career and a family, and while I recognize that there are body and beauty standards for men, you cannot compare them to those that exist for women. You honestly can’t.
I won’t go into that, but try bringing it up with any of your female friends, or just any woman you know. You have been shamed for wearing dresses or performing femininity since childhood unless it’s done as a joke, while women who adopt masculine dress or traits are encouraged to do so because masculinity is valued so much more than femininity. Decorating your room with pictures of Lebron is ok while decorating it with pictures of One Direction is stupid. The majority of flute players are female because the flute is a delicate instrument and men are not delicate. If a person wants to verbally abuse you they use terms associated with feminitity to do that, for the same reason. You are denied paid paternity leave in almost every state because it is not expected that you will want to be home for the first few weeks of your child’s life, even if it would be more beneficial for you to stay home than the mother of your child. You will never be asked if becoming a grandfather will inhibit your ability to serve as President of the United States.
So, where do you come in to the solution? Well, as Emily said, it all begins with recognizing the system. Recognize when women are calling upon you to empathize with them, not pick a fight with them. Recognize that when I say that I don’t feel safe at a frat party, I am not accusing you of being a predator but calling upon you for help to stand up with me and for me against those men that try to take advantage of their privilege. Recognize that when I say catcalling makes me fear for my safety that I am not claiming that you want to hurt me but that I am asking you to understand catcalling as women do, and to do what you can to stop it. Recognize that women have been raised their whole lives to empathize with men, and that that expectation does not go both ways. The books we read growing up virtually all had male protagonists, as did the television shows and the movies we saw. Our history and English classes since elementary school have been dominated by the narratives of men. Clergy in our churches are overwhelmingly male, as are our most famous professional athletes. We’ve yet to have a female President, or even Vice President. You have not been conditioned to see women and the problems they face as a priority, or even as your concern. I’m not blaming you for that, but I am calling upon you to recognize it, and start doing what you can to change it. That is what feminism is – a movement working towards the social, political, and economic intersectional equality of all sexes and genders.
Thank you for opening this window for discussion, and for considering this testament with an open mind, as I considered yours. Rest assured that this has come from no one but me, and in posting it I do not attempt to represent any other person or organization with which I am affiliated. Here’s hoping for a greater understanding of each other in the future.