It seems astonishing to me how often we silence the voices of others. How often we say in a polite (or sometimes not so polite) way for people to “tone it down”. To not be so passionate, to not care so much, to not speak up. It has taken so much for me to be able to speak, to scream when I witness something that is nothing short of unjust. It has taken me so much to be able to stir up my passion and try to evoke it onto others hoping for change. And so, I will NOT tone it down.
It happened in a science class (required to be taken by graduation standards). This is part of the reason why I was so bothered by what happened. It is commonly seen that people affix themselves to “scientific” explanations; seeing them as the real answer to all things. We must not forget that we once thought the Earth was flat, that a woman’s uterus was a creature that wandered around the body and that AIDS only affected homosexual men. All of these thought to be fact, based in science and medicine. It is this blind trust that scares me, makes me wonder how our society acts in certain ways whose opinions and ideologies are shaped by what is taught to them to be fact. This is the danger I found in what I heard.
Social Evolution: the science of how humans came to be how they are now, through evolution and adaptions to our environment. Fair enough. I have been going to class for about 8 weeks, and I have heard lectures in which I tilt my head, look around searching for another astonished face that realizes the implications of the statement. One that has been repeated for 4 weeks now? “Women pick a mate based on their resources, that is what is important to them.” Yes, I can admit my Women and Gender Studies background has something to do with finding this lecture annoying and quite incorrect but it goes beyond that. My professor does not accept societal influences in any of these statements, for example considering the wage gap in which women are not equal and at some point maybe letting a position to depend on men financially. No, she says it is evolutionary. It is science.
But it went too far for me. I was tired of debating with my professor but I could not stop when she brought up sexual assault or violence. We were talking about short-term mating (i.e one night stands, just sex) and the “costs” women face when they engage in short-term mating. She listed:
Reputation as “promiscuous” – may lower chance of securing a mate (darn! there goes all my life goals)
Risk of sexual assault and violence (I refused to write this down in my notes)
I lifted my head up and looked around, I raised my hand without thinking and asked,
“Are you saying women who are promiscuous have a greater risk of experiencing rape?”
There was a silence that lasted for about 2 minutes. My professor was looking at the words she had written and simply replied,
“I will go into detail in another class”
And that was that. I was needless to say, not satisfied with that answer. MY hand was shaking, I could no longer take notes. In my head I planned to stay after class to discuss it further and convey my ideas about the dangers of her teaching this topic using that as an example or fact. As I was packing up she came up to me and asked me to stay and I agreed. As soon as I approached her she said shortly,
“I sense a hostility and you need to tone it down”
Hostility? Yes. Will I tone it down? No. Not when I see someone as contributing to rape culture in any sense or only supporting any type of victim-blaming behavior. I tried to explain this to her. She didn’t understand. She viewed this as stating any fact about rape. “It is the same as stating that rape happens at night”. (not to mention that rape occurs at any time during the day) NO IT IS NOT! A woman being “promiscuous” does not increase her likelihood of experiencing rape; it is her “promiscuity” that is used to justify the rapist’s behavior and essentially a way to control women’s sexuality. It is this concept that we see all the time, slut-shaming, which serves the victim blaming movement that surrounds us all. It was the re precautions of this statement that made me worry of what people might take from that lecture.
I do not blame science. I do not blame my professor (to a certain degree as she refused to even discuss my perspective). I blame our society, how we let the fancy brand of “science” decide what we believe. Why cannot we go back to the brand of “justice” to guide us to our beliefs. As I always say, this did not bother me because I am a woman, a feminist, an advocate or a survivor, this bothered me because I am a human being.