Politics & Media
Apr 08, 2008, 10:46AM

The -ism That's Overlooked

Talk about racism on college campuses is trendy, but talk about sexism has been too easily pushed aside at Williams College. From The Williams Record.

"I've been chatting recently with some of my girlfriends about sexism on campus. It's funny--almost every time I bring it up, everyone gets nervous, apparently thinking they're in for some sort of tirade against men that will conclude with me urging women to burn their bras and stop shaving their legs. Once I explain that I'm just curious to see if they think sexism exists here at Williams, people visibly relax.

I don't understand why talking about sexism makes some of us so nervous. We seem to be doing okay in discussing racism: the conversation has been contentious, arduous and, frankly ugly, but at least it's happening. When you talk about racism, it seems, you're being brave by taking a stand on a serious problem; when you talk about sexism, you're a crazy feminist or a shrew.

This reluctance to discuss sexism on campus is particularly strange, given our collective comfort level in talking about rape and sexual assault. As co-coordinator of the Rape and Sexual Assault Network (RASAN), I have been deeply impressed by the campus's support for the organization. At the same time, however, I can't help but compare students' receptiveness for RASAN with our collective freak-out when the Women's Center was started two years ago. I am not now and never was involved with the Women's Center (in fact, I was initially a bit leery of its presence on campus), but the hostility with which it was met continues to baffle me. People argued that it would negatively impact gender relations on campus, that it would benefit a minority of students, and that there are not enough exclusively "women's issues" to necessitate such a space on campus.



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