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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

The More Things Change
April 10, 2011 - 4:16pm

Two of my close friends, approximately my age, were raped when they were in college. One, feeling shame that she had "brought it on herself" by not realizing that a coed camping trip would turn into an orgy, declined to report it. Instead, she went into a depression, her grades dropped, and she isolated herself socially.

The other did report the assault to her college administration. She was told a) that she had brought it on herself by dressing a certain way, coloring her hair, and daring to leave a raucous party to walk across campus by herself, rather than wait for a group of women or a male protector to escort her; b) It couldn't have been rape because the accused was a handsome and popular athlete and so would not have to resort to forced sex (as though that were the purpose of rape) and c) She had better not take this farther, i.e., to the police or the media, and jeopardize this young man's promising athletic career (or the university's public image). She went into a depression, her grades dropped, and she isolated herself socially and eventually dropped out.

I dodged this particular bullet, at least in part because most of the people at my school were female, though of course I dated and attended parties at other schools where I was sometimes threatened.

Even at my college, some icky things happened. For example, once when I was having trouble in a course and approached the teacher for help, he offered to give me extra credit points for introducing him to my gorgeous lab partner (I declined, got tutoring elsewhere, and passed the course). When I confided this to another professor, whom I idolized, he laughed and said, "You have to give him points for creativity!"

My school was close to a Marine training base, and cars full of drunken Marines (note, I am not saying that Marines are more prone to behave this way than others are, just that this happened) would trawl the campus at night. The men would "rate" passing girls by their "fuckability," and apparently tried to test out their theories, forcibly, on several.

As a result, we were given handouts on how to protect ourselves. Tips included not walking across our own campus alone; keeping dorm windows shut and locked at all times (this was before air conditioning); never drinking to the point of inebriation; and not dressing "provocatively." Since most of us inevitably broke all of these rules on occasion, presumably if we were assaulted it was nobody's fault but our own.

And then there was the popular drinking song that students from our nearby brother college used to love to sing to/shout at us, particularly this verse:

Now, all you girls from Mary Wash [my school] and RMWC [a neighboring women's college]
Never let a cavalier [nickname for students at brother college]
An inch above your knee!
He'll take you to the fraternity house
And fill you full of beer,
And soon you'll be the mother of
A bastard cavalier!

All of these occurrences, large and small, contributed to what we now call a rape culture: an environment in which women are kept in line through threats and intimidation, both overt and subtle.

Things haven't changed much in the 37 (yikes!) years since I graduated, at least not from the evidence of this article.

And so I think it is time to recirculate this tip sheet, which has been reposted so many times I haven't been able to identify the original source. It's apparently as apt now as it has ever been.


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