Feminist Friday: Conflicting responses, and disliking myself in the process

Two news stories crossed my path in the last week and as they both tie into feminism I think that they both need to be addressed.

Studying sociology, with a focus on women and gender, the majority of what I was exposed to fell heavily to the origins of feminist theory, background on early and contemporary feminist activists and writers, and the varied influence that feminism has within almost every realm of society. Of course gender, or the social construct of masculine and feminine, was covered. In some of the more contemporary readings, and we briefly covered gay, lesbian, and transgender awareness and lifestyle. Briefly is a key word, and the opportunity to expand on topics of sexuality was extremely limited. In fact, I was unaware of terms like cis, cisgender, and cissexual until I began to explore feminist blogs and websites.

Suffice to say, there is a lot I don’t know about the area of sexuality when it comes to the “S” in Women, Gender & Sexuality studies. I was however, very aware of the words and theories of contemporary sociologists who have actively sought to create new discourse and definitions for the topics of gender and sexuality as those areas evolve in our society. Judith Butler was billed as the quintessential theorist in most of the contemporary texts I used. In fact, she played a small role in my research discussion on masculine gender attitudes and rape.

This all leads to an article I came across which focused on a transgender girl who had recently been named to her high school homecoming court. In reading the article, the reactions are what one might expect: mixed. Some support and do not question her right to live as a girl. Others refuse to acknowledge, let alone accept, either the student or the decision made by the student body, going so far as to consistently refer to her as “he” and proclaiming that the incident was simply a joke gone wrong, a result that perhaps holds much different meaning than was originally intended.
On one hand, I want to applaud the election of this student to her homecoming court. On the other hand I cannot help but question the motivation and subsequent meaning behind the voting process. Is the election of this teen truly representative of a student body that has grown to be socially accepting and open, or is it merely the result of a stunt motivated by an inability to understand difference?

The second article focuses on rape. Reported in a local newspaper, a male has filed charges against his female, 28-year-old neighbor for rape. We know that most rapes happen to females, and are typically associated with control and domination. We also know that men are raped, a fact that is highly under-reported for many reasons. That however is no excuse for my initial reaction to this article. I, perhaps like many others, had the gut reaction of incredulity to this article. I, probably like many others, thought to myself, but…that’s not possible. I dislike that I could not simply accept this story as fact, exactly the way I would accept it had it been revealing the victim to be female. I dislike, for a moment after reading of the assault, that I found myself questioning what may have come to pass between these two earlier in the evening. I dislike that I was looking for a reason, any logical reason, to victim blame. I dislike that I would have the audacity to question this report simply because the perpetrator is a woman.

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