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Fighting a deafening silence

Written by: on February 28, 2011

“So…has that got puppets in it then?” It’s easy to forgive the two young gentlemen who asked
this question recently upon being invited to an upcoming charity production of The Vagina
Monologues. Much to their disappointment, it doesn’t involve puppetry. The actresses also
don’t pretend to be vaginas in the same way they might mime a tree or a horse on-stage.
It’s simply women talking about…well, I think you get it now. The same pair of gentlemen
found this an equally interesting proposition, although another friend of mine had difficulty
persuading the engineering post-grads in her department that they should go too. “They said
it’s not their thing.” Do they mean women aren’t their thing? They’re gay, asexual, celibate?
Perhaps they mean that feminism isn’t their thing.

This is curious, because I’d counter that feminism is everybody’s thing. You likely weren’t born in a cabbage patch. There are undoubtedly key women in your lives. If you’ve got a mother, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a girlfriend, a best friend, a colleague, then feminism _should_ be your thing.

I thought we lived in a post-feminist society, I hear a few of you cry. Chicks vote don’t
they? They go to university, right? There are women surgeons and lawyers and politicians.
Those high-flyers are still a minority. If you think feminism is no longer needed, then you’re
probably also of the camp that reckons the U.S.A has conquered racism because it has a black
President.

Why else should anti-sexism be your thing? Warwick Anti-Sexism Society pulls together its
annual production of ‘Vag Mon’, as it affectionately becomes referred to, in order to raise
money for two causes: V-Day, a global campaign to stop violence against girls and women,
and CRASAC, aka Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre. The misconception students
often have about our society is that our members are female only and that we deal with
feminist issues only. We have male members too, although not as many as we would like,
funnily enough because of stereotyping about our society, when stereotyping is exactly what
we come together to discuss and plan our events around. I’d say feminist issues and sexism
issues are practically married, and that men are affected by and damaged by sexism every day
too. The writer of ‘Vag Mon’, Eve Ensler, compares bullets to ‘hardened tears’ in a TED-X
speech, saying that the cult of masculinity has destroyed many men. Men are encouraged to
be sexist by masculine stereotypes, but women are also sexist towards men. We’re paddling
the same waves, people.

CRASAC is also perceived as for women only, because it has a counselling service for
women, but they also have services for men and boys. We often forget that rape and abuse
are visited on both sexes, but largely because of our sexist concepts of masculinity, no-one
wants to remember this fact. V-Day has an initiative called V-Men, where fathers, sons,
brothers and husbands write about how violence against women has affected them, perhaps
because they grew up in a household where their mother was beaten, or because they have
had a daughter assaulted on the street. Our actions bleed into the lives of those around us;
when a woman is subjected to violence, then so is every person who comes into close contact
with her. This is why CRASAC, V-Day, The Vagina Monologues, feminism and anti-sexism are for everyone.

In theory the world will celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th (during Warwick’s
International Women’s Week, funnily enough). On that day, feminism supposedly becomes everybody’s thing, in the same way that Valentine’s Day reminds everyone to be extra nice to their other half. What happens when the day is over? The divisions return. Men and women are not two tribes living on separate continents. Every day we interact with each other, we find our lives impacted by our colleagues, friends and family.

My close friend asked me the other day: why don’t we have a Men’s Campaign Officer? Well, for the very same reason WASS has been trying to convince people for a while now: an issue for women is an issue for men.

‘Sexism’ is not purely a feminist issue; it’s a global human problem. Domestic violence and rape are not only feminist issues, they hurt men too. If you still don’t believe me, then perhaps you need International Women’s Day the most, in order to realise that no–one is an island, we all muddle through life together, and often we suffer the same wounds.

The Boar
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University of Warwick
University Road
Coventry
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The Boar is the University of Warwick’s editorially independent
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