When we head to university, our eyes are bright and we are excited for the possibilities, the future that is still just out of reach, but finally a visible line at the end of the track. We sign up for the classes that we have to, as well as the classes that we hope will expand our minds, and teach us about parts of the world that – up until this point – we have failed to be educated on. We go to classes, we go to parties. We strive to live some ideal of ‘young and free’ that television, books and movies have taught us we all deserve.
But these aren’t the lessons that we learn.
From our first week on campus, we are faced with the harsh realization of our society’s violent culture of sexual assault, rape, and degrading views of women.
The Frosh chants that are described by the leaders as: “a way to loosen up… to feel less apprehensive.”
“We like them YOUNG! Y is for your sister. O is for oh so tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass.”
They’re described as “sexist” not “violent and dehumanizing.” The media has singled out a couple of schools for their use of the chants, but we know they are more widespread than that.
As we continue through our four years of study, we learn that we aren’t safe. We learn to fear.
We are taught by our universities to go out in groups, keep an eye on our friends, not to be intimate if we’ve been drinking, and to take taxis. Men are taught that they can “help prevent” sexual assault by keeping an eye out and protecting women.
In our computer science classrooms, we are asked to “develop a software program to determine if a rape victim would kill herself.”
We are taught that the “issue” is significant, but not alarming.
Spokespersons, Deans, and University Presidents are “surprised” or “disappointed.”
When our national broadcaster chooses to say that the Frosh chants glorify, “underage sex with girls without consent” instead of rape, violent rape, or rape of a minor, we are taught to trivialize the issue.
When we look further, when we see the words that they won’t chant in public – as with the recent revelation of the McMaster University Engineering Faculty’s Redsuits songbook – we learn that many do not consider us their peers. With lines such as, (warning: extremely violent)
“Who can take a cheese grater, Strap it to his arm, Shove it up her cunt, And make some pussy parmesan”
“There once was a redsuit named Scott, Who wasn’t regarded as hot, But when its [sic] dark in the dorm, And you’ve got chloroform, It doesn’t matter if you are or you’re not”
we inevitably learn that we are in no way considered equals. We are hardly considered humans.
These lessons prepare us for a world that is dangerous for women – sidewalks, buses, subways, taxis, our own beds our friend’s houses, our workplaces – just as university campuses. We learn that society expects us to take every possible extra precaution. To constantly be looking over our shoulders. To fend for ourselves. We learn that if we are too angry, or too loud in our protest – we are being unfair to the good men. We learn that “feminist” is a dirty word.
Hopefully, we learn to keep fighting for change.
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