Shining the light on gender issues

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September 29, 2011

9:56 PM

The paths on our campus are lined with blue lights and are placed one after another to provide an easily accessible way to call for help in the case of an emergency. This emergency often takes the form of sexual assault. However, there are many sexual assault issues that these blue lights cannot address, something speaker Sady Doyle attempted to shed light on during her talk at the College of William and Mary Sept. 19.

AMP’s Contemporary and Cultural Issues committee hosted Doyle, founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown. Her pieces typically focus on issues involving gender and feminism, and some have been published in newspapers and magazines. A group small enough to allow for an atmosphere geared toward open discussion gathered in the Sadler Center Tidewater rooms to listen to her speak about sex, feminism, relationships and the media’s role in determining how all of those issues are viewed by society.

Caroline Fulford ’13 began following Doyle’s blog after a friend introduced her to it. What particularly caught her attention was Doyle’s feminist interpretation of the popular “30 Rock” character Liz Lemon.

“It was funny, but a pretty critical analysis of the character,” Fulford said.

As a part of AMP’s contemporary and cultural issues committee, Fulford contacted Doyle and arranged to have her come speak to College students about her opinions on feminism and gender issues.

Doyle spent much of the talk discussing the media’s influence on the ways in which gender issues, especially sexual assault comes to be understood. She pointed out that sexual assault isn’t as far-fetched as the media often makes it seem. The media creates the perception that predators jump out of the bushes with a chainsaw and a samurai sword, but does not emphasize that it occurs between people who have had and may continue to have consensual sex.

“She definitely shed light on sexual assault issues for me, especially about its portrayal in the media,” Matthew Hartill ’15, said. “She brought a nice perspective to the subject and kept it lighthearted without getting preachy.”

Hartill was one of the few male faces in Doyle’s audience and seemed to take what she had to say to heart.

“I’ll definitely be more conscious of not participating in misogynistic jokes,” he said. “Especially those about rape.”

Doyle’s main criticism of the media is that many times it paints an image of sexual assault and rape with the idea that the victim is somehow morally culpable. She pointed out that in many situations, it is suggested that if a woman engages in potentially risky behaviors, such as drinking and going out, she may be partially to blame for sexual assault. However, the media does not emphasize that the people who commit sexual assault have often also participated in these behaviors. And this, she says, is the real problem that needs to be addressed by the media. She states that the focus should be put far more on the assaulters and the assault itself rather than the behavior of the victims.

Chelsea Moubarak ’12, a member of AMP, feels strongly that sexual assault is an important issue that needs to be carefully considered by students at the College and media.

“It’s so common, even on campus, that it’s important to have events like this where you come face-to-face with it,” she said. “We can read as many statistics as we want, but unless you can personally connect with it, it’s difficult to put a face to statistics.”

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