Rationality, Anyone? Please?
I write in response to Jon Eisenmann's piece
"No Defense, No Excuse" in the May 5 issue of The Dartmouth and have just one question for him: do you appreciate your own irony?
Eisenmann's emotionalization of feminism is, I'd guess, precisely what Kathleen Reeder was railing against in her column from Friday, May 2, when she vocalized the need for rational feminism -- feminism based on facts, on an understanding of the issues really facing women. In taking Ms. Reeder's reference to the straightforward biological differences between men and women out of context and extrapolating some sort of tacit acceptance of sexual assault from it, Eisenmann embodies the very problems Ms. Reeder acknowledges that infest the feminist movement.
The problem is a common one: somebody mentions "drunken hookup" and immediately, people begin to scream sexual assault. With all due respect to the seriousness of the issue of sexual assault, "drunken hookup" and "sexual assault" are not synonymous. In fact, I can't remember the number of times I've heard women proclaim their eagerness to get drunk and hook up on any given night over the course of my four years here. I do not intend to tread the touchy line between consensual sex and assault, but I do intend to point out that Ms. Reeder makes perfectly clear that she is not referring to an issue of sexual assault. In her anecdotal reference to a drunken hookup, she makes explicit that the relationship is consensual, with the woman even wanting to pursue the relationship further. This is nowhere near what Mr. Eisenmann emotionally interprets as an unwelcome encounter behind locked doors. It is a simple description of what happens all the time here and every other college campus: young people, male and female alike, enjoy drinking and having sex.
Sexual assault is a serious issue and one that must be addressed, but Eisenmann completely misses the point in invoking it here. By doing so, he enacts the "reactionary" feminism Ms. Reeder addresses as so flawed and damaging. He takes an innocent column meant to address feminism's problems, sees the words "drunken hookup," and immediately his hyper-emotionalized sexual assault sensor is triggered, thus converting an attempt at a rational handling of feminism into the kind of feminism with which we're familiar: reactionary and completely revolving around women's victimization at the hands of men.
Perhaps it would help if we remove alcohol from Ms. Reeder's anecdote. If we do so, we see two mutually attracted individuals having a sexual encounter that has a different effect upon each of them. Both enjoyed the moment, but it is likely that each will expect something different afterwards. The typical male might be satisfied. The typical female might expect something more. This is a reflection of biological differences between the two sexes to which Ms. Reeder referred, whether or not alcohol is involved. The fact that men and women are different does not make the encounter they had an assault.
Men and women are different. No number of gender panels or fraternity derecognitions will ever change that. Ms. Reeder describes how, without acknowledging our inherent differences, rational feminism cannot exist, and Mr. Eisenmann goes to great lengths to extract from a column something that was never there in order to play upon emotions. This hyper-emotionalization of the issue of gender relations is precisely what is wrong with the feminist movement.
I agree with Mr. Eisenmann when he says that it's wrong to ignore sexual assault, but I vehemently disagree with him that Ms. Reeder did any such thing; I posit instead that Mr. Eisenmann's crime of ignoring the problems of feminism Ms. Reeder so accurately summarizes is the real issue here. Ignoring the problems of reactionary feminism is no better than ignoring the issue of sexual assault, but Mr. Eisenmann does exactly what the feminist movement is so prone to do: make every issue of gender interaction a potential issue of sexual assault, even when it is clear that sexual assault is irrelevant.
Too often any attempt at voicing unconventional -- that is, non-liberal -- views on feminism is shouted down by some variant of the hyper-emotionalized trump card of sexual assault. Constantly emotionalizing the issue does a disservice to the women the feminist movement is ostensibly supposed to help, as Ms. Reeder points out, by blinding them to the facts of gender relations. The modern feminist movement may just as well not have ears to listen to people like Ms. Reeder if the only response it can muster to a rational argument is "sexual assault!"
I don't like how Women's Studies courses and gender relations panels so often degenerate into male-bashing, into using the men present as scapegoats. I don't like how my friends think it unwise for me to write a column dealing with feminism and sexual assault because it's such a powder keg of a topic. Does this sound like a healthy environment of rational gender discourse?
I would point all interested readers to SheThinks.org, a feminist forum that rationally addresses the issues the feminist movement often emotionalizes.