By Lauren Offner

“I’m a feminist,” is something I often utter in the company of those I am comfortable with. Even then, their reactions are priceless. After a double take and a quizzical look, their eyes often narrow as if I’m some wanton mistress of the night who should crawl back to where she came from. “Feminism” has become a dirty word that no sane person should claim to be. That’s because it’s often misunderstood to only having one meaning and agenda: to destroy men, burn our bras and kill our children.

This is not the case, however. Feminism is something that can have a variety of meanings depending upon the individual. Some women use it in government, others use it to prevent violence against women and so on. I hold a belief that both men and women should be educated on misinterpretations and double standards that take place in our generation since they can be harmful to the female gender. I thought this was rational and acceptable by most young adults.

And then I became aware of issues at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. At first, it was small things. On the UW–Stout Confessions Facebook page, I noticed a trend of grouping the women here solely as “sluts.” I thought, okay someone is probably just angry about a relationship situation. But then it escalated to the point where people were referring to the girls here as “shitty locks” because many “keys” can open them, obviously referring to sexual promiscuity. I was infuriated. I continued to be astounded by how misinformed college students are about female sexuality. No, a woman doesn’t become “loose” the more frequently she has sex, and no, your cherry does not “pop” when you lose your virginity. Also, a brick does not fall off the clock tower when you graduate as a virgin. Your sexual activity is not as important as you, or others, think it is. But of course those around me said, “you’re being too sensitive” or “it’s just a joke, why are you mad?” I along with every other girl on campus was just subjected to an insult that degraded us to inanimate objects, and I wasn’t allowed to be upset about it. I wasn’t allowed to be upset that my gender’s worth is determined by how many people she’s been with or lack thereof. The reason why something like this is so harmful is because people start to believe it’s okay to group women as objects and not human beings. This can escalate to people believing that it’s okay to use and abuse women because they are not human—not to mention, this is psychologically proven.

I hate to break it to anyone that believes this, but women are human beings. We are people. Not sluts or bitches or prudes. We have the same biological needs and functions that any other human does. Our sex lives are no one’s business, and if you’re that immature to believe that how many people a person has slept with deems their worth, then you should build a time machine, put yourself in it and do us all a favor by sending yourself back to 1950. And remember this: it takes two to tango. The double standard is so foolishly childlike: if a girl says yes she’s a “slut,” and if she says no, she’s a “prude.”

And it is not just men that perpetuate these harmful beliefs. I’ve encountered many girls that feel the need to prove something by agreeing with those who publically blast their sexism. I’ll be honest, I was one of these girls at one point. I felt the need to agree with my male companions or laugh whenever they made a remark that honestly hurt me in order for them to accept me. I soon realized it’s unnecessary and that I shouldn’t keep my mouth shut whenever someone spouts an imbecilic remark out of his or her pie hole. Women should encourage and support one another. It sounds corny, but in the wise words of Tina Fey: “You need to stop calling each other sluts and bitches. That only makes it okay for men to call you sluts and bitches.”

All in all, it’s harmful for the campus. It creates hostility, insecurity and opinion articles like this that no one will pay attention to. But, I honestly hope that people start to think of one another as people instead of a gender and that what makes them a good person is their character, not their private life. So drop the double standards. If you don’t want to be called a sexist then stop acting like one. Remember: you have a right to an opinion, but if it’s harmful, it has no right to be respected.

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