A Fresh Perspective on the Issue of Women’s Rights

Loomis, being a community of diversity and culture, encourages its students to connect
with the outside world and with the events that take place within it. We are a community that
works hard to create an environment of truth and honesty through ongoing discussion. As a
freshman joining the community in the fall, I found this sort of atmosphere to offer comfort and
discomfort at the same time. Knowing that everyone is constantly involved in discussion about
social and political issues offers an aspect of peace and security. Yet, the topics in which we
discuss can become deeply personal and emotional, which causes an equal amount of discomfort.
With this in mind, how have we discussed topics of sexism and women’s rights throughout this
year?

Being a female, I will always say that this topic needs more exposure and ultimately
deeper thought. Truthfully, I believe that freshman especially have come to realize that the issues
of woman’s rights and sexism have a lot more to do with sex than anyone wants to admit. By
sex, I mean the way that males and females are expected to behave or expected not to behave in
relation to their bodies and to sex. If we analyze two of the books that every freshman must read,
the recurring theme of sexism manifesting itself in a sexual way is apparent.

Both Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem, The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s play Romeo and
Juliet contain these complex themes. Odysseus, protagonist and war hero of the Odyssey finds
himself lost at sea and embarking on a decade long journey home. On his route back to his home
and family, he has several sexual relationships while his wife, at home, stays faithful to their
marriage. It is wholly acceptable for Odysseus to carry out long term relationships and would be
regarded as absolutely contemptible if Penelope did the same. In Romeo and Juliet, a story of
two teenaged lovers, the society of arranged marriage in 16th century Verona bind Juliet and
stand in the way of her loving and marrying who she chooses. An agreement is made between
her father and the man she is to marry while Juliet has no say in the decision. She has to listen to
her own mother tell her that her sole purpose in life, as a woman, is to act as wife and to have
babies. Not raise children and establish a lifelong partnership but to act as wife and to have
babies. In two very different time periods, similar themes emerge.

This brings us to current times and current pop culture. Beyoncé has a line in her anthem
to female strength and beauty, “Flawless” which seems to sum up these theme in history quite
elegantly. “We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.” However,
this song released last year and was written to summarize culture of sexism presently, not in
ancient Greek times. Not to say that sexism has not changed since ancient Greek times. Some
pieces of sexism have improved and have made large steps yet other pieces have evolved with
the same prejudice and inequality at its core.

Why do we find it much easier to speak about sexism in fundamental terms as in voting
rights or political office but we hesitate to discuss it in terms of sex? Why do we see guys
running with their shirts off much more than women running in sports bras? There are certain
things we would say about a girl in a sports bra that we would not say about a guy without a
shirt.

These are the very roots of sexism and possibly the hardest to come to terms with. A
question that many freshman English students grapple with is how do we move away from this
manifestation of sexism? How do we break those barriers and rid ourselves of these notions?
Gender roles in society play a very large role in the decisions we make every single day.
Discussing how we go about discussing is equally important as the conversation itself. Maybe a
little more Beyoncé would be a start.