Nov 072011
 
Authors: Allison Sylte

Fort Collins. The quintessential college town. A city of bright lights, of hopes and dreams.

When I first came here, I was told that it was a city where love could be found and then lost, like a pair of on-sale Manolo Blahniks that don’t come in your size.

For me, this sense of possibility and dispensability was exciting, although this also came with those whole “enlightenment” and “education” things that customarily accompany higher learning.

For Samantha, this is nothing more than a nuisance.

It all started, inauspiciously enough, with a clipboard. Samantha, after a long day of class, was striding through campus, her Gucci bag in drastic contrast to the blue t-shirt clad girl in the Plaza clutching a clipboard the way Samantha held chardonnay and men.

“Do you have a minute for women’s rights?” she asked. Samantha gave her a once over, examining the clipboard with a sly smile.

“Women’s rights? Are women being abused in this town? And when can I be invited?” she asked with the trademark Samantha sneer, her stilettos clacking across the concrete before the woman could dare ask her another question.

Later that night, when Charlotte, Miranda and I joined her for happy hour at Café Vino, Samantha told us about her encounter with the feminist.

“ I mean, can you imagine… asking me about women’s rights?” Samantha asked. “I’m all about women’s rights… I’m all about women, period. But I don’t need a clipboard to do it.”

“Oh, come on, not signing a clipboard to help women, especially when you’re a woman, is just… anti-feminist,” Charlotte responded, aghast.

Miranda, who had just gone through a break-up, raised an eyebrow, mulling it over as she sipped her third cosmo of the afternoon.

“I don’t know. More women than men go to college these days. We have the smallest gender income gap in history, at least in the United States and, with new technology in lingerie, I don’t think any of us feel any desire to burn our bras,” Miranda responded.

“I don’t know about that, honey, but I do know that women have plenty of rights,” Samantha said with a laugh. “I know that I personally exercised them last night… twice.”

Even after I left Café Vino, I couldn’t quite leave that conversation. And then I started to wonder: Is feminism in the United States outdated? Do women need to draw attention to our cause or is the act of soliciting more rights making us seem more repressed than we actually are?

Is the girl with the clipboard helping feminists, or is she inadvertently killing the very cause she loves?

I thought back to controversies in the Collegian revolving around things other columnists have written about women’s rights. They’ve ranged from Seth Stern’s February discussion about how women should protect themselves from sexual assault to more recently, Morgan Mayo’s satirical column translating the actions of women into simple terms.

Both columns were met with an uproar. Stern’s column led people to wonder why women should try to protect themselves from sexual assault, when obviously men are at fault. Mayo’s column led people to wonder why she would dare portray women as selfish, shallow beings.

A simple column about protecting yourself from sexual assault, something seemingly indisputable, turned into a debate about how men should be blamed for the whole thing. And while Mayo’s column about men as Neanderthals garnered no response, her column about women led to a Letter to the Editor.

Both of these columnists angered feminists. And I don’t really know why.

Speaking as a woman, I’d prefer to be trusted to protect myself from sexual assault rather than to need to depend on a character change from men to solve the problem (even though, obviously, men should do what they can to lower sexual assault rates).

And I’d rather have it be okay for me to be made fun of, in a clearly satirical column, in the same way as men are skewered, than to have people skirt around poking fun at me for fear of offending my sensitivities.

And that’s when I realized something: Asking for more rights puts saving in the hands of other people, especially when you don’t need that saving in the first place.

By simply asking Samantha to sign her clipboard, the woman in the Plaza was leaving her fate in the hands of someone else rather than herself. By asking for special rights, she was ensuring that she was nowhere near equality.

The simple act of asking for some form of help implied that she needs saving.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, in this city full of bright lights and love, it’s this: women don’t need saving.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte is a junior journalism major. Her column runs Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:02 pm

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