Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the Subjection of Women...University Style

My first recollection of sexism was as a seven year old on a coed basketball team. A boy told me I wouldn’t be able to make my free throws, “..cuz you’re a girl!” I made the shot (thanks to Bubba Smith’s crucial teaching that games are won and lost on free throws), turned to the boy and shouted, “YOU’RE A SEXIST!” The crowd, that packed into the gym to see their precious children play on a Saturday, roared with laughter but I remember being genuinely pissed. Maybe I was a little bit of an obnoxious child, but I grew up with a father and mother who are both feminists, and I was going to stand up to that boy, dammit. Ask any girl you know, and they will be able to remember some form of sexism from their early years.

Knowing the background of my early start with feminism, you can imagine how horrified I was when I read an article entitled, “Rating Girls” in IU’s greek-life newspaper The Odyssey. The article boasts that the handy dandy rating system of judging a girl on a scale of 1-10 based on her looks is one of the author’s favorite pastimes to do with his friends. As the article proceeds it goes through numbers 1-10, with detailed, demeaning descriptions of which girl fits into each number. It ranges from the 1s who are, “…as bad as it gets…They usually have 2-3 horrible features. This could be extreme obesity, a face that looks like it was hit with a frying pan, or a missing limb.” The middle score, a 5, is a girl who is, “..the first girl on the list that can be acceptable to bring around your friends from time to time…Sometimes a five has one redeeming quality, but that’s all.” And of course, the TEN, who is one who, “…can have the personality of a cardboard box, but what gives. They get what they want, when they want it.” I wonder what Yale Reardon’s mother feels about this piece. R.E.P.U.L.S.I.V.E.

I realize college can be fun and games, but placing women on a scale to determine their self worth throws you into the category of a demeaning and disgusting human being. While this was published in a greek newspaper (which God knows, we all have our reasons for why we did or didn’t join greek-life), this is not just a fraternity issue, it’s an issue that effects all college students in some way.

Not a day goes by where I don’t see sexism rear its ugly head on IU’s campus and I’m sure many women feel the same way at their given campus. Sexism is alive and thriving as girls stand outside fraternities during welcome week and file through the door as men holler the numbers (1-10) as they walk inside. Sexism is in the girls who starve themselves to fit some “ideal” body type that they were not naturally meant to look like because the pressure from males and other girls judging them is too much to bear. Sexism is in the lack of debate and participation of girls in classes that are male dominated. Sexism is present every time you hear someone call a girl a “bitch.” Sexism, in perhaps its most heart wrenching form, prevails in the number of girls who suffer from sexual assault; something so terrible to suffer through that it has the capacity to kill a woman’s spirit.

What are we doing, as a society, to our daughters, sisters, and future mothers? How do we let this behavior triumph and even be celebrated amongst a community that claims that girls, like me, who choose to speak against these articles, are just “uptight frigid bitches?”

After spending the weekend at the CDIN convention, surrounded by males who truly are feminists and supporters of equality, I feel like there is hope. Because of all of you there, I feel like not only women, but men, are devoted to the empowerment of women. Thank you, lovely liberals of the world, for respecting strong and confident women. Please join me in this fight that seems to never end: the fight against sexism especially on college campuses. Go forth and spread the girl power.


Aly said...

Kelly, this is a great piece. Your bravery to confront this issue so head on is inspiring, and although I have been fortunate to have not encountered the degree of sexism which you speak of at Notre Dame, no doubt it exists somewhere and only dialogue like this will reinforce how negative rating systems and other such idiotic ideas really are, whether behind closed doors or not.

Sarah Furman said...


Anonymous said...

This is pretty good for a girl.

Sarah Jones said...

Oh Kellbell, you are da best. That article was absolutely disgusting and I'm glad that it's been taken down from their site. So horrific.

Rabi Abonour said...

Kelly, make me a sammich.

I kid, I kid. Great article.

Colleen Lowry said...

Kelly! Excellent post! Glad you're back in the Lefty's world. This just gives us another form of communication :)

Anonymous, if I knew your name, I would kick your ass.

Kelly Smith said...

Thanks for the love :)

Check out Yale's article, if you want to be thoroughly disgusted:

ShamRockNRoll said...

You're awesome, Kelly :)

Bill said...

I find it interesting that your father is a feminist. In some feminist circles they refer to male allies of the cause as "pro-feminist males" rather than feminists, to reinforce the agency of women in the movement. What do you think about that idea?

Sara said...


Your writing is inspiring. I consider myself a feminist as well. I grew up with a strong, assertive, "I don't care if you have cramps, you're going to soccer practice" mother. And I am so grateful for the positive and empowering feminine ideals she encouraged in my sister and I. I wish I could be there at IU and participate in some of the discourse about this "ranking" article and the greater issue at the core: that young men and even women allow the idea that all women are good for is sex, cooking, and cleaning to be perpetuated. I am proud to see you standing up for what is right. And know you are definitely not the only "frigid bitch" around, there's a hell of a lot of us!
:) Sara Darga

Anonymous said...

Kelly and Sara,

You both briefly mention sports. I was wondering what your opinions were about male and female sports. Not necessarily who can play what, but should men and women compete with each other (after puberty)? What about a skilled female basketball player wanting to join the guys basketball team? Or conversely a small guy wanting to join the girls team to compete with people his own size?

Andrea Watts said...


love you Kelly!

Oneness said...

Long time no talk but my mother forwarded this article to me and I think it is amazing. I was recently elected the vice president of the MSU Club rowing team. Before my speech but after we had elected a female president for the first time in years, a competitor running against me for vice got up and announced that the girls should "vote for people who are qualified for the job and not just other women." There was no sweeter revenge than winning the vote and making sure he didn't get a seat of power.

MSU Club Rowing will have the FIRST female majority Executive Board in the team's history starting next year. :)

Thomas Wachtel said...

I was just pissed that missing a limb was an automatic 1 rating. I mean, come on. Let's be real. I'm better than a 1.

Serious part: Nice post, Kelly.

Kelly Smith said...

Thomas, we all know you're at least an 8...aka the type that could get into any sorority you want...

i love you to death and am so happy you joined iu dems this semester.

Colleen Lowry said...

Kelly, my cousin Kaitlin (who goes to Akron U) and follows Lefty's wanted me to tell you this:

"wait - tell whoever wrote that 'on the subjection of women college style' that i love them"

I love you too!

..that is all :)