Sexual oppression disguised as student life

PSU’s student population is 70 percent women, and women make up approximately 52 percent of the U.S. population. So that means women are in the majority, right? Well, statistically yes, but remember, it’s not just quantity that counts, its quality. And overall, the PSU environment seems to lack greatly in quality for women. It isn’t an empowering or safe space for women in general.

What am I talking about, you ask? Well, let’s start with the surface. As I walk about the PSU campus, I am mortified to find around every hallway some form of sexual harassment being displayed. From last month’s inappropriate “Mardi Gras” display in the SMSU, shrouded in beads, (gee, I wonder what the beads represent), to the subscribing porn magazine pamphlets littering corkboards, to fliers created or co-sponsored by student groups that depict objectified, practically naked women. Perfect example: the recent Cinco De Mayo flier. This flier gives dates and times in the shadow of a sexually objectified woman. Could she be any more scantily clad? And come on, if her breasts were any bigger she’d fall over. Pahhhlease.

Now don’t get me wrong, I support and love celebrating Cinco De Mayo. Also, I am of mixed Chicana ethnicity, and I am not attacking the Latina/o groups that have worked hard to ensure a great celebration this year, but I am speaking out against the sexual objectification and exoticisation of women in this flyer, and several other flyers all around campus, regardless if they are co-sponsored by student groups or trashy places like El Gaucho, Dante’s or Berbati’s Pan.

What shocks and saddens me more than these fliers is the fact that many women have submitted to and accepted these forms of sexual degradation. Why aren’t more PSU women complaining about the porn magazines being sold at the SMSU store and PSU Bookstore? This isn’t Powell’s or Fantasy Video. This is our campus, again, with the majority of students being women. Why are we not boycotting? And Portlanders claim themselves to be activists?

When I complained about these magazines to the SMSU store manager, she told me, “Well, this stuff sells.” So I ask my fellow female colleagues, how do you like being up for sale? Sadly, looking around campus I see many young women who have given up minding. Who have sold themselves for the pathetic privilege of receiving attention from sexist men and society, (if one could even consider this a privilege).

Examples? Hmmm, that’s easy. Women wearing Hustler and Playboy attire, shirts that say “Porn Star” on them. This is all you consider yourself worth and capable of being? Or my favorite: Suicide Girls paraphernalia. And please, don’t give me that carefully constructed bullshit that Suicide Girls is empowering. Let’s just put our thinking caps on for a moment.

So, you’re a woman, but don’t mind being called a girl, which places you in the “inferior” intellectual level of a child, in order for men to feel smarter, thus superior to you, right? And tell me, why you are in college again? And to top this atrocity, Suicide Girls is promoting the violence and destruction of women (and female children) as somehow sexually empowering.

Like I said before, pahhhlease. That’s like saying that if a woman rapes another woman, it’s not only considered less harmful than if done by a man, but could I then dare claim, even be feminist and/or sexually empowering? Violence is violence. And violent oppression in any disguise disempowers. But, foolishly going along with what the SMSU store manager thinks: “Well (violence) sells,” right?

Both men and women are responsible for perpetuating sexual and gender oppression. PSU is supposed to be a safe space for women and all people. Allowing PSU to continue to be a sexually repressive and degrading environment is not only illegal, but simply dehumanizing. Wake up women and male allies, and start working to create a quality environment that we as students pay for and we as human beings deserve.

Nicole-Marie DeSpain, Native-American studies, independent studies in social justice