Gendered Fear Regarding Sexual Assault

With the 2019 Women’s March approaching, I decided to sit down with an old friend, Women and Gender Studies Major, Maddy Smith, to discuss her views of the protest as well as her new academic essay outlining the gendered fear within the 2018 Kavanaugh Hearings.

Precious Douglas: So Maddy how long have you been studying Women and Gender studies?

Maddy Smith: Well, I took the intro class last spring but I didn’t declare until this semester. But I guess I was serious about it since I registered for the higher level class which primarily discussed research and methods. It wasn’t actually about feminist ideas and theories just yet.

PD: And what prompted you to declare this major?

MS: A couple of things, I guess I’ve always been really struck by human rights issues. That’s always been something that’s gotten to me. And so when I took this intro class and it covered such a large array of topics relating to equality, class, race and how those are all connected with ethnocentricism and gender; (which is something that obviously applies to me as a woman) that's what got me interested. The whole major just seems to be about helping people and trying to make an actual change and learning about how f** up everything is.

Another thing that sparked my decision was the Kavanaugh hearings. Right around the time that Dr. Ford and the now Justice Kavanaugh were speaking and having their testimonies, everyone was talking about it. I was just in the cafeteria at lunch and there was this group of very obviously freshman boys sitting at the table next to me talking about it. They were saying things like "How would you feel if your life was ruined?". And their sympathy wasn’t for Dr. Ford, it was for Kavanaugh. They were very obviously skeptical of her testimony and her story. And I could just see these really toxic ideas about men being scared and false sexual assault reporting and all of these fears manifesting themselves into real people. Like, they're one year younger than me but they're the future! So it was really frustrating to see that and I kind of like lost my s** a little bit. I started going off at my friends and I made a couple of them cry. A couple of them that don't agree with me just stood up and left. And I was like "gee" I need to handle this anger a lot better. And so I contacted my advisor like two hours later and then next week I had declared my major. Within all of this, I had also figured out the topic for my essay which is about fear and the Kavanaugh case.

PD: If you could elaborate on the topic of your writing.

MS: Yeah, So I used the media such as online news media as my primary sources. And I was looking at how the media projects ideas of fear surrounding sexual assault. And with this case, Trump, his cabinet, and his son especially were really putting out these ideas that men need to be fearful because of this movement. Their life could be ruined and uprooted and it doesn't matter how many years as a “good civil servant” or whatever they were. They really emphasized that their lives could be ruined by some accusation by some woman and it just is so demeaning. So that fear, that's what I saw in these guys at lunch so I thought it has to be a thing online too. So I studied that and I also (obviously) looked at the woman's fears and compared the two. I really wanted to understand why/how could any person think that the accused should be the one that is scared not the person that is more likely to get attacked and raped and have all these horrible things happen to them. I just wanted to understand that mindset a little more. There are similarities between the two which made me not fe- I don't think I feel for them but I understand where it's coming from. What I learned is that its just a fear of losing power, losing power in the courts over survivors voices kind of thing. Because things are shifting so I kind of think it was all just a kickback to the whole "Me Too" movement and stuff like that. That's what I think this "fear" is.

PD: So this Saturday is the 3rd annual Women's March, what are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the march or rather more the organization itself and the things it's tried to do? Is there is any use in continuing to do it each year? What do you think it stands for?

MS: Yeah like the original march; the one after Hillary lost?

PD: Yeah, sure.

MS: Honestly I've never been able to do the march because it's always the weekend that I'm driving up to school. But I feel like the reason I would go and I feel like with a lot of other people, is that its empowering being surrounded by so many people like you. To know that there are good people, that there are these other strong like-minded women in the world. I think that's a really good benefit of it. But also I think the movement definitely stemmed from Trump's election and Hilary's loss. And I think that for a lot of people that can be seen as, and it kind of is in certain ways, a white feminist movement. Because it's like "this white woman didn't get elected to the presidency”. It's just like the issues that some people are fighting for, a lot of like the older women especially that do the march, don't understand intersectionality or black feminist thought and things like that. And how its a lot worse for other women in the world and so I think in that way some people aren't marching for the best reasons. I think each person does it for a very personal reason which is fine. People are still getting out there and fighting the a**h** that's running our country right now, but I think the messages that come with it could be better, not all of them are real feminists in my opinion, they're clout chasers.

The interview above has been edited for clarity purposes.

If you'd like to read Maddy's article the link is below.



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