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The strength of words

Margaret Otten | Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Notre Dame student: Every time a Notre Dame guy “hooks up” with a Saint Mary’s student a tree is planted along The Avenue.

Saint Mary’s student: Every time a Notre Dame guy gets with a Notre Dame girl a golden dome is built.

These jokes may be a little humorous, and sure we all get a chuckle from them, but what impact can these jokes have on the women of this community? Not only are the women of this community subjected to demeaning classifications, such as “sluts” or “ugly,” but the frequency of sexist jokes I hear particularly on this campus is astounding. It’s the 21st century, right?

Still reluctant to believe the potential impact these jokes may have on our students’ thoughts and actions? Just this past weekend my friends were subjected to harassment through words at Finny’s. Unprovoked, a particular ND student stated multiple times to my friend that sexually “she wanted him.” Does he think she “wants him” and he is entitled to make those inappropriate comments merely because she is a student of Saint Mary’s, and we have a construed reputation of being sexually promiscuous?

This same student later harassed me, angrily shouting in my face some random nonsense, and proceeded to menacingly grin down at me, telling me how he sexually “split open” some other girl. As he towered over my petite body of 100 pounds, he refused to step away from me, despite my requests that he step back, until my male friends stepped in.

I just wanted to go out Saturday night and have a good time with my friends. Is that too much to ask?

Do you still think I’m making a big deal out of the sexist and demeaning jokes that our women are exposed? How about this example? Another student of our college community also possesses misconceptions of Saint Mary’s women. He has once referred to Saint Mary’s College as “a factory to get girls.”

His beliefs and words certainly have been shown in his actions. I lost my virginity through rape by this student. He raped me twice within an eight-hour period I was at his apartment, and he attempted to rape me on two other occasions in the following month.

With this information, I am asking that every student, male or female, take some time to consider the effect name-calling can have on our female students. Not only does it belittle and degrade our community’s large number of talented, female students, but it also may be one of the many factors that contribute to sexual assault.

My advice for fellow students is to stop and think before you laugh at one of these jokes. Saint Mary’s women, next time someone puts you down, be the bigger person. Do not put down your sisters across the street. Notre Dame women, please do not belittle us by calling us “dumb” or “sluts.”

We should be standing together. Our women are being hurt enough through sexual assault. We should not be putting each other down when such a large number of our women are also being victimized sexually.

As for Notre Dame and Holy Cross men, please listen to the same advice I offer the women. Although we may laugh at the jokes, they hurt, and it especially hurts the women who have suffered more severe levels of abuse during our college career.

Margaret Otten

senior

off campus

Mar. 29