The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Embrace gender equality movement

| Monday, October 13, 2014

This is a response to Matthew D’Emic’s Oct. 10 letter, “Embrace the Men’s Rights Movement.” D’Emic argues that feminism “is concerned with the elevation of women at the expense of men,” which he supports with some gender-based statistics. However, based on the definition that the feminist movement advocates economic, social and political gender equality, D’Emic’s evidence is insufficient for discrediting feminism.

D’Emic, speaking on behalf of college men, states, “every night we go out we must be exceptionally careful of our actions. We can do our best to try and attain consent, but from a legal standpoint, any level of intoxication is enough to void any consent we thought we had received.” Whenever I, a female college student, go out, I must be exceptionally careful of not only my own, but everyone else’s actions as well.  Statistically, one in every four college-aged women has been a victim of sexual violence (oneinfourusa.org). Unless a woman clearly and clear-mindedly gives consent, then she has not given consent. If someone questions whether or not he has a woman’s consent, legally or otherwise, then he should assume that she hasn’t given consent. This means that if a woman cannot actively give consent due to intoxication, then that’s it — there is no consent — end of story. If you know that a woman is intoxicated and you know that, by law, she cannot give consent due to her mental state, then why would you even “try and attain consent?”

Moving on, D’Emic continues to list the consequences of such an action “when convicted,” including expulsion and jail time. By definition, when one is convicted, they have been declared “guilty of a criminal offense by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law” (New Oxford American Dictionary). Thus, conviction necessitates legal guilt. Additionally, universities tell their students upon admission that conviction of a crime can warrant expulsion. These consequences are public information. If one wishes to avoid them, he or she should avoid committing the crime in the first place.

D’Emic expresses concerns about false allegations of rape. He references a study by Eugene Kanin that “demonstrated that 50 percent of rape allegations could be false and have estimated that 56 percent of those false allegations are filed as some sort of alibi.” According to the study, it was conducted in a “small metropolitan community” in which 49 out of 109 rape allegations were false — which is 41 percent, not 50. When the yearly average of sexual assault victims falls at 237,868 (rainn.org), a sample size of 109 cases over nine years is hardly representative of a large number of sexual assault cases.

Nevertheless, even if the accusation is false, accused offenders in sexual assault cases are rarely convicted. In fact, 60 percent of sexual assault cases are not reported to the police. Of the 40 percent of cases that are reported, only a quarter lead to an arrest and less than a tenth lead to conviction and time in jail. Overall, 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail (www.rainn.org).

Other “male issues” include the slower learning rates of men and the decreasing male population in college, statistics that D’Emic claims to have found on Collegestats.org. I visited this site and read an article titled, “Why Men Are Falling Behind in Higher Ed.” One explanation given in the article is “men make up only 44 percent of college applicants. Colleges can’t accept students who don’t apply.” Moreover, “[o]f those who do enroll, only two-thirds of men do so right after high school, and less than half chose a four-year school… [R]esearch also suggests that men simply put less value on college than women do.” At no point in the article did I read that men did not have the opportunity to receive a higher education. Again, feminism does not insist that women take opportunities away from men for themselves, but that men and women both have equal opportunities. Men have to make their own decisions to attend college, just as women do.

D’Emic also mentions that “50 percent of restraining orders are given without any allegation of physical abuse and that 70 percent of all restraining orders are false.” A restraining order, by definition, is “a temporary court order issued to prohibit an individual from carrying out a particular action, esp. approaching or contacting a specified person” (New Oxford American Dictionary). This does not require physical abuse, nor should it. If anyone, be it a man or a woman, feels so uncomfortable that they need legal protection from another person, then he or she should be able to receive it, regardless of gender. On another note, I am not sure how a legal document could be “false.”

The source of D’Emic’s primary concern is found in the HeForShe Commitment, which states, “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.” Yet, D’Emic lists that “boys are five times more likely [than girls] to end up in juvenile detention,” as another “male issue.” If more males were to take action against violence faced by women, as asked for in the HeForShe Committment, this statistic would certainly decrease. Furthermore, those boys are not put in juvenile detention just because they are boys, but because they have been convicted of a crime; there is a difference.

Finally, D’Emic points out alarming rates of suicide and homelessness among the male population. These are human rights issues in themselves that need to be dealt with by both men and women for both men and women. It is a human rights violation for people to live with no shelter and no sense of safety. However, it is impossible for the homeless to overcome poverty or the depressed to overcome suicidal tendencies alone, just as gender equality is not possible without the participation of both genders.

Some of D’Emic’s evidence does show that there is a need for societal change, but it does not support the idea that feminism is not concerned with male problems or that feminism doesn’t need men to take action. If we want to live in a world where women do not have to fear rape, where men do not have to fear false accusations of sexual assault, where men’s education is valued just as much as women’s education, where boys are not expected to be aggressive and women are not expected to be submissive, then we have to work together.

Problems that affect men affect society, and society, in turn, affects both men and women. Until people begin to see that, we cannot make progress towards gender equality.

Jenna Wilson


Saint Mary’s College

Oct. 9

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Letter
  • Wilson

    Not a bad article. But you should be more empathetic to the fact that men don’t want to attend college in the same way that we think it’s a problem that women aren’t striving to ascend the corporate ladder as much as men. D’emic doesn’t address it, but men also do worse in college once they are there. How would you like it if I attributed women’s poorer performance in the working world to them “wanting it less”?

    Also, if people are committing crimes, it is because we as a society have failed them. People are a function of their environment. Your stance again lacks empathy.

    • Jenna Wilson

      Thank you. I appreciate your comment!

      As to your first comment, I did not mean for this article to be emotional in any way, but logical. Perhaps this makes my argument come off as lacking empathy, because it does. I made that specific claim based on an article from the site where D’Emic claimed to get his own statistics, which can be found at the following link:

      And for your second comment, I was not saying that violence against women is the only reason that more boys are imprisoned, but it certainly is one of the reasons. Thus, if that cause were eliminated, it would follow that fewer boys and men would be imprisoned. I actually mention in the last two paragraphs that society (i.e. people’s environment) needs to change in order to change the problems that D’Emic brings up, including this one.

      • Wilson

        But a successful solution requires empathy. Obviously saying no means no will do absolutely nothing.

        • Jenna Wilson

          Oh, I agree completely. A solution requires empathy from both sides. However, the majority of this article is not intended to propose possible solutions; I wrote it to illustrate the logical shortcomings of a previous article that many people seem to find compelling. Perhaps I suggest working together as a solution in the last few sentences of the article, but overall, it is not an argument for possible solutions to the problem of gender inequality.

  • Anonymous

    While I disagree with some points, I just wanted to say this article was written and supported much better than the other feminist “letter” The Observer published today. Well done.

    • Nathan

      I read both and definitely want to second this!

  • Thanks

    Thank you for sharing. D’Emic’s article was too quick to criticize feminism and showed a lack of understanding of the goals, the scope, and the history of feminism.

    Your article reminded me of this: http://imgur.com/gallery/n01WW

  • Alumna06

    Thank you for writing a very clear-headed and well-researched answer to Mr. D’Emic’s short-sighted missive. We all need to work together and stop pointing fingers. Think of all the good we could do!

  • FriendlyNeighborhoodSpiderman

    For me, the problem I have with feminism is that feminists demand this and that but fail to demand equal duties. Rarely do I hear feminists complain about not being drafted into the military or not getting to fight on the front lines in war. I am 100% for gender equality, but women should get the duties that men have as well. I would like women to get equal wages, etc, but also get drafted and have to fight on the front lines.

    Additionally, for the case of giving consent, I was always baffled because if you are intoxicated, you cannot legally give consent. Does that mean a male party that is intoxicated cannot give consent to his female partner either? Making it rape on both ends or what?

    • Julia

      Not here to agree/disagree/argue, but I would just like to point out that the United States does not draft anyone, male or female, so that is entirely irrelevant. People, male and female, enlist in the military.

      • Anonymous

        Doesn’t matter, this is an issue of semantics. Men are legally required to register with Selective Service upon turning 18 or they waive their right to vote. Furthermore, in most states, a man who has not registered with Selective Service is ineligible for financial aid to college, and some states will charge out of state tuition even if he has lived in that state for his entire life.

      • FriendlyNeighborhoodSpiderman

        The Selective Service’s existence implies the US can switch to a draft at whim.

    • Jenna Wilson

      Where in this article did I make demands? The closest thing to a “demand” made in my article is the suggestion that men and women work together to fight gender inequality… Perhaps some feminists make demands, but I am wondering what part of my article, if any, comes off as “demanding.”

      Regardless, do you hear men excited to be drafted or to register for the Selective Service? Of course feminists don’t complain about not being drafted; nobody wants to be drafted and anyone who does enlists in the military. Does this mean that women shouldn’t have to register with Selective Service? Not necessarily, and perhaps it is an issue that should be addressed. Though I am not sure, I would guess that men have to register for the Selective Service because traditionally, women stayed home during times of war. This idea is perpetuated by our society and exhibited in things such as Selective Service registration. For that to change, society as a whole needs to change. Additionally, women are required to serve other civic duties, such as jury duty.

      As for your consent question, I have no idea how that works. I assume it has to do with whoever initiates the activity, but it is weird. Again, it may be a point that needs to be considered in order to make progress. Nevertheless, the comment made by D’Emic that I reference in my article is certainly problematic.

      • FriendlyNeighborhoodSpiderman

        Sorry I was not addressing you directly when I spoke of demands but of feminists in general, and why that is the main reason most people steer away from feminism. It’s just some in the group that are outspoken that distort people’s perception of them negatively.

        Of course they aren’t excited about it. But I think one of the main reasons that a lot of people scoff gender equality issues is because women are all about demanding equal rights, which is justified, but only seem to want the positives. They want the equal wages, etc, but don’t want to have the duties of that are expected and required of men. You are correct to say that the gender division for the Selective Service lies in the traditional roles. Women were homemakers at that time and men went out to fight. But that is even more reason to change. If change were to start in a traditional institution like the Selective Service, it would be much easier to spread. Civic duties like jury duty are also required by men so that point is moot.

        I don’t know if you realize either though but women who enlist in the army are NOT allowed to fight on the front lines. Whether this is a restriction of rights or duties is to be debated though, but it is simply true that women have less duties than men do in regards to the military standards.

        Megan has seemed to answer my last point.

        • Pat

          In 2013 the Pentagon lifted the ban on women in combat roles in response to advocacy from women in the military. The ban was gender discrimination which effectively limited the ability for women to advance their careers. Expanding opportunities for women is part of the dept of defense’s strategy to combat sexual assault; the more service members are treated equally the more likely they are to treat each other with respect.

        • Jenna Wilson

          I agree; society’s view on traditional gender roles does need to change. To create such a change, however, men and women need to work together. If men and women are constantly arguing about what feminism is or why a men’s rights movement is needed, that change will never come. So, perhaps rather than associating all of feminism with one specific problem and thus discrediting it as a whole, it would be more constructive to realize this is a problem and work with both genders to find a solution. And yes, jury duty is served by both genders. That is my point. We do share duties.

          • Bri O’Brien

            Right on Jenna. Feminism is not just about women making demands. Actually, it is not about women making demands at all. It is about leveling the playing field for people of all genders. Its point is to eliminate the concept of men having to do one thing while women are to do another. Also, as Pat said, men and women are given the same opportunities in the military. So, before you go spewing about women in the military this and that, at least do your research. Further, if you are not a member of the military, you probably do not have any credit to be talking about what does or does not go on.

          • FriendlyNeighborhoodSpiderman

            No YOU should do your research. As of this moment, women are not yet allowed on the front lines in direct combat.

            There was a law in the line circa 2013 but reports are that “The Pentagon announced Tuesday plans to put women in front -line combat roles by 2016.” Which means as of right now, women have not yet gained equal opportunity/duty (however you want to see it) as men do as regards to military combat.

            Please research the issues before commenting on them. I am a reserve officer in the Air Force so I know a thing or two about this.

          • Bri O’Brien

            and I was a Reserve Officer in the Navy, so I know a thing or two about this. The Navy treats women equally. #GoNavy

    • Megan

      In response to your question about consent, in Indiana the duty to obtain consent lies fully on the initiator regardless of whether he or she or the desired partner is intoxicated. Whoever initiates is responsible for obtaining consent. Again, in Indiana, there is also a line drawn between intoxication and incapacitation, or when consent can or cannot be given. It is Indiana law that a person who is intoxicated is capable of giving consent, but someone who is incapacitated (asleep, drugged, or blacked out) cannot give consent. This law varies from state to state, and while in my opinion intoxication negates any “consent” given, there is much gray area here in Indiana and at Notre Dame. Please read this section from du lac about consent, as it also specifies that at Notre Dame consent cannot be inferred by a lack of active or verbal resistance, meaning that not saying no or not doing anything does not equal consent here at Notre Dame, and any kind of sexual contact without consent is assault.


    • Anon

      Feminist groups have largely condemned the draft. It makes more sense to condemn it for everyone than demand that women also be forced to fight. In fact, the only person to vote against the declaration of war against Japan was a feminist, the first woman elected to congress, who said that she could not in good conscience send others to war when, as a woman, she could not be sent herself.

      And yes, if a man is intoxicated past the point of consent and a woman takes advantage of him, that is no less rape than when the genders are reversed. Obviously it gets complicated when both parties are intoxicated, and that’s a discussion worth having.

      • FriendlyNeighborhoodSpiderman

        I agree with the abolishment of the Selective Service, but unfortunately that will likely never happen as long as the threat of war exists. In the meantime, it would be nice if women were included in it equally.

        Yeah I was speaking more if both were intoxicated. It’s really hard because it becomes a “He Says She Says” issue where you can’t make any accurate conclusions at all.

        • Bri O’Brien

          Women were finally just allowed to participate within certain branches of the service. Women can be on board submarines and enlist in infantry. This literally just happened about two years ago. Women have been asking, for a long time, to be treated equally in regards to the military. While I am sure most people would not like to be drafted for the service, women would step up to the plate as much as men would. This is a poor basis for an argument against feminism. If anything, it is an argument for feminism. Women are not considered able-bodied enough by men to be drafted, which is why they are not. I know of not a single feminist that does not “demand equal duties.” The problem is that regardless of what women demand, they do not have the opportunities nor privileges to actually achieve them in today’s society. Feminism exists, in part, because a woman who spend the SAME amount of time and puts in the SAME amount of effort as a man does, will still only earn 77 cents for every dollar the man does. Its an inherent disparity. Ignorant comments like yours only work to further create a divide. I’m sure if you were, for whatever reason, drafted, you would not be too happy about it, but its not up to you. And it is not up to women whether they are drafted or not. It is up to the officials we all elect. So, again, your criticism has no validity to it.

    • Pat

      There is no draft at this time. The US armed forces are all volunteer.

  • Nathan

    Great article! I appreciate the positive attitude and how you counter the prior article without being disrespectful.

  • Pat

    Excellent rebuttal to D’Emic’s arguments. Very logical and respectful. Thank you Jenna.

  • Bri O’Brien

    Nicely put Jenna! Haha, this is great. I’d say ya nailed it. Typical uninformed patriarchal response to feminism: why not humanism? Well, feminism doesn’t call for some sort of matriarchy or even for women to have more rights than men. Gender roles put constraints on men as well as women. Hence, by definition (literally), feminism is concerned with equal rights between men and women.