BY ANNIE BOGGS
Deciding what to wear on a night out is usually a matter of deliberation and accomplished with the help of my roommates. In my college town, as in a lot of other areas populated with young people, there seems to be much more pressure on female students than their male counterparts to dress to the nines and look “cute.” Annoying, sure, but is this harmless or damaging sexism at work?
In this recent New York Times piece, writer Lisa Belkin contrasts the equality college women have achieved in the classroom to the lack of respect they seem to receive in social settings. Mainly using examples of fraternities, she describes a setting where largely “men set the pace”, and the “he chases, she submits” way of thinking seems to be ingrained in college culture.
Of course, sexist fraternity members aren’t representative of all college students. It is true, however, that many think that because we’ve reached certain statistics and quotas that demonstrate equality, we can stop caring about it and stop working toward change. That just isn’t true. Women compose more than half of college students, but that doesn’t mean the same old gendered power division doesn’t exist outside the classroom.
A defining factor, I think, is believing you have the choice of what to wear and how to act, independent of others’ expectations. As a young woman, I was taught that I can wear anything I want (and sometimes I think back in disbelief to the days before women could wear pants!). This sometimes includes short dresses, but I don’t like to think it’s dictated by a societal trend that takes away my agency.
The generation of women in college have the most freedom women have ever had, and therefore more expectations, so I can understand the writer’s frustration with the current college culture and definitely think it should be further discussed. Do older generations just not “get” this new kind of female empowerment, or did women’s equality truly get lost in the shuffle somehow? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section!