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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Response to BU Today Article

I'm a feminist. Many of my peers balk at this label, seeing visions of burning bras and screaming hippies. In a solidly middle to upper class environment, most BU students have not been exposed to any part of the women's movement outside of this image. And although American women still earn roughly 75% of men's wages for equal work, such upper class women still choose not to identify as different from their male counterparts. Instead of using the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day to celebrate pioneering BU alums, or educate the student body about ongoing struggles, BU Today chose to highlight SED alumna Suzanne Venker. Co-written with her aunt, Phyllis Shlafly, Venker's book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know - and Men Can't Say attempts to counter the liberalism she believes dominates discussions about and by women.

It's not hard to see what Venker stands to gain from controversy surrounding her book. Such opportunism should be seen for what it is, but the impacts of the article do not stop there. Although some identify her freedom to promote her views as the ultimate expression of the success of the very feminism she decries, the type of false information she touts is dangerous.

I leave it to the reader to delve into Venker's other claims, but her assertion that "the abuse problem is smaller than it’s made out to be," is simply untrue. Let alone her complete lack of factual basis, Venker's statements feed the "blame the victim" mentality that all too often accompanies sexual assault and domestic violence. Compounded with the shame and fear of re- victimization many victims suffer, sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes.

In a comprehensive study of its 13 four-year campuses, the University of Wisconsin System found that the estimated number of rapes (based on records and interviews with victims, advocates and administrators) outnumbers reported sexual assaults by a margin of 17 to 1. Even those victims that do seek help are often subjected to treatment that follows Venker's "just get over it already" mentality. Many date rape victims on college campuses also question if what happened to them was "rape" if they were drinking, and especially if they are underage. Rather than encourage their safety and empower them to reach out, BU Today chose to highlight a view that risks pushing sexual assault victims further into silence.

Such a potentially harmful stance, published without resources for victims or information about the prevalence of such crimes, requires a thoughtful response from our community. For an example of a thoughtful response, search "domestic violence gbcs resource hoxie" for this resource for United Methodists from our own Meredith Hoxie. If you need help, call the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center's 24 hour hotline: 800.841.8371
Stephanie Edwards -

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