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Respect is reciprocal

December 13, 2017

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

The past two “Polar Views” articles are troubling. The platform the author has created is crucial to deepening conversations in the Bowdoin community, and comparing experiences of oppression has an insidious nature which alienates us from the problems at hand—I don’t wish to contribute to the conversation in that manner. However, I felt a response was necessary.

One descriptor the author neglects in characterizing the “traditional student population,” is “male.” “I voiced an opinion that may or may not have been the dominant one,” the author writes. What’s so upsetting about his articles isn’t cultural. Sexism, like any discrimination, should not be explained away or tucked neatly into “culture.” It’s that they do indeed contribute to a “dominant narrative” surrounding the treatment of women on this campus and in the world. Rape culture is perpetuated in the explanation that women misconstrue actions, not that men act inappropriately or in ways that make others uncomfortable.

Moreover, “respect” defined by one person—male or otherwise—cannot be championed, particularly if its end is self-serving. In his articles, the author only gave examples of “respect” involving what he could do for women. This does not make them invalid or inherently wrong, but respect includes appreciating what others—particularly women, in a time when our voices are beginning to break the silence surrounding sexual violence—can do for us, not just what we can do for them. As someone who has experienced sexual violence, I’m still able to appreciate the men in my life precisely because they don’t see me as “special,” so much as a full human being—I feel heard. We don’t want to feel “special” if “special” for women is what is seen as required for men—I think a more agential definition of respect is lacking in this article, as well-intentioned as it may be.

Emma Newbery is a member of the Class of 2019.

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