Hello, Mod bloggers and readers! Long time, no blog. I hope you haven't forgotten about me! The month of May has been absolutely crazy, as I've had to deal with tying up loose ends with various clubs, taking exams, and writing scary 20-page papers.
I am now home in much sunnier Southern California, finding refuge in my own bed and away from the books. In about a week I head off to Washington, DC, where I will research issues of family, marriage, religion, and society for ten weeks (fellow ModBlogger Cassandra DeBenedetto will be joining me!) and try to research my thesis on the revitalization of the Hawaiian language. For now, I am enjoying life with no major obligations.
Last time I blogged, I promised I would write about my experience participating in "the F-word," a panel about feminism. Below I have pasted my speech--if you have been reading Modestly Yours, it will sound a bit familiar to you, as I talked a lot about what I've talked about on this blog. I hope the audience will take a look at this blog, as they will be able to see my ideas better fleshed out and will benefit from reading your viewpoints as well.
The panel featured six different speakers: me, a Muslim woman from the Harvard Islamic Society, a woman who is a disability-rights activist, a man from the Black Men's Forum, a woman from the South Asian Association, and a man from the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance. I must give it to the conference organizers for bringing together quite a diverse group of people! Each presented his or her own viewpoints on how sexuality relates to his or her experiences as a Muslim, a South Asian, a Black man, etc. etc. I was intrigued by each person's perspectives, but I was most engaged during the question and answer period.
Anyway, here is my speech. I look forward to your questions!
"Keeping our Bras Covered: How Modesty is Feminist"
There seem to have been quite a few sexually charged events at Harvard this past year (which is nothing new), and I’m not talking about so-called evil, misogynistic final clubs parties. I’ve received numerous emails about dances such as Sweet and Nasty, Innuendo, Wicked, and most recently ABC—the Anything but Clothes party organized by the First-Year Social Committee (which was promptly canceled by the Freshman Dean’s Office).
There have also been specific sexuality-focused activities geared towards women, including the Female Orgasms Seminar, which, according to The Crimson, “straddled several topics, ranging from a detailed anatomical tour (using a large velvet hand puppet) to a story about demonstrating female ejaculation for a crowd of awed gynecologists to an anecdote involving hands-free orgasms and a magnetic resonance imaging machine.” Another activity is a new, not-for-credit seminar entitled Female Sexuality, or FemSex for short. At the FemSex intro meeting, I learned how my doors would be opened by doing erogenous exploration exercises and hearing from a sexologist, a dominatrix, and a representative from the BDSM community.
I believe that these completely frivolous events have come about thanks to an unfortunate brand of feminism, one that has stolen the spotlight and taken away whatever legitimacy any pro-woman movement has ever had. Feminism now seems to go hand-in-hand with sexual liberation, or at least the right for a woman to be 'sexually liberated.' This is all part of the idea that in becoming equal with men, women should no longer be victims of the double standard. If men get to have sex without consequences, then women should too. If men get to watch pornography and objectify women, then women should also be able to watch porn, visit sex shops, and write their own sexual fantasies, as the syllabus for FemSex advertises.
Is this the idea of feminism that we should be fighting for? The right for women to have casual sex? To dress with their most private of parts showing? To ogle men (and other women for that matter) and treat them as objects? No! What happened to the more noble cause of equality of opportunity in education and the workforce? At the last F-word panel, students spoke about this issue, but it’s hard to divorce the feminist movement today from the idea of championing sexual liberation. I think Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are turning in their graves at the moment.
What then am I advocating? A return to modesty for both men and women. First, what does modesty mean for us as women today? It does not mean that all women need to wear floor-length skirts and cover every inch of their skin, although for some people that is appropriate. Modesty means respect for yourself, for your body. Don’t dress as a sex object, because if you do, you will become just that, a sex object. Be wary of the message you are sending. I’m not trying to take away any agency perpetrators have, because they’re definitely to blame for their actions, but we could do more to create a less sexually charged environment. Also, carefully consider where you go at night and watch how much alcohol you drink, since alcohol is involved in so many unfortunate incidents. And men certainly need to get their acts together too. Unfortunately, men somehow seem to have been excused from their gentlemanly duties, but it’s time that they start treating women with respect again. They too shouldn’t be watching porn and ogling women. How about helping around the house and opening doors for women?
Another huge part of modesty is sexual purity. I believe wholeheartedly that abstinence before marriage is the best choice that any woman—or any man for that matter—can make. If you do not have premarital sex or engage in some form of sex play, then you will not get an STD and you certainly will not get pregnant! This is not a matter of morality; it is scientific fact.
I’m not sure why everyone is so afraid to make that statement, as if it’s a moral judgment or something. It’s tried-and-true fact. This is especially important considering that, according to the CDC, 65 million people in the U.S. were living with incurable STDs as of 2001, with an additional 15 million becoming infected each year. And with respect to pregnancy before marriage: children born to unwed mothers are more likely to be underweight and admitted to the NICU. Both mother and child are more likely to live in poverty later on. The child of an unmarried couple is more likely to have higher rates of cognitive delay and to become a criminal somewhere down the line. Maintaining sexual purity before marriage has other benefits as well, including greater sexual fulfillment within marriage and lower likelihood of divorce.
I’m sure many of you have been provoked by what I have just said. But if being a feminist is being pro-woman and pro-advancement of women, then I think my views deserve their place in the feminist movement. If feminism used to be about burning bras, I think it now should be about keeping them covered up! Thanks, and I look forward to your questions.