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Opinion >> Standing Strong



[Author’s note: this is not a discussion of the events of Friday night, but rather a greater social issue. My deepest condolences to those directly affected by the tragic deaths this past weekend and to the rest of our community. May we heal through our strength and solidarity.]

In nearly every respect, I was raised as my older brother’s equal. We wrestled together, played the same sports, both excelled at math and science and were both raised to believe we could accomplish whatever we set our minds to. There was only one circumstance wherein I was told that my gender prevented me from doing something my brother had the freedom to do: walking home alone. Growing up, I lived around the corner from two of my best friends and would always walk along the short stretch of sidewalk between our two streets. But when I tried to do so at night, my parents always made sure someone was walking with me.

Initially, although I found it frustrating, I assumed this was because I was younger than my brother. But when I reached the age he had been when he was first able to walk around the corner by himself at night, I began to protest. I argued with my parents that Stephen gets to walk by himself all the time and I should be able to do so as well. I always remember their response: “But you’re a girl. It’s different.” By nature I am stubborn and independent; because of this and the fact that I was still innocent and unaware of the real dangers I faced merely because I was female, I did not find this a justified response. I remember countless times when I passionately argued with my parents that being a girl shouldn’t make me any different from my brother. It took me years to reconcile with the fact that it does.

It would seem from reading this personal anecdote that I was a self-proclaimed feminist from the womb. However, I was more of a self-proclaimed anti-feminist. Early on I recognized that masculinity meant power and therefore predominantly identified with the more masculine sides of my personality. I ridiculed feminists as angry men-haters, believed in the inherent differences between men and women, obsessed over “the perfect man,” and saw the fact that I excelled in the STEM fields as evidence that I was a rare exception to the rule, instead of seeing how my female counterparts were made to believe by others, including me, that their gender made them naturally less qualified to succeed in subject areas that centered around logic. I distinctly remember arguing with a good friend of mine just this past summer about the lack of necessity for feminism. Because I am someone who generally has always been open-minded and hyper-aware of social issues, he was shocked by my ignorance, which made me question my position for the first time. That fall I signed up for Fem Studies 20, and my entire perspective was flipped.

I have not tried to hide the fact that I am a survivor of sexual assault. I was assaulted when I was 15, in the midst of my steadfast anti-feminist view of the world. Until taking Fem Studies, I had never acknowledged the fact that I had this traumatic experience solely because I was a woman. I never saw that I had dismissed my own femininity because I wanted the power my brother had as a male, or how much that hindered me. I had never considered that my female peers avoided the STEM fields not because they could not succeed in them, but because they were told they would not succeed in them. I was ashamed of my own ignorance — in some ways I feel my lack of support was a greater problem than the lack of understanding from men. Accepting a feminist perspective of the world has been enlightening in the most infuriating of ways. I can no longer ignore the daily oppression I face as a woman when I walk onto the pool deck to referee a men’s water polo game, or when I am forced to call a CSO late at night and take 30 minutes to get home rather than two.

While many of my perspectives have been broadened, my stubborn independence has not been changed by this newfound awareness. Even though I used to do it with 911 on speed-dial and pepper spray in hand, accepting the fact I cannot walk by myself at night has been a long process for me, much to my male-friend’s frustration. On Thursday night I finally used a CSO for the first time, and accepted that no matter how unfair, it simply is not safe for me to walk alone in Isla Vista at night. The only factor in my being able to accept that has been hope. I have every right to be stubborn and independent. I have every right to be able to decide that I am just going to walk alone if my friends are taking too long to join me. I have every right to write an article with a blatant feminist perspective without fearing the negative backlash I will get from angry misogynists. I cannot do these things and/or fear doing them not because of inherent gender differences, but because we live in a world where violence against women is a very real and imminent threat. I have an undying hope that this world can change. I have to believe that while it may never be in my lifetime, future stubborn and independent women like me can walk home alone without any greater threat to their safety than their male counterparts.

So when you see the #YesAllWomen hashtag floating around your Twitter and Facebook feeds, take a second to really consider what it means. If you’re a woman, I guarantee you’ve shared at least one experience with these women, and I challenge you to question why you’ve had that experience rather than accepting it as a natural part of being a woman. If you’re a man, I ask you to keep in mind where the hash tag was born from: #NotAllMen oppress women but #YesAllWomen share these experiences. The hashtag does not intend to spark an attack on men but rather raise awareness for the struggles we face as women. I advise you to start considering the small things you take for granted that women battle daily and join the fight to change this oppression. We must recognize the fact that there are limitations in the current world we live in today and do everything in our power to protect ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it as permanent.
Emily Potter can’t wait to walk home alone one day.

Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students

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Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB.
Opinions are submitted primarily by students.


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6 Responses to #YesAllWomen

  1. Alex

    May 31, 2014 at 9:11 am

    The real world is obviously a dangerous place, especially for women. #Islavista had riots, 3 brutal rapes by gangs of strangers and multiple apartment break-ins since January…all before this monster attacked our community. Men, break free of the #misogyny society perpetuates and make a stand for the women in your life. Defend their honor with ideals and action. If they aren’t already trained in self defense, teach them what you know and give them the power to protect themselves when you aren’t around. As an Iraq veteran, I train my #gaucho girlfriend to protect herself. She carries mace, a stun gun and in light of whats happened, I want her to have the right to carry a gun. Unfortunately, California laws make it impossible for even trained #veterans and #retiredpolice officers to apply for an #opencarry or #concealedweapon permit. I also teach her #selfdefense tactics and how to be #streetsmart We don’t tolerate the fear of #rapeculture in our little family here at #ucsb I never want her to have to wait for 911 responders, when she is capable, trained and of sound mind to protect herself and possibly others. This is why our forefathers wrote into the #constitution for citizens to have the #freedom to protect themselves from criminals, evil psychotics and murderers that would get their hands on a gun, knife and kill you anyway. #elliotrodger was hellbent enough to use his BMW. Please #California vote in #strictergunlaws for psychotics and make it easier for #goodcitizens to pursue an education and not perish without a chance to fight back that is our right. Let the memory of those gone, do something to stop it from happening again. #mygirlfriendisagaucho This #gauchogotmyback #womanwarrior #gauchostrong #islavista #santabarbara #NRA #nationalrifleassociation #prayforislavista #prayforucsb #yesallwomen #peaceandlove

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  2. John

    May 30, 2014 at 11:25 am

    So you used to acknowledge that sexual dimorphism exists between men and women. At the same time you believed many sexist stereotypes of women. Then you take a feminist studies class and instead of modifying your views to remove the sexist ideas, but keep the ones proven by scientific research you discount it all. You embrace an ideology that convinces you that the only reason you were assaulted at 15 was because you are a woman. It’s good to learn that there are no 15 year old boys who are assaulted. It’s good to learn that me pointing these things out contributes to a “negative backlash” and that I am an “angry misogynist”. Forgive me, and forgive millions of men and women with critical thinking skills for not taking your perspective seriously.

    • Emily

      May 30, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      In regards to my sexual assault being because I am a woman I am referring to my own personal experience. What happened to me would not have happened if I wasn’t female, period. That was not intended to include the large amount of men that experience sexual violence and it is not meant to include every female that experiences sexual violence. That’s in regard to what happened to me. If you read my other articles covering sexual assault specifically you can see my views on that. And also I am open to others opinions and disagreement with me I do not take your comment as an angry misogynist language. Again if you reference my other articles there are some comments on there that are specifically anti-feminist and that I do not believe offer any objective viewpoint. You on the other hand are raising valid concerns.

      As for your point about me “discounting it all” I am not entirely sure what you are referring to. I have discounted my sexist views that women cannot excel in STEM fields and have opened my eyes to see how sexism has impacted my daily life. What exactly are you referring to that has been “proved by scientific evidence” that I have discounted in this article?

  3. raoul duke

    May 30, 2014 at 7:56 am

    That is really sad. I loved the pedestrian and bike culture of IV, and though it was one of the greatest things about the school. The university, since IV is a de-facto extension of the university, needs to setp up and install LED solar light poles throughout IV to light the entire area properly – and install sound and closed circuit TV monitoring devices for the Forrt Patrol. This alone will reduce the opportunity for stuped me to do stupid things. IV should also become a vehicle free zone. This would give Foot Patrol better access at greatly increased speed.

    IV can be saved from this terrible reputation.

    • Emily

      May 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

      While I agree that lighting is a huge issue in Isla Vista I think blaming the fact it’s unsafe to walk alone at night solely on the lack of lighting completely misses the point that this is due to a greater social issue. It’s unsafe to walk alone at night anywhere for women this is not just a reputation of Isla Vista

      • raoul duke

        May 30, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        If you believe that.. you need a gun.