As an international student from Turkey, a country where women are silenced frequently, you know your privileges. You are so lucky because you were raised the same way as your brother was. Your parents are your best friends. Even your brother knew they favored you over him. You never experienced an incident where you were not expected to speak your mind, never had a curfew, never had to lie about your choices. After spending 18 years in a country full of sexist, ignorant and often dangerous men, you survived.
You walked the streets of your beloved city mostly without fear, despite once barely making it out of an inebriated taxi driver’s car. Interested to see if you were a virgin or not, he forced you to physically defend yourself. You returned home with pieces of his skin and blood under your nails. The marks you left on his face served as a warning for future passengers. Strangers have called you names, followed you into dark alleys, but somehow, against all odds, you survived. You were celebrated as a woman, a daughter and most importantly as a person, despite opposite examples around you.
You moved to France and showed yourself that you don’t suck at being a semi-adult after all. Now here you are – in the “freest country of all” – in California, with all the creative, easygoing, open-minded people you feel comfortable with. Well, not so fast. Here are a few things you should know, for your own sake.
During your second week at Chapman, excited for your classes and overwhelmed by the fact that you have to share a bathroom with five other women, you will be horrified when you overhear the woman who lives on your floor say about another woman, “It wasn’t technically rape because she was asking for it.” That is slut shaming for you right there. Be aware of it.
You will be livid when you hear the same type of women blame victims of rape for lying to get “attention.” You will not be able to wrap your mind around how they function and how they could possibly think anyone would want to go through all that horrible bureaucracy and exclusion. You will meet survivors, friends of survivors and feel their pain inside you.
You may be really confused when the senior fraternity man you’ll briefly date who takes pride in being respectful toward women and tells you how much he loves his sisters also says, “All women at Chapman are crazy!” regarding rape accusations his fraternity faced that year. He will genuinely believe his “bros” are innocent victims of girls who “simply couldn’t handle the fact that they weren’t girlfriend material.” That is rape culture for you.
You will meet men who believe catcalling is just something guys do when their testosterone levels are high. Not very gentlemanly, but nothing your pretty head should worry about. The same men will admit to you that they were more than once sexually harassed by women, too intoxicated to fight back. They will believe that it’s their mistake, and why make a big deal out of it anyway? They got laid, what’s the harm in that?
You will make friends — a lot of them. Some of them will tell you that they grew up in a very Christian environment and they were taught strictly that they did not own their body and not to tempt boys. You will rant about this mentality of shame and promotion of fear imposed on women starting from early ages. You will make it your mission to fight it. However, you will empathize perfectly and instantly when your roommate tells you she drives to her night classes because she doesn’t feel safe walking around campus.
On top of all this, you will experience sexism. You’ll have professors telling you not to be so sensitive and “to take a joke, jeez.” You will meet female professors, advising you to stand up to their open sexism, never see their age or status as an excuse, unless they have been working at Chapman for more than 10 years. In that case, they are pretty much invincible.
All of this will frustrate you, yes, but hang in there. You will meet people who think feminism is about burning bras and degrading men. You will get condescending looks and idiotic comments. Some will only be interested in what you are wearing instead of what you are thinking. They will try to shame you for rising through your weaknesses and owning up to who you are. Keep in mind, us women are survivors, forced to redefine ourselves with every different role — to accept, adapt and shut up about it already. Well, don’t you dare be that girl. Never let anyone put you down or silence you. Be kind, not just to those who fight the same battles as you, but to everyone. Treat people with respect and demand it back. Finally, don’t let a misogynist sheriff’s remarks or any other sexist jerk ruin your day. All women are warriors! Spread the word and you’ll be fine.