The following letter was sent to the editors of Daily Theology after the announcement of the current Octave of Theological Reflection. We are proud to present it as an addendum to this, the second day of the Octave.
I don’t want to force myself into what has been a carefully crafted and thoughtfully presented series. I only want to send this along to see if it is valuable to you; it is a reaction I wrote a few weeks ago to the “Freshman Daughter Drop Off” signs:
The struggle for women’s rights is often divided into three waves. In the first wave women fought for the right to be treated as the equal of men under the law; for example, the right to vote. In the second wave, women fought for social equality: the freedom to pursue the same careers and activities as men. The third wave troubles and seeks to expand what qualifies as sexual equality. The fight for the goals of all three of these waves continues. It strikes me that the gateway for accomplishing many of the goals associated with all three of these waves is higher education. I don’t wish to imply that one needs to have a college education in order to be treated with the same dignity and rights as a man, only that higher education is the place where one can escape and challenge one’s legal, financial, and social dependence on men. Is it any coincidence then that a woman’s freshman year of college, the site of the first opportunity for independence, is the site at which she is most likely to be sexually assaulted?
My grandmother said goodbye to her father when she was 16 at the altar; she moved directly from his house to her husband’s. I remember my dad saying goodbye to me at college. I remember the awesome feeling of walking away from him on the quad, free to go anywhere I wanted, tell no one, and return when I wished: for the first time in my life, beholden to no one. Is it any coincidence that 100 years ago he would have been walking me down an aisle, and this year parents were greeted dropping their daughters off at colleges with fraternities’ huge signs reading “Freshman Daughter Drop Off.”
The message is clear: you are not free. This will not be your escape. Rape culture, intimidation, sexual assault, and rape are not the result of rowdy irresponsible kids drinking too much. On a college campus sexual violence is not just about interpersonal power; it is about social power. It is a tactic used to communicate with women. It says: you think this place is here to offer you a certification of your value and capacities beyond your sexual value to men, and you are wrong.
Teaching Fellow & Doctoral Candidate
Fordham University Department of Theology