“Skimpy Equality:” What Gives?

August 26, 2011

In this morning’s New York Times Sunday Styles section, Lisa Belkin (who writes a recurring column called Motherlode) has a must-read piece called “After Class, Skimpy Equality.”

“What are we to make of the fact that lessons of equality, respect and self-worth have been heard when it comes to the classroom, but lost somewhere on the way to the clubs?” she asks.  She illustrates her puzzlement with stories about men inviting and women submitting to sexually degrading behavior: women invited to come to parties dressed as sluts (and many doing so), and chants from men like “no means yes, and yes means anal.”

Her examples are largely drawn from Princeton, Yale and Duke.  Normally I’m frustrated at journalism that takes elite universities as somehow representative of American higher education.  But in this case what Belkin is writing about rings true to my understanding of the state of sexual relations on campuses across the country.

The public rhetoric on campuses is all about respect and equality, but the lived experience draws women into situations and relationships that are far from these ideals.  What gives? Belkin wants to know, and me too.  Her article reports on her efforts to try to find out why, but the students she quotes don’t provide much illumination.

So what gives?

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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