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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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OPINION: Strapping for Answers About Gender Perceptions

As I trek across the University of Utah campus each day, I see a lot of things that make me grow reflective. For instance, bra straps.

My question is this: What do visible bra straps mean in the sometimes perplexing world of modern feminism?

Some might argue that the seeable straps are evidence of women?s “liberation” from outmoded forms of decency and decorum created by society?s elite, which most feminists argue are disproportionally male.

For some women, wearing what their mothers didn?t wear is an act of strength and individualism. At any rate, they reason, who can define what is “decent” for everyone?

Others might argue differently. In the testosterone-driven world of some men, where less is more, in terms of women?s clothing, those women who dress to impress the unrepressed male?whose uninhibited nature is also a result of the 1960s “liberation” cited earlier?are conspiring creators of a harmful notion.

In the textbook Issues in Feminism Sheila Ruth writes, “The women?s movement has argued that in patriarchy, women are all reduced to the status of ?sex objects?” or what Ruth calls “sex things.” According to her, these “things” are “not thought to have feelings, needs and rights.”

If Ruth is correct, then women who dress in a “liberated” fashion could be perpetuating the damaging perception that women are objects rather than individuals.

Feminists have been working for years to change this perception, which is, at least partially, the basis for pornography, prostitution and sexual abuse.

One particularly interesting?though actually groundless?attempt was that of five Stroh?s brewery workers who, in 1991, sued the company for sexual harassment.

The Associated Press reports that while the actual harassment was attributed to several men who slapped buttocks and made lewd comments toward female employees, the women directed the lawsuit at Stroh?s for creating “a corporate culture that demeans and objectifies women.”

As a specific example, the lawsuit cited Stroh?s famous “Swedish Bikini Team” commercials, in which a group of buxom blondes parachute onto a beach full of rugged men. The problem?

These women, according to the workers? attorney, are “giggling, jiggling idiots” who, as Washington Post Columnist George Will wrote, are “not dressed for high tea.”

While the judge overseeing the lawsuit didn?t allow the commercials to be used as evidence, and while many people felt finding a causal link between the commercials and Stroh?s workplace environment was a stretch. The case at least portrayed how some are opposing society?s “giggling, jiggling” portrayal of women.

There is yet another take on the issue of bra straps, however. Some might argue that women whose clothing or actions leave little to the male imagination are not only expressing liberation, but also empowerment. Washington Post Columnist William Raspberry disagrees.

The Institute for American Values recently conducted a study called “Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping for Mr. Right?College Women on Dating and Mating Today.” The findings surprised even some of the research team?s more liberal members, says Raspberry.

The study found that “marriage is a major life goal for the majority of today?s college women, and most would like to meet a spouse while at college.” However, the findings also showed “there are important aspects of the college social scene that appear to undermine the likelihood of achieving” that goal.

The main undermining aspect the study found was “hooking up,” a practice the study describes as “a distinctive sex-without commitment interaction between women and men, profoundly influences campus culture.”

The study recorded that 40 percent of students surveyed had experienced a hookup. The general understanding among over 90 percent surveyed is that these encounters are “when a girl and a guy get together for a sexual encounter and don?t necessarily expect anything further.”

Despite the potential threats of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and general heartache that inevitably come with hookups, some feminist activists might actually be pleased with the study?s findings. For them, it means more women are having more sex simply because they want to, free from the repression previous generations suffered.

Raspberry is not as pleased. He writes, “What we have is another sad step on what was supposed to be the road to sexual equality. The pill and the sexual politics it helped engender were supposed to empower women to behave like men. It did, of course, but that fact did not make men and women more equal.

“Just the reverse,” continues Raspberry, “because it led women to give up the one power they used to take for granted: the power to control sex,” which he feels helped men focus on and prepare for established relationships.

Some will discount Raspberry?s reasoning, especially considering he is older, and he is a man. However, people should recognize his argument for what it is: an attempt to help women keep power they already have and not lose empowerment they imagine will come through self objectification and risky sex.

Mike welcomes feedback at: [email protected] or send a letter to the editor to: [email protected].

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