An online Facebook confessional. Steubenville rape trial. Excessive media attention. Victim blaming. It doesn’t matter which screen we turn on, we can’t escape the negative stigma surrounding victims of sexual assault—even in our precious college bubble. Especially in our precious college bubble. Here is an example found on the Emerson Confessional page: “So many men’s lives are absolutely ruined by the stain of 'rapist' because they have had sex with a girl who they assume is consenting.” Needless to say, a 60-comment debate filled with threats, angry replies, and more disheartening, victim blaming statements followed.

In light of all of the negative media attention rape has received in the past few months (on Emerson Campus and on national news), I wanted to provide something provocative and empowering. There is an incredibly—and in my opinion unjustified—amount of victim blaming surrounding sexual assault. I wanted to something that would make women feel empowered, sexy, and unencumbered by hideous societal judgment on clothing.

Here’s the thing: a woman is never asking to be raped. People are projecting the opposite if they comment on the victim’s alcohol level and style of clothing. Rape is always the rapist’s fault. End of story. I don’t care if a woman if walking down the street with nothing on but a smile, she is not asking to be assaulted, abused, and humiliated.

“My Little Black Dress Does Not Mean Yes” is a slogan floating around the Internet that spoke to me. I had several hopes for a photo campaign surrounding this slogan—and the idea that a woman or man is never asking for it. I had hoped that it would allow for participants to not only feel attractive, but to feel freed from societal stigmas that have surface in the media. I had hoped that these pictures would be seen by victims who may feel wrongly at fault and take a second look at why they feel that way. I had hoped to have at least a miniscule impact on opinions and to provide an opportunity for women of Emerson to feel freely fierce.

By Megan Kay, EPSJ Women's Rights Committee Chair

If you’ve watched a movie lately and you care the slightest bit about feminism and the representation of women in film, you’ve probably been dismayed. Many movies these days either completely neglect or stereotype women into confined boxes, like the ditzy blonde or the nerd. It’s so disheartening to constantly see your gender flaunted as a sex prop and only in the movie or scene to be attract the main male character. It’s even more disheartening to see your gender absent from a film altogether. In fact according to Forbes, “Only 16% of protagonists in film are female.” Even worse, of these 16% of female protagonists, many of them are over sexualized. Many female heroes or protagonists use their sexuality and their bodies to save the day. Think of Lara Croft or Catwoman, for example. The entirety of their characters are based around their sexual attraction, and although they may fight alongside or against men, they are doing so in revealing, tight outfits, that are meant to utilize the power of the male gaze and attract male viewers. So what kind of message is this sending to women? If you want to be a star, you have to use your appearance. Sure, you can be just as powerful as a man, but you will have to use your body to do it. 

Let’s face it, there is an astounding lack of Buffy or Katniss-like female characters in Hollywood. But why is that? Mostly because behind the scenes, the shows are run by men. According to Forbes, “Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising).” Additionally, “Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.” Chances are, the last movie you watched was written, directed, and produced by a man, which means that most of our media is from the perspective of a male. Consequently, Hollywood films and television shows are male-dominated, and the female characters are created by the male perspective because they are mostly written by men. Of course, men do not know what it is like to be a woman, so female characters are often boring, dumb, or just plain inaccurate. Take Penny from the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. She is very one note: blonde, ditzy, shopaholic, and boy-crazy. Is any real woman this one dimensional or stereotypical? No, of course not. Unfortunately however, Penny is like most female characters on television. Here we can clearly see the gap between real women and the women of Hollywood. We desperately need more women behind the scenes, writing roles that accurately depict women, and we need more women directing movies that don’t alienate or hyper-sexualize them. 

It’s also important to support movies and shows with great female characters. As Geena Davis, an actress from movies such as BeetlejuiceThelma & Louise, and A League of Their Own, said in the documentary Miss Representation, “All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: That women will watch stories about men, but men won’t watch stories about women. It is a horrible indictment of our society of we assume that one half of our population is just not interested in the other half.” Of course, this is wildly untrue. Think of The Hunger Games or Bridesmaids, both of which featured strong female characters and made astronomical sums at the box office

One great way to determine if a movie represents women well is the Bechdel Test, developed by Alison Bechdel. To pass this test, a movie must have at least two female characters who interact with each other and talk to each other about something other than men and relationships. It’s important to note that just because a movie passes the Bechdel Test does not mean it does not portray a sexist message in some way. However, it is a great start to have multiple women conversing about something that is not male-centric. Normally, movies that pass the test have more well-rounded female characters with above average depth. Sadly, about half of all movies produced and made in Hollywood fail the Bechdel Test. Think about that. That means that about half of all movies either don’t have more than one female character and/or the women don’t talk to each other about anything but men (or talk to each other at all). Some of the most popular movies of all time fail this test, such as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, AvatarThe Social Network, The Original Star Wars Trilogy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part IIThe Shawshank RedemptionInception, and Pulp Fiction. In an astounding amount of hit movies and franchises, there is little to no female presence. 

It’s time for a change in Hollywood. Women are 51% of the population in America but only 16% of protagonists in film. See the problem? There is a huge and unjust misrepresentation of women in the media. To support a change, go out and see films or watch shows in which female characters are realistic and non-stereotypical. If you're a film maker or writer, especially at Emerson, write strong female characters. If you’re a woman, be a director or producer. And regardless of your gender, support women who want to work in Hollywood, because their voices and perspectives are what will change the future of film. 

This article can be originally found at Isis Magazine
Over a week ago, I attended President Pelton’s gun violence panel “Whose Right Is It, Anyway?” at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre. The speakers differed on partisanship and perspective, but one viewpoint that was notably missing from the conversation was a woman’s.

Both the absence of representation among the panelists and the omission of a discussion about how women are affected by gun violence provides a lack of understanding of the issue as a whole. Gun violence does not just exist in the halls of classrooms in middle-class Connecticut. It exists in urban homes where women and children remain vulnerable at the hands of abusers who use these types of weapons to manipulate and to kill.

Despite the presence of WGBH’s Emily Rooney as a moderator for the panel, her voice neglected to bring a female perspective. At no point did she use her unique input influenced by her gender to supplement the conversation or reflect on how gun violence encompasses issues that affect women on a daily basis.

This week, Donna P. Hall, president and CEO of the Women Donors Network, an organization that helps women inject their voices in demands for change, published an editorial in the Huffington Post. The organization recently held an event that brought together more than 100 women leaders to Washington, D.C. to talk about the crucial role women play in changing the social, legal, and political reality of gun violence.

At this convention, they presented the first women-focused poll on gun violence, which shows a clear gender divide on how these leaders view the problem with a 21-point gap proving that women put a lesser importance on gun rights over safety within their communities.

 In the same poll, statistics found that women see the solution to this problem differently than men, showing that they placed a greater emphasis on mental illness treatment and care, anti-bullying campaigns in schools, and counseling for troubled youths.

Although many audience members asked impassioned questions during the panel, I was shocked that among the valid outrage over a lack of a discussion about racial and socio-economic diversity, it went unacknowledged how much gun violence affects women and their differing perspective on this issue. The words “domestic violence” were used only in passing by one panelist, Jack McDevitt, associate dean at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice. This is despite the fact that domestic violence heightens the risk of, and often ends with, homicide in cases where guns are in the home.

On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their significant others in the United States every day, according to a recent commission by the American Bar Association. Access to firearms increases the risk of domestic homicide more than five times compared to instances where there is no access to this type of weapon.

Due to the national prevalence of domestic violence homicide and the impact of greater accessibility to firearms on these statistics, I find it troubling that efforts meant to create awareness around gun violence excludes such a significant demographic like gender.

The presence of guns are so tied to intimate partner homicide, Congress passed the Lautenberg Amendment in 1996, which prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor for domestic violence from shipping, transporting, owning, or using guns or ammunition. This law also prohibits the sale or gift of firearms to the offenders, and does not exempt those who work with firearms like police or military personnel.

Eighteen states have followed suit and created laws that authorize police officers to remove these guns from the home when responding. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow courts to order a removal of firearms from homes where a civil protection order is requested. Eleven states have both these laws, according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in October of 2009.

This study shows that 23 states refuse to put into place the aforementioned practices which help prevent homicides, and even the states with these laws in place have vague and ambiguous language like the police “may” remove guns, rather than “must” or “should,” which make these laws hard to enforce. An inefficiency of the current laws to protect survivors should press the public to understand the prevalence of domestic violence and how political policies play into this issue.

 By including voices and viewpoints representative of this issue on interrelated issues like gun control, we are creating a generation that no longer sees domestic violence as a “woman’s issue,” but rather as a subset of the greater issue of violence that plagues our society. I believe that if Emerson wants to create an open and honest discussion on the issue, more X chromosomes need to be invited to the bargaining table for future panels on this issue.

By Katie Prisco-Buxbaum 

This article can be found at: