I have been guilted, shamed and accused for my clothes, my behavior and my attitude. I have been told my shorts are too short, that I act too flirty and even that I “look like (I’m) asking for it.” But here’s the thing: I’m allowed to do whatever I want with my body, and that in no way grants anyone else permission to pass judgment or make assumptions about who I am or what I want.
Redefine Mine was a rally and march to redefine the rape culture on our campus and elsewhere and to redefine the judgments surrounding sexism, slut-shaming, misogyny and victim-blaming. I came up with the idea for the walk in high school after participating in a similar event called SlutWalk in Los Angeles that has since gone transnational.
Through Redefine Mine, Holly, Thanh and I have aimed to empower individuals by helping them realize and reclaim their own strength and human right to their own bodies. We used a photo campaign in which participants held signs with empowering messages as a means of advertising the event and the relevance of the surrounding issues. Seeing everyone’s different messages and quotes made me realize how many aspects there are to the greater goal of empowerment. There were quotes about body image, street harassment, gender inequality, the stigma of feminism, slut-shaming and sexual assault.
In light of recent events on our campus, it is crucial that we take a step back and question the consent culture on our campus. Growing up as a girl, I was told many things: Never put your drink down, if you get lost and need directions ask a woman, don’t walk alone at night, don’t show too much skin. Often when girls go to a party, they are told to dress a certain way in order to avoid sexual harassment or assault. Yet when I walk down the street in jeans and a T-shirt I still get cat-called — it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. And it shouldn’t. Women and men alike deserve to not only feel safe but respected on and off the UC Berkeley campus. This begins with being educated about issues such as true consent and an understanding of the long-term goals of feminism.
After seeing a photo I posted as part of the campaign, a male I went to high school with texted me: “Really admire your activism.” I got excited. Wow, I thought, word has spread to other campuses, and this guy has even taken the time to understand and value my work here! “You have an amazing body too tho lol,” he added. There we go. There’s the classic societal misogyny we were missing. If a male leads a campaign, he is judged based on his knowledge, his opinion and his work. As a woman, the only compliment I received from this man was that I have an “amazing body.” Point missed. Completely.
So, clearly, we have a lot of work to do. But we have come a long way. Many co-ops now give consent talks to each person before permitting entry into their parties. We have many feminist organizations on campus, and thankfully, many of my friends know the true meaning of feminism. We have EmpowerU, a mandatory consent education for all freshman, and most of all, we have awareness. And from that awareness I am hoping that through this year’s rally and in Redefine Mine events in the years to come, we can create a community where there is no “walk of shame,” or where girls are not let into a party based on how “hot” they look, or where I can walk home at night without being harassed multiple times within the span of a single block, or where I am not put down or shamed for being a feminist. It can be hard to disregard the superficial judgments of others in a world centered on sex appeal and power struggles, but it is crucial that the only person you allow the power to tell you who you should be or what you want is you.
Yesterday, I carried a sign during the march. Written on it was a Lily Tomlin quote that says, “I said ‘Somebody should do something about that.’ Then I realized I am somebody.” That is why I choose to Redefine Mine.