Sarah Haskins takes on beauty contraptions
Read. Reflect. React.
Threatening to temper the "inspiration and joy" following last weekend's National Equality March in DC, the Anscombe Society scheduled a full week of "diverse and important events" to show Princeton that "yes, indeed, it is time for a University-sponsored Center for Abstinence and Chastity."
In an e-mail sent in response to the petition signers, Tilghman wrote, “The question of whether the University would sponsor the establishment of a ‘Center for Abstinence and Chastity’ was raised with several members of the University administration last year, and each of us provided the same response, which was a firm ‘no.’ ”She acknowledges the difficulties of remaining abstinent but affirms that there is no reason to dedicate a center to this issue:
“I understand that it is sometimes difficult to stand up for what you believe when you are in the minority, but the fact that you are greeted with opposing points of view when you do so is not sufficient grounds for the University to establish a center,” she said.Though Brandon McGinley of Anscombe points to the existence of the Women's Center and the LGBT Center as reasons for the creation of a chastity center, our president rightfully acknowledges that these centers are not just about sex:
Tilghman, however, said this assessment of the University’s already-established centers was incorrect. “There are a number of problems with this argument,” she said in the e-mail. “First it implies that the Women’s and LGBT Centers are there to support a non-chaste or non-abstinent lifestyle, which is not the case, and would be considered offensive by both centers.”It's great to know that President Tilghman is emphatically on our side.
As this last detail implies, and a number of surveys have confirmed, cougars—defined as women in relationships with men who are fifteen or more years younger than they are—are a growing demographic. At least on the surface, this development seems to be cause for more or less unqualified celebration. If women are freeing themselves from the conventions of society dictating that they marry older men with better educations and more money, there doesn't seem to be much for us to be unhappy about.
But, as feminists, we should always find something to be unhappy about, or at least look for something. It's only through that sort of critical obstinacy that we can uncover our culture's hidden sexism, which often shows up in the most outwardly laudable places. In this case, I don't think there's anything particularly disturbing about the relationships themselves. The question, then, is whether the sexualized stereotype of the older woman, especially one propagated in a large part by self-described "cougars," is an empowering move, or whether it is just another case of women being fetishized. I myself am at a loss for how to answer this question, but I'd be interested to here what other people have to say.
"Could 'Cougar' Relationships Be...Good?"
by Brenda Jin
The so-called (and controversially named) “cougar” phenomenon—older women who seek relationships with younger men—has made headlines in the New York Times today. This is probably not a surprise to anyone who has ever seen a copy of “People” or “Cosmo”; popular media have already focused attention on prominent “cougars” such as Demi Moore, Mariah Carey, Eva Longoria Parker, Janet Jackson, Kim Cattrall, and Cameron Diaz.
While I personally am not at a time in my life where men who are five to ten years younger would make compatible (or legal) partners, the idea is not novel to me. Yet I can see how a shift in attitudes would be more striking to the baby boomer generation, on whom the NYTimes article focuses. In previous generations, the conventional heterosexual relationship has often featured a man “two to three years older, of similar background and higher levels of education and income”. I originally thought the fact that our culture firmly fixes beauty in youth would be a contributor to why men would be reluctant to date older women, but it seems that another taboo is at play here, as men report that they were drawn to older women because of physical attraction in the first place (yay!).
Although a number of relationships outside of marriage are unaccounted for in census data, a shift in attitudes from the previous half century can be discerned nonetheless: “…the number of marriages between women who are at least 5 or 10 years older than their spouses is still small, 5.4 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. But both rates doubled between 1960 and 2007”. According to some sociologists, female baby boomers in a so-called “marriage squeeze” are more likely to be open-minded to shifting relationship conventions regarding age, race, religion, and economic status. Since they have delayed marriage, the pool of conventionally accepted male partners has decreased, as male baby boomers have likely stuck with convention and sought younger partners.
The term “cougar” is problematic, because it is loaded with taboo connotations of wildness and conjures images of older women desperate for sexual satisfaction which can only be achieved by virile strapping young men, despite the fact that many of these so-called “cougars” are married. Yet why don’t we apply these attitudes to men who date younger women? Why don’t we view the male counterparts of so-called “cougars” as sex-hungry men who are on the prowl for the fulfillment of their sexual desires through an accompanying obsession with the attractiveness of youth?
The idea of a maternal relationship has been named as another taboo for older women who date younger women. But when a man is older than a woman in a relationship, why is it not seen as patriarchal? It seems to be more acceptable and less taboo to have a man marry a younger woman. I personally would be wary of being in a relationship with a man whose age might be directly related to his economic advantage, higher job status, or any other uneven power relationship. I would be wary that he would be patriarchal or patronizing. I wonder how the other women of my generation feel? I also wonder whether the increased presence of these relationships could reflect the urge to find equality in relationships as more women gain economic independence seek partners not for the sake of child-rearing, stability, or necessity, but out of a desire for equal partnership?
As our friend Emily Rutherford (Princeton '12) posted in Campus Progress yesterday, next year one of our dorms, Spelman Hall, will be gender-neutral. In a letter addressed to the student body, Undergraduate Student Government President Connor Diemand-Yauman confirmed the "pilot program," which will permit "male, female and transgender students to not only be in the same draw group, but live together in GNH suites" with "private sleeping spaces" and sharing a "common living area and bathroom."
by Jillian Hewitt
by Shannon Togawa Mercer
by Molly Borowitz
Actually, it feels a lot like Princeton—a quiet academic backwater, a quirky town built up around a prestigious university, just a short hop from a bustling cultural center. Except—oh wait—I’m a grad student. And I’m in England. And I live in an all-women’s college.
In the 1860s, after more than 650 years of existence, the University of Cambridge finally decided (albeit grudgingly) to admit women into its ranks. Unsurprisingly, progress was slow: the foundations of the first women’s colleges, Girton (1869) and Newnham (my college, 1872), enabled women to attend university lectures—at the lecturer’s discretion, of course—but they weren’t awarded degrees in recognition of their studies until 1947.
Almost all of Cambridge’s colleges went co-ed during the 1970s (although there were a few holdouts—for instance, Peterhouse, which resisted until 1985, and whose male residents processed through the streets dressed in black on the day that women finally entered the college). King’s, Clare, and Churchill were the first to admit women, in 1972. Girton admitted its first male residents in 1977. Oxford, too, surrendered to the tide of mixed education; in 2007, the last of Oxford’s women’s colleges admitted men. But Newnham? Not a chance. As of today, Cambridge is the only university in the United Kingdom with colleges that do not admit men.
Call me a crappy feminist, but I was not thrilled to have been assigned to a women’s college. However, after two weeks here, I am forced to admit that I like it. Newnham is an incredible historical force—alumnae include Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Plath, Emma Thompson, and Germaine Greer—and also a breathtakingly beautiful space. When you gather in the period rooms or stand in the sunken rose garden, you can picture young women in nineteenth-century dress reading diligently from dusty volumes, living quietly in an ivory tower, a little oasis in the midst of the odd fraternal-but-solemn, academic-gown-wearing Cambridge atmosphere. The isolation must have been complete: Newnham boasts one of the most extensive college libraries at the University, mostly because the men’s colleges didn’t want to share their books with the female students.
These days, of course, living here doesn’t preclude you from interacting with men. I see them in all my lectures and seminars, at various social events, and often in my own house (because most of my housemates have boyfriends). There are male friends and visitors all over the place—in the library, on the grounds, in the dining hall—and, as best I can tell, they feel completely comfortable here. The concept of an all-women’s college under the aegis of a mixed university doesn’t seem to strike Cantabrigians as incongruous, nor do they regard it as outdated or somehow inferior.
Of course, there is the occasional sexist joke. Amongst the undergraduates, Newnham is affectionately known as the “Virgin Mega-Store,” and it’s commonly held that during early-morning fire drills there are as many men as women standing outside the dorms, often wrapped in pink dressing-gowns or girls’ overcoats. But on the flipside, women reign supreme here. All the buildings are named after women, the administrative staff is comprised of women, all the resident Tutors and Fellows are women, the Principal and all the College authorities are women, and so forth. (Of course, there are male employees and tutors, but they constitute a very small minority, and women occupy all the highest positions.)
Obviously, as a young feminist, I like to see women empowered. It is objectively cool to live in a place where everyone you are expected to respect, admire, or emulate is a woman. And Newnham is beautiful, warm, and welcoming. I am very happy here. However, I still think Cambridge’s women’s colleges present a problem for women’s equality in the university. As long as there are spaces reserved exclusively for women, it will remain possible for us to be diverted into a separate sphere of success. Or perhaps, to put it another way, the women’s colleges create an alternate stage upon which Cambridge women can be recognized and acclaimed for their successes (e.g., women scholars get buildings named after them at Newnham, New Hall, or Lucy Cavendish, rather than on the University grounds at large). And as long as women’s colleges exist, it will be possible for the strong and brilliant female scholars, teachers, and leaders here to be set up as role models exclusively for Cambridge’s female students, rather than for all Cantabrigians. I don’t think Newnham will be admitting men any time soon, but until that time I wonder whether it will be possible for its residents and alumnae to move beyond the legacy of “Cambridge’s women” in order to contribute to that of Cambridge itself.
by Gracie Remington
This proposed amendment reads: “The words ‘person’ and ‘natural person’ apply to all human beings, irrespective of age,…from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”
Under this amendment, Florida could make no legal distinction between a one-celled zygote and anyone else. (Some of our more science-minded readers might point out that “the beginning of biological development” of any human being occurred with the rise of the first cell, between 3 and 3.3 billion years ago. This is correct; however for now I will accept fertilization as the legal definition.)
Redefining legal personhood to include the unborn is a radical change in policy that goes beyond the mere prohibition of abortion: as Justice Blackmun observed in Roe v. Wade (see §IX, A), never in the United States has “person” been defined to mean anything other than a born human—even when abortion was criminalized generally. This redefinition (if it is taken seriously as public policy) will inevitably lead to some sticky—and unintended—legal consequences.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution states that “No State shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Fourteenth Amendment means that the state may not treat Person A differently from Person B, and guarantees all persons the rights and protections that are necessary to a concept of “ordered liberty.” If a fetus or embryo is a person, then it must also be guaranteed equal protection of the laws and all the same rights and protections.
The US Constitution also mandates a decennial census for the purposes of apportioning Representatives, to be based on “the whole number of persons in each state...” This “whole number of persons” must also include the unborn, which leads to a major logistical problem. Pregnancy does not begin until a blastocyst implants in the uterine wall—about seven days after fertilization. Between 40 and 80% of blastocysts never implant, never result in a pregnancy, and are secreted. There is no way of knowing (apart from installing microscopic cameras in every woman’s uterus) whether an egg has been fertilized until after implantation has occurred, and the hormonal signs of pregnancy can be detected. Under the Personhood Amendments, there are now thousands (millions? tens of millions?) of legal persons out there who may or may not exist. This will make life very difficult for Census takers, who will now have to count Schrödinger’s persons, in addition to the whole number of born persons.
And it will make life more difficult still for women. Florida’s penal code (§782.07 (3)) states that: “A person who causes the death of any person under the age of 18 by culpable negligence…commits aggravated manslaughter of a child, a felony of the first degree…” This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison (§775.082 (b)).
“Neglect of a child” is defined as: “ A caregiver's failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child's physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child.” (§827.03 (3)(a)(1)).
Therefore, any woman who may be carrying a fertilized egg (which is to say, any ovulating, sexually active woman) must do everything that “a prudent person would consider essential” to maintain that person’s health. Hormonal contraceptives, needless to say, are prima facie evidence of criminal intent. If her lack of care results in the death of the child, she faces up to 30 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter.
Gathering evidence of this manslaughter will be difficult, as no one can be quite sure when these persons exist. The state could subpoena women’s menstrual blood, inspect the endometria for evidence of an ovum, and verify that it was fertilized. An expensive and cumbersome process to be sure, but state officials would have to do it: if they didn’t, they would risk being sued for failure to enforce equal protection of Florida’s laws.
By granting the embryo equal protection of the laws, the state would be forced to deny the same to the woman—who is, after all, also a person under the Constitution. A man’s body would not be subject to the same scrutiny, nor would the body of a pre-pubescent girl or post-menopausal woman. By creating a new class of legal persons (embryos and fetuses), an existing class of persons (fertile women) would invariably be singled out for unequal treatment by the law. An unborn organism’s survival depends entirely and uniquely upon the sustained metabolic processes of another—a symbiotic relationship that can never be an equal one. Making the unborn a legal person sets the Equal Protection Clause on a collision course with itself: it forces the Constitution to balance two incompatible goods, until—like Isaac Asimov’s robots—it shuts itself down completely.
If the legal consequences of these Personhood Amendments seem absurd or grotesque, it is because nobody intends that they be interpreted to mean what they say. PersonhoodUSA has no desire to subpoena women’s menstrual blood or count embryos in the Census—only to wear away at women’s reproductive rights by forcing endless litigation. But it is what the amendments mean. Next November, Florida voters will have a choice: either a fetus/embryo has all the protections and guarantees of legal personhood, or a woman does. It is not possible to have both.
by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
by Jordan Kisner