March 15 – Just slightly more than 100 years ago, women in Britain could not vote.
In the decades before the United Kingdom’s Representation of the People Act 1918 gave certain women over 30 the right to vote, women had to fight internal examinations ordered by the government to check for venereal disease using a speculum.
Women had to fight for the right to education, property, birth control, jobs, equal wages, divorce, and guardianship of children. The British suffragettes endured police brutality, jail, and force feeding.
“One wonders what the suffragettes would have made of today’s women,” Melanie Phillips asks in her eye-opening book “The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement and The Ideas Behind It.”
It appears that in 2019, our bar for outrage has been set pathetically low.
We get so upset about a university student – who makes sexist remarks online about how women owe men sex for getting a ride home – to the point that 50,000 people want him expelled. A politician even lodged a police report against him!
This young man called Kiren Raj says, in broken English, “Man and woman work together... We offer you a safe drive home and you give us makeout or sex.. I mean girls like sex too right...” Of course he has to say this in relation to a Facebook post about an actress who died in a car crash. Not very bright, this man.
Another grammatical gem – “Every woman need men.”
When faced with attacks on Facebook, he goes on to boast about his so-called sexual conquests with Chinese women and denigrates Chinese men’s penises. Then he says something weird about pushing the Chinese out of the country and keeping prostitutes here, whatever that means.
Kiren is probably a virgin.
As a result of the online outrage, the International Medical University (IMU) has placed him on home leave pending an investigation. This medical student may not end up graduating because of some dumb Facebook posts.
Women did not get this far only to be offended by meaningless Facebook comments. We are much stronger than that.
If a man were to demand sex from me just because he drove me home after a date, I would just tell him to fuck off. I might complain about him on social media (anonymously, probably, maybe). But I wouldn’t call up his university (or employer) and ask them to expel or sack him.
How is asking for sex in exchange for a favour a disciplinary or even criminal offence? If a woman doesn’t want to have sex, then she can just say no. It only becomes an offence if he physically assaults or rapes her.
Men are allowed to ask women for sex. Women aren’t such precious daisies that we faint at a man’s request for us to spread our legs.
Feminism is not about stopping men from asking women for sex; it’s about stopping them from forcing us to have sex against our will.
Transactional sex is common. A man takes a woman out for dinner several times in the hopes of getting laid. Or maybe even just one drink would do since there’s Tinder now that makes sexual affairs cheap (or more equal between the genders).
Sometimes he gets lucky; sometimes he doesn’t. It is only this weird student who thinks he can get it on after a single car ride (which again reinforces my belief that he is a virgin).
Women in the meantime have the arduous task of deciding which normal-looking (not weird) man she can go home with, who will hopefully not end up a disappointing sexual experience. (It usually does).
If we cannot fathom demanding punishment from a man’s university or workplace over an actual request for transactional sex, then why do we do this for mere words about the act? The student wasn’t even describing a particular instance in the past; he was just making a general remark.
This youth is a nobody. He wields little to no influence.
This incident is not the same as powerful men who fell from grace over sexual misconduct allegations like Harvey Weinstein or the recent case of Ted Baker chief executive Ray Kelvin, who quit after he was accused of imposing a culture of “forced hugs” at the fashion retailer’s head office.
The battle against sexism and misogyny is not against nameless individuals on Facebook. It is against people of power and broken institutions.
Shaming and destroying someone’s livelihood just for making sexist comments online is the opposite of social justice. It only gives people a false sense of “changing the world”, one mean tweet at a time, as they trash talk among their buddies the women they sleep with.
Some say that the medical student must be called out to prevent misogyny from further infecting future doctors. The medical profession is already filled with sexism, as doctors dismiss and misdiagnose sick women amid scant research on female bodies.
But this view is problematic because it assumes that doctors are nobler than other types of workers and hence, must be free of sexism. They’re not. Doctors are some of the meanest professionals I know.
Misogyny is also rampant pretty much everywhere, not just in medicine.
If Kiren were studying journalism, law, or even political science, would there be less urgency to demand his expulsion from university? But the media is the Fourth Estate, lawyers serve justice, and politicians enact laws.
So, this medical student’s course is irrelevant in the debate on his Facebook comments.
I would like to believe that, just like the suffragettes of the past, today’s women are strong.
We are not snowflakes or social justice warriors.
We are real warriors who fight the powers-that-be to dismantle the patriarchy.
And we can handle sexual propositions from silly men who have the absurd idea that we need them.