This fall, Douglass Residential College–an all-woman component of Rutgers University in New Jersey–held an essay contest on the topic “Who Needs Feminist Media Today?” The prize included publication on the Ms. Blog, so here are your three winners and their thoughtful short pieces.
First Place: Mariel Quintana
Being alone (and sober) on a Friday night, I expected to run into the usual amount of college debauchery. You know, obnoxious laughs, stumbling girls in their dangerously high heels and hoards of thirsty students loitering around house entrances. Although I will never learn to tolerate it, I consider myself to be fairly impervious to the usual sexist names directed towards women on the street, myself included . But on this hopping Friday night, I was dumbfounded when a particularly uninformed partygoer tapped my shoulder to ask:
Hey Vagina, how’s it goin’?
“Sexy” I would expect. Even “hottie” or “babe.” But the fact that this dude referred to me as a female body part literally stopped me in my tracks. My mouth gaped open and I wasn’t sure if I should laugh at the ridiculous, hard-to-believe sexist comment or scold him for being completely imbecilic. In the 20 seconds it took me to collect my thoughts, the partygoer’s short attention span led him off into the city nightlife without allowing me to respond.
So who needs feminist media? The man who can’t tell the difference between a vagina and a human being. It’s a sad reality that the college party scene represents a percentage of individuals in my generation who lack all knowledge about gendered issues, values and ethical behavior. Providing feminist media to them is a way to better educate those who lack these important characteristics. It may even give them a much needed lesson in anatomy.
Mariel Quintana is a rising senior at Rutgers University double majoring in planning & public policy as well as women’s & gender studies. Born and raised in central New Jersey, she attributes her feminist qualities to the diverse environment that her home state and loving family has provided her. In the future, Mariel envisions herself working for a nonprofit organization that addresses issues pertaining to poverty, sustainability and female empowerment.
The media creates a false impression of what it means to be a woman by constantly broadcasting and popularizing images that allows the disillusionment to continue to be mainstream thought. Feminist media is the spread of an ideology that there are necessary changes to be made for women, both domestically and globally, to allow our voices to be equally heard. Documentaries like “Miss Representation” and “Watch the Sky”; publications like Ms., Bust, and Bitch as well as family taught morals are the main reasons that I am aware of my own oppression. But life experience is what made me so angry and persistent in changing the condition.
I submitted a piece to the online magazine Rookie, whose audience is, presumably, socially aware young women. The essay focused on Gloria Steinem, her influence on my childhood and the need for feminist media to influence young women. I received an email back saying that, although it was well written, the magazine refused to publish anything too overtly “feminist” because it would gain a certain reputation they were not welcome with. But, please, try again!
There is complacency among the young women of my generation. We are settling for a postfeminist society, for inequality and for issues affecting our bodies to be debated in public forums, as if we have absolutely no control. We continue to the tie the ribbon of male oppression over our eyes, ears, and neck: we are blinding ourselves, covering our ears to the harsh realties and choking our ability to succeed by claiming that there is not an issue. As a generation, we will continue to drown if we continue this negative connotation of feminist media. I need feminist media to continue to speak out and say: We’ve come a long way, but we have miles more to go.
Abigail Nutter is a junior at Rutgers University, double majoring in women’s & gender studies and journalism & media studies, minoring in history. In the future, she would like to work within the field of feminist media, writing for a publication like Ms. and continuing her love for blogging and social media. In her spare time, Abigail is involved as a social media intern at Douglass Residential College as well as working with the on-campus Cabaret Theatre.
As I write this I have just sent an email to the editor-in-chief of The Medium, the infamous entertainment weekly at Rutgers. I emailed her pleading for a response and some form of action in regard to a complaint about one of their personal ads that had been published–an ad which described an act of sexual assault and, if untrue, only encouraged rape culture by initiating humor about such a situation. Many people had read this ad and accepted it as part of the “satirical” newspaper. I could not move on; I’ve been writing to The Medium for a week now.
Allowing such a powerful media source reach so many people while carrying such a detrimental message seemed unacceptable to me. It is the media, this power they hold, that we need to conquer with feminism. Do I believe it is always women who need to be present in the utopia of a feminist media? No. I have been privileged to find role models who define feminism as equality for all, an all-encompassing notion of human rights. So I do not necessarily ask for a woman-only-run media but one that cherishes feminism and equality. One that uses its powerful influence to convey ideologies that will lead us and will continue to guide us into progress and justice.
Benny Del Castillo is a senior at Rutgers University studying women’s and gender studies and psychology. She wishes to pursue a masters in social work to help her achieve her dream career in the movement to end violence against women. She is currently an intern at The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, working on The Vagina Monologues and One Billion Rising. She is a blogger, a feminist and a cat lover.
Photos of Mariel Quintana (top) and Abigail Nutter and Benny Del Castillo courtesy of Karen Alexander, dean of junior and senior year programs at Douglass Residential College