Powering through

Have we learned nothing? Last week a female student at UNC held a news conference to Nancy Oatesclaim that a classmate, a member of the football team, raped her. She was pursuing misdemeanor charges against him because the campus police had refused to file charges, and the district attorney’s office declined as well (though after the news conference, the DA’s office shifted its stance to give itself some wiggle room to reconsider).

According to the accuser, and we have hard only the accuser’s side, it sounds like she got drunk at a party on campus, passed out and was raped while she was incapacitated. She did everything she was supposed to do in the aftermath: She went to the hospital that same night, submitted to a rape kit, reported the alleged assault to campus police while at the hospital, and a couple weeks later notified UNC’s Title IX office.

The inaction by campus police and the DA’s office imply an underlying belief that in male-female interactions, the woman has to be the adult, the responsible one, because boys will be boys. And in this instance, apparently the woman did not meet those behavioral ideals that the (male) police and (male) prosecutors held.

The week before, following a foreign policy debate with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton was criticized for not smiling enough. I didn’t see the debate, but presumably Trump grinned and chortled through the discussion of war and terrorism and the risk of nuclear annihilation, while Clinton treated the issues with the seriousness they deserve. By so doing, she did not live up to the (male) critic’s ideal of how a woman should behave.

The presidential race has brought to the fore a societal bias against women. The rape charge brought it home.

Respect for Clinton rose among women last week when she went to the 9/11 ceremony despite being ill with pneumonia. Many of us identify with her powering through. Every woman I know can recall innumerable instances when she came through for others despite her own health: taking care of sick family members while she herself was ill, arguing cases before a jury while in the throes of morning sickness (which lasts around the clock, I’m here to tell you), cooking dinner for the kids and continuing through their bedtime routine after being sucker-punched by devastating news.

The woman at UNC similarly garnered respect by powering through a news conference, going public with a very personal, private experience, and shining a light on society’s double standard while pointing out the holes in UNC’s safety net so recently put in place.

What have we learned by the examples of the woman at UNC, Clinton and the millions of women around the world who press on through every challenge? The same lesson that UNC administrators are about to learn: Women power through.
— Nancy Oates

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