Two weeks ago, a leaked tape released audio of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, turning away a substantial amount of his voters and government supporters. The next week, I was with a friend and looked over his shoulder to see messages from his fraternity’s group chat referring to women with the sentiment: “if you’re not going to fuck them, what’s the point?” When I expressed my concern, someone else replied, “I didn’t say you should look.” My friend looked away and smiled awkwardly, uncomfortable enough for me to assume he knew something was wrong, but not uncomfortable enough to do anything about it. “Just locker room talk, right?” I wanted to ask sarcastically, but I held my tongue. What I saw was just a small incident, though one of many; but this article isn’t about frats. We all know the statistics, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college.
Scrolling through my various social media accounts, I see countless posts illuminating and celebrating the work of successful Arab women. These women are praised not only for achieving success, but also for refuting lazy stereotypes that paint Arab women as helpless and oppressed. Breaking through institutional barriers that women around the world face is certainly something to admire and aspire to. However, the few women whose stories are shared do not represent the majority of Arab women, and it’s important to think about why certain women are highlighted while others are not. “Success” for Arab women seems increasingly to be defined as gaining status as a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, occasionally a designer.
A few weeks ago, a friend and I were approached on a street in D.C. by a young man whose opening line was “Excuse me, did you know that women are forced to have sex for water?”
I presume he got what he was looking for because I stopped, shocked. “What?” I asked, not sure I had heard correctly. He started to talk to me about exploited women in camps somewhere who were starved and abused, until he finally made it clear that he was discussing the Syrian refugee crisis and was about to ask me for money. He was from an organization that “did work on the ground in Syria,” although the type of work and its effectiveness were both unclear. He told us more tragic tales of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and dying as they tried to escape war.
As the semester nears its end, the inevitable question begins to echo (as if it hasn’t been repeated starting the middle of last semester). “What are you doing this summer?” is more of an evaluation than a question; there’s only really very few right answers. A source of stress for many, summer internships have become so normalized that they are seen as almost required. Cornell’s competitive environment makes students feel like they need to be interning with a Fortune 500 company in the summer if they hope to amount to anything in life. For international students, the stress is even worse.
Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) rise from relatively unknown senator to viable presidential candidate could not have been possible without the help of his loyal supporters. These supporters, mostly younger, including many students, women and minorities, are attracted by his relatively progressive politics and promise of change. However, while many of Sanders’ backers pride themselves on being progressive, their actions in promoting his campaign often suggest otherwise. The term “Bernie bro” describes supporters of Sanders that are primarily young, white and male. These men have a reputation for being obnoxious and overzealous, and often misogynistic.
Many organizations promote Birthright, a free 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish young adults, with the mission of “build[ing] a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel.” These trips are offered in many themes, ranging from hiking trips and art trips to LGBTQ trips. They offer tours of Israel, allowing participants to explore the country, meet Israeli Defense Force soldiers and visit the rapidly expanding settlements. Birthright trips have become extremely popular, attracting more than 400,000 participants since the program’s creation in 1999. Birthright has inspired many similar trips, some of which also focus on creating solidarity between historically oppressed people such as Armenian and Irish communities, and others that focus on bringing certain groups together to their homelands, such as Greek, Hungarian and Icelandic birthright trips. It is a noble and important idea to unite and foster connections between groups that share a certain identity, especially ones that have been historically oppressed, but it is important to consider the implications of such trips and the people they affect.