Why is VOICE at Tech?
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Before coming to work at Tech, I worked in a local middle school doing a variety of things including facilitating support/discussion groups for 8th-grade boys. Toward the end of my time at the middle school, I explained to the boys that I’d be leaving to start a job at Georgia Tech. Most of the boys were excited about the news and several of the boys in one of the groups went on to ask if my girlfriend (they knew I had one) was alright with this decision. I didn’t catch on at first, so I just said, “Of course. Why wouldn’t she be?” As they tried to explain, it became clear that one of their first thoughts about college campuses is that they are places to meet women – available and attractive women. Because they are such places, it seemed logical to them that my girlfriend would not want me to work on one. This association was so strong to these boys that it did not occur to them that: (1) I was in a committed relationship; and (2) I was not going to be a student and relationships with the women they had in mind would be highly unethical.
Those 8th-grade boys were not of course Tech students, but they are the same kind of boys (high-achievers, attending a magnet school) who may decide 3 or 4 years from now to attend Georgia Tech. What this story reflects is that many young men may arrive on campus expecting to date attractive and available women, expecting this as much if not more than they expect to receive an education. Given this expectation, one can see how the small numbers of women and perceived arrogance of those women could quickly become the focus for resentment and even hostility. In my opinion, it is this resentment and hostility which has been elaborated into the “theory” of the Tech Bitch Syndrome.
In this sense, TBS says much more about men on campus and their attitudes about women than it says about women or women’s behavior.
Men who hold or support this perception seem to have an expectation of favorable attention (romantic or otherwise), dates, and perhaps even sex from women. Moreover, TBS conveys a disrespect and hostility toward women who do not conform to these expectations, and perhaps toward all women. Women who say “no” to propositions for dates, who decline to return men’s advances, or simply live lives apart and independent of men are not seen as people expressing decisions about things over which they have the singular right to decide but “bitches.” Finally, the TBS idea conveys that many men are woefully out of touch about the meaning of women’s minority status on campus, seeing it as full of advantages rather than challenges.
The combination of male entitlement, hostility toward women, and lack of empathy represented by the popularity of the TBS concept is what many anthropologists, sociologists, and criminologists have suggested fuels sexually violent behavior.
In other words, the Georgia Tech community may indeed be “rape-prone,” though this awaits confirmation through further study and requires breaking the silence about violence that does occur.
To whatever degree Georgia Tech is rape-prone, it can take steps to become rape-free. This may be a complicated and long process. But it seems largely to consist of honoring and welcoming the contributions of women and challenging the hostility and skewed expectations that many men hold. This work has begun at Tech and must continue. Though such changes may threaten the established order of things, the result will be a campus culture that better and more honestly supports and nurtures everyone.