According to a memo written by an incensed female law student, women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians are oppressed and paying for law school not only with money, but with "dignity" as well. Wow. Here I thought my VISA covered my tuition. The memo further stated that the writer felt maligned after a male student "flipped her off" in class. She implied that his action was an overt indication of the oppression felt by all of those at the law school who are not WASPy, heterosexual men. What she failed to mention was that she had made an arguably rude comment denigrating the male student's chosen speciality prior to his use of the universal bird. Yet, the female student still called for an all-out protest, a silent candlelight vigil, an outcry against oppression. To all this, I have three responses: get over it, grow up and choose your battles wisely or we will all suffer.
I am not condoning rude gestures toward others during class or outside the class for that matter, but neither can I condone personal verbal attacks. The female student mistakes an inappropriate action as an oppressive gesture toward all women, minorities, gays and lesbians in the law school. The gesture was not specifically aimed at her because she fits into one or more of the above categories. It was a reaction to the comment she made first about the male student. Had a male student made the same remark, he probably would have received the bird in response as well.
Battles against oppression and for equality should be chosen wisely. This was not a wise choice. A purely personal confrontation should not have been a springboard for a protest against oppression because the only oppression here lies within the female student's mind. Every inappropriate comment or action made to me is not made because I am a woman. If I believed that, I would have a very huge chip on my shoulder and would lead a very unhappy life. If the male student had made a comment to the effect that the female student didn't know anything because she was a "dumb girl," then we might have some oppression or we might have a chauvinist, but we would not have proof of an overriding belief held by all men. Imposing a blanket stereotype like that only breeds resentment and backlash.
By choosing to make an issue of this confrontation, the female student has weakened the stance of those fighting against true oppression. To gain ground, those seeking equality for their respective groups must at all times remain rational and logical. Otherwise, those opposing them can easily dismiss their cause because they are hysterical, and what reasonable person would choose to align themselves with a group that yells first and asks questions later.
We are all attending an university which would indicate that we are adults or at least should behave as though we are. The free exchange of ideas should be and, generally, is encouraged. Not surprisingly, everyone is not going to agree about individual issues. However, we must Ä as adults Ä agree to disagree. Personal attacks are not appropriate, even though we all make them. We don't all want to buy the world a Coke on every given day, but we should not sling mud in class. When a student is expressing an opinion, it should be respected and those with opposing views should be given equal time and the same respect. A different opinion does not make a person evil, just different.
What many activists fighting for equality forget, is that those that disagree with them just have a different view. Those who are not feminists deserve equality just as much as feminists do. Advocating the subjugation of any group because of what they believe or who they are does not promote equality. If activists advocate equality, yet impugn a group because they disagree, then the activists are no more than hypocrites.
Unfortunately, oppression and discrimination exist. However, I do strongly believe that we will make great strides toward equality if we learn to respect one another as individuals Ä which requires us to agree to disagree, choose our battles over indignities wisely, and refrain from flipping the bird.
Lisa Thompson is a third-year law student.
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