Equitable Freedom and Dancing Shoes

AuthorColleen Sheppard
Euitable Freedom and
Dancing Shoes
I love getting all dressed up. I do. I love my pretty dresses. I love the way my
heels sound as I walk (or rut) around my apartment. I love the Beyoncé
pump-up music my friends and I lien to as we get ready to head out. I
feel carefree and unburdened by my thoughts and worries. I don’t see
anything wrong with me sincerely enjoying these simple, gendered clichés
of womanhood, as long as they don’t limit my self-expression. I underand
where these norms originate.
Every so often, when I’ve decided to put on one of my sexy dresses and
go out on the town, my critical femini perspeive slithers in unannounced
and bites the head of‌f my “carefree” night.
ayLa Lefkowitz, “Dresses, Drinks anD misogyny:
a night at the annuaL rugBy Banquet,” 20121
Yeohee Im was 23 when she left her hometown of Busan, South Korea, to
travel halfway across the world to work with Verdu, a renowned elerical
engineering professor.
. . .
When they arrived at Verdu’s home, Im says they poured some drinks
and turned on the movie. Im says she sat at the edge of one of the two
couches in Verdu’s living room. Verdu chose to sit on the same couch and
sat “right next to [her]” with their “arms touching at lea some of the time,
according to Im.
While the movie was playing, Im says Verdu asked if she had a boyfriend
and put his arm around her shoulder for “a short time.” Im says she was very
confused and arted to panic.
Discrimination stories
“It was happening in his home,” she said. “And right in front of me there
was a photo of him and his daughter. I was panicking, can this be sexual
harassment? I know that his daughter is a similar age to me. I was wondering,
is he doing this because I am a similar age to his daughter? In that moment,
I was ju panicking.”
aLanna vagianos, “graD stuDent says princeton prof who sexuaLLy
harasseD her was given sLap on the wrist,” 20172
“Going into it, I felt like I trued the police,” says Ava . . . “I had no reason not
to tru the process.”
Looking back, she describes an abrupt loss of faith.
“I arted to put it together that I wasn’t necessarily being believed,” she
says. “It was like the f‌loor opened up underneath me. I felt like I was sinking.
ava wiLLiams, university of western ontario stuDent whose sexuaL
assauLt fiLe was cLoseD anD LaBeLLeD “unfounDeD,” 20173
The capacity to think independently, to take risks, to assert ourselves
mentally is inseparable from our physical way of being in the world, our
feelings of personal integrity. If it is dangerous for me to walk home late of
an evening from the library, because I am a woman and can be raped, how
self- possessed, how exuberant can I feel as I sit working in that library?
aDrienne rich, “taking women stuDents seriousLy,” 19794
   selective quotes (there are thousands of others)
raise concerns about sexual assault and harassment in the post-
secondary educational context. In the f‌irst quote, Ayla Leowitz speaks
out about her experience of sexual harassment during a university
sports banquet to which she had worn high-heeled shoes and a “sexy”
dress. Her words remind us of how women may blame themselves or
be treated as partly responsible for sexual harassment or abuse. The
second quote raises the troubling question of why a brilliant young
graduate student like Yeohee Im, studying far away from her home
country, has to worry about sexual advances from her professor. In

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