On any given Friday or Saturday night at around 9 p.m., you will find many girls around campus preparing for battle. They suit up in their favorite cut-off shorts and crop tops, and consult plans and signals for facing a strong opponent that many have lost to before.
They have alliances with females and maybe a few males who have agreed to protect them on the battlegrounds of the dance floor at any frat or house on the row. They are fighting for the rights to their body, and the enemy is strong and protected.
The enemy is male privilege.
Male privilege describes the political, economic and social advantages men are afforded in American society for being men. While male privilege is obviously subject to the intersectionality of race, the privilege that comes with being a cisgendered male and presenting masculine traits is still present irrespective of race — especially on campus in party settings.
As a woman at Stanford who likes to spend her weekends at parties, I am deeply aware of an imminent fear that something bad will happen to me on account of a male, and I do not think I am alone. The conversations in bathrooms and before parties all sound like women are coming up with battle plans to escape or fight a faceless, masculine enemy who may eventually be the cause of sexual assault.
On the battlefield, one might see the thumbs up signal shared among women to let allies know if they are engaging with friend or foe. Many rescue missions are constructed in the event that a woman’s body is under attack. Parties are a war of survival, and many males may have no idea that they are in battle. This is male privilege.
To enjoy a party without the fear that your body may be compromised and someone may blame you for it is a luxury most women do not have. Males, especially Stanford students, need to be aware of their privilege and become allies. I have had experiences at parties with male students on campus that have put me in a position where I felt like I was being challenged for trying to make sure my friends were safe.
I have been called a “cockblocker” for checking up on my friend who had too much to drink and was with a male who was sexually interested in her. I was physically blocked by a male from giving my thumbs up signal and waiting for a response because “I had no right to cockblock [this] boy.”
Rescue plans put in place amongst friends have been trivialized to girls just being jealous of one of their friends getting attention because “the girl’s friends just wished they were just getting attention too.”
And when I was put in a compromising position where I had to debate sexual assault at a party, I tried to explain male privilege to a fellow classmate of mine. I told him one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard about privilege: “Privilege is like being born with big feet. You were born with big feet. You can’t help it. No one hates you for it. But, watch where you step.” The response I got was to the effect of, “well maybe people should watch out for people with big feet.”
Women have these systems in place to look out for each other in a party setting, where the culture is very much male dominated. Frats throw parties; sororities don’t. Women are invited to the homes of these male organizations where the entire party, down to the distribution of beer, is controlled by men. The obvious power dynamics could be the blame of the sense of entitlement men have at these parties. For example, guys don’t always ask girls before they assume the right to become familiar with their female bodies — and don’t realize the crop top and cut off shorts are not an invitation to do so.
The signals and plans are put in place to ensure the safety of women in these male dominated spaces where consent is questioned and male privilege is amplified and unchallenged.
This culture that surrounds the party scene must be questioned and brought to the attention of males around campus. Men must be concerned because everyone deserves the right to feel safe on a campus party during their college years.
The first step to ending this battle is acknowledgement of the power dynamics that are at play in party settings. The second step is for males to be self-aware of the culture they are a part of, and from this heightened sense of awareness, males must make an effort to make their female counterparts feel safe, powerful and in control.
And until that happens, I will most definitely be that annoying “cockerblocker.”