BY OLIVIA MARBLE ’21
As a bisexual woman, I often feel very torn about the negative perception of cis men on campus. On one hand, I feel very connected to the queer community and I empathize with the general feeling of wariness towards cis men. But on the other hand, I am in love with a cis man, and the fact that people on this campus judge him solely because of his gender identity feels wrong to me.
Admittedly, one of the primary reasons I chose Mount Holyoke was the lack of cis men. The crime rate at this school is low, and there is a general feeling of security, possibly due to this very circumstance. I myself have had a number of bad experiences with cis men, and I found myself being especially aware of these experiences after I committed to attending Mount Holyoke. From that point on, every time the guys at my high school would push me in the hallways or interrupt me while I was speaking, I would think “if I were at Mount Holyoke right now, this wouldn’t be happening.”
In general, I am more wary around men because of these experiences, and I think a lot of students on this campus have a similar mindset. Yes, my negative feelings are based on generalizations, but this is not necessarily bad. It is a fact that different genders are raised differently, and I think it is better to be aware of how these differences can negatively affect interactions rather than pretend they do not exist.
That being said, there is a difference between having general negative feelings towards cis men and being hostile towards people just because of their appearance.
Because he is a visibly cis man, a lot of people glare at my boyfriend whenever he visits. When he is walking through SuperBlanch with me, people look at him as though he did something wrong just for being there. I cannot say exactly what they are thinking when they glare at him, but I can guess from how people talk about cis men here, how they complain when there are cis men around or scoff at heterosexual couples. He is understanding about it, but it still hurts me to know that my peers automatically see him in a negative light when in reality, he is one of the best people I know. And more broadly, it bothers me that people would make assumptions based on how someone looks rather than how they act in any case, regardless of whether or not he’s my partner.
As a school with a strong feminist student body, we should not default to hating men. Attending a historically women’s college means that there is an implicit feminist perspective on everything. This perspective is refreshing and affirming as someone who identifies as a woman because we do live in a patriarchal society. Feminism is not about hating men, uplifting women and non-men, but the negative consequences of this attitude go beyond just glaring at cis men when they visit campus. I would encourage all Mount Holyoke students to think about that when they glare at cis men for simply existing on campus. As a college, we can stride to have feminist views without hostility towards our visitors.
These glares can also be a problem for masculine presenting students. Associating a certain look, in this case a more masculine presentation, with not belonging on campus can deter people from presenting the way they want to or even exploring their gender at all. When people glare at masculine-presenting students who appear to be cis men, we alienate an important part of our student body.
I think we, as a community, need to learn to be more critical of the negative results of the feminist perspective we are all expected to adopt at this historically women’s college.