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C'mon, I mean, it's like you can't say or do anything anymore

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

With the popularity and prevalence of the #MeToo movement, #TimesUp campaign, and Women’s March, you may be asking yourself “I mean what's even allowed now" or "Can we do or say anything these days?” There is a straightforward answer to that - just ask. Feminism has been around for decades, but it is no debate that recent years have sparked a lot of conversation and action for the movement. Within the United States, a catalytic period for feminism occurred after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, due to his sexist remarks and behavior. Another inciting incident for feminists was the release of several sexual assault allegations against the acclaimed producer, Harvey Weinstein. The common trend amongst the feminist campaigns is the demand for women to be respected and recognized by men and society as a whole. This order is ideally met in the form of securing women equal rights, through things such as fair treatment and obtaining their consent (especially for sexual actions, but really for anything). Both of these requests meet pushback and criticism, although the latter has caused a lot more confusion than outright refusals. Planned Parenthood defines consent as “actively agreeing to be sexual with someone; [it] lets someone know that sex is wanted. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault.” Much of society has collectively drawn the line at rape, that is a big no. There, consent is simple - no means no. Stop means stop. When it comes to other forms of sexual assault or harassment, society can't seem to place consent into the equation. College students around the nation have mobilized to educate their peers on the importance and simplicity of consent. University researchers, Richards and Sheeder, discovered that amongst young adults, females are far more likely to know what consent is and agree that it must be verbally communicated. The problem with consent, society’s issue, is that too many times people don't even think to ask for it. Alarmingly, 52% of males within the study do not rely on verbal cues to communicate consent, and 65% use non-verbal cues to interpret nonconsent. Consent means gaining permission, that's it. However, to obtain permission, you have to ask for it. There are several instances where merely asking for permission can help prevent awful miscommunications and even harassment. Do you want to know if you're even allowed to hug your female co-workers now? Ask her if you can hug her instead of just hugging her. You don't know if it's appropriate to have your female co-worker work alone with you tonight? Ask her if she's uncomfortable instead of assuming she’s okay with it. Do you want to meet in private for a meeting because that's the only place you have access to, but can't tell if that's somehow crossing a line? Ask her if meeting there crosses a line instead of just drawing the lines. So to the men of the study and others who are confused about consent - it’s not that confusing. Feminists aren't trying to take away your freedom or create a society where every sort of personal interaction is banned. We want to have a say in what happens to us and with us. We want a chance to voice our opinion. To say no. To say I'm uncomfortable. To say I don't think that would be appropriate. Consent is respecting and valuing women enough to let us have a say.

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