As my senior year comes to a close, I am almost forced to reflect on my college experience. I have grown tremendously in four years, and because this is my last blog post, I wanted to write a letter to myself as a young college freshman. Maybe this will be relatable. Maybe you will gain insights. Maybe this letter will spark similar memories. Perhaps, you will hate it. (I hope not) Whatever you take away from this post, I am going to write it anyway.
Dear freshman Makayla,
Your high school boyfriend is going to dump you.
Goodness, had we known that we could have saved ourselves some serious heartache. It is going to tear your heart out, and destroy your self-esteem. Here is my advice…please do not go looking for attention from other men. I know it’s hard. I know you just want to feel appreciated and validated. However, they cannot give you what you need. Girl, you need to build yourself up. Focus on you. Go to coffee with your friends. Go on walks. Cherish your alone time. Getting too drunk and hanging on boys at parties is not going to fix the hole he left. Love yourself first. Self-esteem was always a hard thing for us, but as a new independent adult, that is something we have to work on. You’re really awesome, and I promise you will figure it out eventually.
Stop selling yourself short.
(Senior Makayla is still working on this, so nobody is perfect.) You are talented and athletic. You are kind and you are smart. You are creative and you are friendly. These are important qualities, so focus on them. You have a great smile. Smile more often. Negative self-talk will get us nowhere.
It is senior week at Theta (my sorority, well actually, my women’s fraternity) and I am a whirlwind of emotions. I am excited to graduate and continue with life. However, I am also very sad to leave my friends and my Greek family. As I look back on my time in Theta, I realize how differently I thought about Greek life during high school and my first years in college…
I hated it.
No way. Not for me. I thought Greek life was how the movies portrayed it. Women judging potential recruits based on looks, partying all the time, and spending far too much money to make friends. I didn’t want to be part of an organization that crushed individuality and intelligence. I didn’t need that.
Recently, I stumbled upon this image that one of my Facebook friends had shared. The second I saw it, my blood started to boil.
I have always had an issue with organized religion because women are put second, seen as inferior, and subjected to traditional gender roles. Growing up, my family always went to church and I was a believer. Now, I am not so sure. I definitely believe in a higher power, but that might be one God. Or, a hundred Gods. I really don’t know. However, I know that I am not a fan of traditional religion and the way women are treated.
*Please note that in this blog post I will only be discussing Christianity because that is the religion I grew up with and am comfortable analyzing.
Trigger warning: This article discussing rape culture and violent acts, it may be troubling for survivors.
“A rapist is always at fault.”
“When someone is raped, it is the fault of the rapist.”
Yet, American society tends to belittle the victim with accusatory remarks, placing the blame onto the victim. This societal blame is fueled by “Rape Culture,” a term coined in the 1970’s to describe the normalization of sexualized violence in everyday life. “Rape Culture” is the belief that sexual violence is a way of life. You don’t believe me? You say, “I think that rape is bad, so I don’t fuel rape culture…”
This is probably going to offend you. But that’s ok. I think it is a conversation that you need to hear.
Sexual assault is not new. People have been groped and touched without their consent for years. I am not a historian, but I’m sure cave people had to overcome some handsy fellow cave people.
We hear the victim blaming trope all the time: “What was she wearing?” “Were you drinking?” “Maybe you said yes, but don’t remember.” Yet, the assaulter does not receive the same reprimands. It is as if they are innocent of the actions they committed.
Trigger Warning: This post discusses multiple survivors’ sexual assault experiences and may be triggering for others who have also experienced sexual assault.
If you have been keeping up with the University of Idaho news lately, you will notice the attention a 2013 sexual assault case is getting. The Idaho Statesman recently discovered a survivor’s testimony on a blog site, and ran a story that covered the investigation. (Read here). Long story short, the survivors did not receive the help from the athletic department they needed. Both people involved were athletes at UI, but the athletic department only protected the assaulter. The survivors then went to the Women’s Center, and the staff there took the case to the Dean of Students for an investigation. The assaulter was no longer allowed to play football at UI. However, he is now playing for a team in New York (which I do not agree with, but that is a conversation for another day).
Throughout all of this buzz, I have heard some comments questioning why the survivor did not go directly to the Dean of Students. Some of these comments were in poor taste. Others were genuinely curious. Even though the two women who were sexually assaulted at UI chose to report their assault to the police and the athletic department, it is common for survivors to never report. But why?
A time spent traveling to far off locations, working at home, or binge-watching Netflix and eating ice cream all day. I never used to be anxious about spring break, because I always spent it skiing in Sandpoint. The bulky winter clothes were perfectly acceptable. No one could see my face because of my ski googles, so makeup was out of the question. Spring break was the perfect week. I did not have to worry about my appearance.
Well, that is certainly changing this year. This year, I am planning a trip to Honolulu, and I am very excited. However, as soon as I bought my plane ticket, the pressure was on. I need to be “spring break ready.” I was going to have to wear a bikini! What if people saw my stretch marks, or cellulite? What if my tummy was too chubby? My legs were too big? Instantly, all of these thoughts crashed into my mind.
That’s it, I told myself. Eat really healthy and exercise every day. I wanted to look AMAZING on the beach.