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Women at USC: Things to Know

August 27, 2011

The frat email fiasco

Last spring, a nearly 2000-word email (1) that was circulated among members of USC’s Kappa Sigma fraternity was leaked to the feminist blog The email included the following statements:

I will refer to females as “targets”. They aren’t actual people like us men. Consequently, giving them a certain name or distinction is pointless.”

Non-consent and rape are two different things. There is a fine line, so make sure not to cross it.”

Don’t fuck middle-eastern targets. Exhibit some patriotism and have some pride.”

In the days following the initial leak, competing claims contested the email’s origins. An internal investigation by Kappa Sigma concluded that they could not find who the author of the email was (2). USC’s response was seen by many as inadequate (3)(4) and the resulting nontransparent and delayed USC investigation claimed that the email’s author was not a USC student (2). A woman, who claimed to know the author and that he was a Kappa Sigma member and USC student, contacted with a detailed account of how the email came about (5). Given the extreme lack of details on the part of USC’s and Kappa Sigma’s investigations and the woman’s extensive documenting of the events, many concerned students (including the authors of this guide) were much more inclined to believe the latter, especially amid rumors that many other people knew the author of the email and confirmed the woman’s story.

The email led activists to plan the “USC Walkout for a Safer Campus” in front of Bovard demanding that USC take appropriate action to keep students safe from sexual violence which attracted roughly 200 people and was the largest USC student demonstration in years. While certainly all members of fraternities don’t hold the views expounded in the email, it’s worth noting how extreme forms of misogyny permeate certain sectors of college culture and questioning these attitudes wherever they may be found.


The Row

Excerpts from a previous article in this publication written by “Thumper” regarding the row (6):

Bring friends you know you can trust and designate someone to be a sober person that can watch you. Have someone available on campus that you can call to pick you up …. Go to the row. Get your free buzz. But be smart.

An anonymous alumni recounts that she woke up in a frat house, not remembering anything from the night before, and having signs of being violated. Her sorority house has a policy of not informing the police about such matters, and they brought her home, rather than the hospital, where she probably should have gone. Sadly, such stories are common, and incidents are vastly underreported.”

One of our writers recounted how a friend had been at a fraternity party and had declined to have sex with a guy, who then replied, “You have to learn to submit. Welcome to USC.”


Sexual assault in college

A 2000 research report conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice under the US Department of Justice found “that the women at a college that has 10,000 female students [USC has more than 18,000] could experience more than 350 rapes a year” (7). The report then states that “many women do not characterize their sexual victimizations as a crime for a number of reasons (such as embarrassment, not clearly understanding the legal definition of rape, or not wanting to define someone they know who victimized them as a rapist) or because they blame themselves for their sexual assault. The study reinforces the importance of many organizations’ efforts to improve education and knowledge about sexual assault.”

Furthermore, it is important to note that sexual assaults don’t only happen at any single space either. The row is not the only place where these incidents take place. Being alert and aware at all events and parties is necessary, regardless of the venue.


The Center for Women and Men

The mission from their website (8):

The USC Center for Women & Men exists to facilitate the success of students, faculty and staff by providing innovative opportunities for leadership and scholarship and by offering advocacy and confidential counseling to those who have experienced gender-related harm. Through its educational programs, the Center fosters a better understanding of feminism, healthy masculinity and gender equity. Above all, The USC Center for Women & Men serves as a haven for students, staff and faculty.

The Center fosters an environment that enriches the USC experience across lines of gender, race, ethnicity, class, ability and sexual orientation by:

  1. Offering educational programs that help prevent sexual violence and create healthy relationships.
  2. Serving as a safe, confidential space for survivors of sexual assault and other gender-related harm to receive counseling and advocacy.
  3. Providing programs that develop and apply leadership skills.
  4. Collaborating with student groups and other campus offices committed to addressing gender-related topics.”

Contact and 24-hour crisis counseling: (213) 740-4900
Location: Student Union, Suite 202C


Reproductive Health Resources

Planned Parenthood

400 West 30th Street (just a few blocks NE of campus)

Los Angeles, CA

(213) 284-3200

Planned Parenthood offers a lot of services, including almost every kind of birth control, from orthotri-cyclen (the daily pill) to IUD, which is an electrode implanted in your uterus. They also offer pregnancy tests, abortion, testing for every STI including HIV, and it is very friendly to men and women as well as trans. They are highly anonymous and they do not ask for proof of insurance or identification. PP is open Monday-Saturday, but Wednesdays are appointment-only and no walk-ins. Please be aware that if you do a walk-in the wait can be up to 2 hours. Every day except Wednesday the walk-in hours are 8 am – 3 pm. You can call 1-888-633-0433 to make an appointment. Planned Parenthood has a sliding pay-scale for services based on income.

The Health Center on campus on 34th St. is another good resource for reproductive health (9). According to the woman who provided this info for the zine, the Health Center can be somewhat expensive even with the student health insurance plan and she thinks Planned Parenthood generally has a more welcoming atmosphere.


Negative stereotypes of women in academia and how to counter their effects

There are a lot of stereotypes about what members of specific genders are good or bad in certain academic subjects (the points discussed here apply equally to other marginalized social groups, including those of race or class). For instance, relatively few professors of math or engineering in academia, including USC, are women. This has been in part attributed to the effects of what is called the “stereotype threat,” which is the experience of anxiety of being in a situation where one might confirm a negative stereotype of their social group. Research has shown that this is a significant factor in women’s under-performance in traditionally male areas of study, which has lead fewer women to become professors in these fields.

The stereotype threat can be eliminated or reduced in a number of ways. Being in a stereotype threat situation, one study has shown that one can consciously recognize the existing stereotypes and how it is relevant to the moment they’re in and reaffirm to themselves how they are just as capable in terms of gender at performing well as anyone else (10). This has the effect of eliminating the negative effect on performance. Another study showed that having students writing about their values before a class had the effect of significantly raising woman test scores relative to their counterparts in the hard sciences and engineering (11). Another study showed that having a woman professor teaching a class that was traditionally man-dominated eliminated virtually all of the gender disparity in performance (12), presumably by the professor’s gender challenging the image of the typical guy professor and thus subconsciously breaking down the idea that women are less capable in that field. Furthermore, having women professors in these fields has no effect on men’s performance, perhaps because there are not any relevant negative stereotypes about them. These are some of the techniques one can use to break out limits placed upon us unconsciously by social norms.


The market of debt-ridden female college students

A recent article in the Huffington Post titled, “Seeking Arrangement: College Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ To Pay Off Loan Debt,” documents the increasingly popular phenomenon of “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies” (13). In this context, the former are rich older men who are attracted to 20 year-olds but who no longer have the normal means to meet young women and sleep with them while the latter are female college students or recent grads who are riddled with debt and have few prospects in the current economic downturn. Websites exist that help facilitate bringing together these “mutually beneficial relationships,” as they are advertised. The article relates how these websites facilitate not exactly prostitution (which is illegal in 49 states), but something very close to it.

One of the most-used of these sites listed the 20 colleges where they have the most registered students and alumni from, and USC ranked 15th. With a yearly tuition of $55,578, this is hardly surprising. One can not blame women with few financial options for participating in these arrangements so as not to go without shelter or food, but it is horrifying that old rich horny men are able to buy women’s bodies just because those women did the responsible thing and went to college and had to borrow money to pay for it. All of the economic factors, including USC’s skyrocketing tuition, that leads to this prostitution are complicit.

Sources Cited















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