Pacific University professor finds women everywhere share problem of violence

Pacific University Professor Martha Rampton went to the International Gender Equality Symposium in Turkey expecting to hear the most grisly stories about the plight of women from representatives of Afghanistan, Rwanda and other non-Western, developing countries.

She returned to the U.S. just in time for Elliot Rodger’s misogynistic California killing spree, sparked by his desire to punish women for not being attracted to him.

It was the perfect illustration of what Rampton — who directs Pacific’s Center for Gender Equity — had realized in Turkey: “We’re ridiculous if we think that we aren’t under siege in this country too.”

Inspired by the conference, where she was one of three Americans to speak, Rampton would now like to create a weeklong International Women’s Service Learning Institute at Pacific by the fall of 2015.

Meanwhile, she sat down with the News-Times to share some of her thoughts about the conference, which drew roughly 70 women from more than 30 countries, including France, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Norway, Russia, Israel, Croatia, Thailand, Iran, India and more. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

News-Times: What was the topic of your talk?

Rampton: “The three waves of feminism: Is it time for a fourth?”

Is it?

Yes. The women’s movement in the ‘60s was on the streets and everybody was involved ... or understood the terms of it. In the ‘70s, the movement started to retreat into the academy (meaning) university classes or groups of intellectuals. There’s really no movement now. That fourth wave would take gender issues out of the academy and back into the streets.

What is going on in the streets right now that might make that happen?

Abuse. Rape. One in four women are sexually abused, one in six women are the victims of rape or attempted rape over their lifetimes (according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). I was thinking (at the symposium), ‘We’re kind of working on smaller issues than these other countries.’ Then I thought, ‘No we’re not.’

So if you’re a woman in America who gets killed by your spouse, you’re not any better off than a woman in India who’s killed by her spouse?

Or a woman in Croatia who was killed by a soldier when there was a war there, or raped. I don’t think it’s useful to think about gender internationally as though certain countries, particularly in the West, have solved their gender problems and should be a model.

What different issues did non-Western women raise at the conference?

Education, women being able to go to school. Under-representation in Parliament. We (Western countries) talked about the wage gap.

Anything else?

Western women have body-image issues. it’s the whole skinny thing ... and the torture women put themselves through to adhere to the ideal. That did not come up from other countries. (Or from Western countries either because) it would have seemed incredibly indulgent if we gave a talk and our biggest problem was “We’re not skinny enough.”

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