mens ugg gloves An apology to the women of University of Alabama’s Alpha Phi
Sisters of University of Alabama Chapter of Alpha Phi,
Let me say right off the bat I’m not here to preach to you or tell you why I cringed when I watched the recruitment video that has now made its way around the world. I’m not here to question the glitter blowing, piggy back riding or skimpy bikini wearing thought process that went into a recruitment piece for your sorority.
There’s already been a lot said about all those things and I’ll be the first to admit we’ve all made choices in our youth that we later regret (ex. snakeskin miniskirt Bon Jovi concert 1985.) And let me say there is nothing wrong with celebrating being female: wear your makeup, laugh with your friends and act silly. All those things are OK. They are even good at times.
What I am here to do is tell you I’m sorry. You’re owed that apology from the women in my generation, most of us who are old enough that you could be our daughters.
We’re the generation that grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. We were after the main days of the women’s liberation movement when women all around the country were uniting to elevate their positions. Most of us were too young to really understand the Equal Rights Amendment or why some thought Constitutional protection for women was so important. We had seen our mothers go to work either by choice or necessity and saw first hand the changes in how females were viewed in the public and by themselves.
Female empowerment was “a thing.” Whether we realized it or not, we saw it first hand, and ended up reaping the benefits without fighting the fight.
We saw other things, too. We saw the first woman become a member of the Supreme Court (1981); the first female astronaut from America (1983) and the first woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket (1984). Later, we saw America get its first female Attorney General (1992) and first female Secretary of State (1997).
We also lived through Madonna in her “Material Girl” times and Tawny Kitaen rolling around on cars in Whitesnake videos. Motley Crue brought us pole dancing girls, girls, girls and Van Halen told us all why they were hot for teacher. Sir Mix a Lot gave us “Baby got Back” in 1992, putting women and their backsides right in our face.
We took the equality earned by our grandmothers and mothers and decided that women could do anything,
even if that meant allowing ourselves to be objectified. It was our choice to wear the bikini and shake our rears on the screen. Madonna may have been like a virgin but that was her choice, not something she was forced to do by men.
That’s what we told ourselves. And we thought that was the message we passed down to you but it seems it was not. We sent the message of freedom but not personal responsibility. We told you you could do anything, even if that resulted in you choosing to do nothing. Your body, your choice and if you want to show your body off in a marketing video aimed at other women, so be it. If most of you don’t have a clue who Sandra Day O’Connor or Sally Ride are, at least we made sure we dressed you in Ugg boots and short shorts and let you watch Kim Kardashian when you were 13.
Before you think I’ve painted you all with too broad a brush, let me add these thoughts. The UA sorority isn’t alone in the production of such videos, examples of which can be seen at schools throughout the country. This isn’t a University of Alabama problem or a Southern problem. It’s also unfair for us to expect a new generation of women to maintain a feminist banner that someone else projects on them. Women even young women have the right to display their bodies as they see fit.
I do wish they’d think about those decisions more, however.
It seems somewhere, in the rush to empower young women, we didn’t direct you at all about what your true potential is or, in the case of the UA sorority, the meaning of sisterhood in the larger sense. We didn’t make clear that sisterhood involves women of all ages and we’re worth more than just a video that lands us on a sports chat site with comments such as “I’ll take that one.”