Sarah Eldiasty: on Assault, Being Equal to the Oppressor, and Gender Parity
On gender parity: When people think of gender equity, yes we are all fundamentally human, but men and women are in part different because of the ways we’ve been socialized. The gender roles and expectations forged upon us are different. If you think of the work place, a lot of these laws are written under the guise of gender equity, but because women are expected to take care of their family and they can’t work certain hours. For the most part, women are solely expected to care for the family and shoulder that responsibility. So if you think of “equality,” yes, we should receive the same rights and the same benefits, but they should be organized in different ways because women have different expectations than men and that should be considered. So when people think of equality - plenty of things are equal, but do we operate on the same footing? No. Do they affect men and women in the same ways? No.
On femininity and tradition: When I think of traditional femininity I think of someone who’s docile, nurturing, loving, and caring. It’s always a point of conflict for me, especially because of family values. My father is Egyptian, and that part of my family is more traditional and conservative. I’m often viewed in a negative light because I am a very independent person who refuses to base my actions off of their approval. On the other hand, my mother is Puerto Rican, and in the Latinx community women are sometimes expected to be nurturing, understanding, etc. It’s a lot of emotional labor, and it sucks. It’s difficult to unlearn the ways in which traditional femininity can work against you, and instead learn to stand by your personal values. I find myself in the midst of finding my voice and addressing conflicting expectations about how I should act.
On her career: I have a passion for social justice, human rights, and gender parity. Right now I’m really interested in the law and I’m set to intern at the NYC Law Department this summer. I want to learn about the intricacies of the legal system and whether I want to work within a system which clearly isn’t working to our benefit.
On first somethings: I was 17, and he was 26. He was a high school teacher (at a different high school from the one I attended). When it happened, I thought it was cool. But now I realize that it was problematic. Was I of age? Yes. But was the age difference horrifying? Yes! When you’re that young, you’re always trying to justify your age to the older person. That gives them a way to control you. If you disagree on them about something, or if you’re not comfortable with something, the argument is always “I knew you were immature,” or it’s because you’re so young.” So you’re always trying to live up to their expectations, and that allows them to control you. But it’s really sad to me, because he probably doesn’t think what he did was wrong, and I think about it a lot.
On real love: I found his wallet in the cafeteria of my college two years ago. It had his whole life in there; Metrocard, social security card, health insurance, ID, not to mention over $300. I found him on Facebook and we literally saw each other for ten seconds because he had to rush off to work once I returned his wallet. Fast-forward two years later and we match on Tinder. I didn’t recognize him because of the quick exchange but he remembered me. We met up and clicked immediately. Our first date lasted like 48 hours. We’ve been inseparable ever since. He’s my best friend, my partner, my lover, everything.
On periods: I usually wear tampons, which my family disapproves of, because they think they will “take your virginity” and “make you loose.” I couldn’t even ride a bike when I was younger because they thought it would pop my cherry. I live with my dad’s family, and whenever I use a pad I wrap it in a paper towel and put it in the trash. Despite this, my stepmother would approach me and ask me to put my pad in the kitchen trash, “because we don’t want your father or your brother to see it.” I still put it in the bathroom trash. I think that’s one of many reasons men and women are so distant - we hide actions that come natural to some of us and we shouldn’t because it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
On assault: I went on a date with someone and although we stated our own sexual boundaries, he didn’t respect mine. I called him out on it which really upset him. He claimed I accused him of rape and demanded we sign a “relationship contract.” I had a fellowship at the time with a student journalism site and decided to write about it. People’s boundaries are crossed every day and I think it’s important to engage people in conversation about consent, dignity and respect. That backfired on me somehow. An overwhelming majority of the comments were horribly negative; claiming I lied about the incident, I made it up for views, I was a “feminazi,” “I was crazy,” etc. - it was troubling. Rape culture is real and thriving.
On weight: I think that weight has a lot to do with traditional femininity, and I’ve experienced a lot of pressure to lose weight. I’m not skinny, and during the summer, I like to wear bikinis. Unfortunately, if you’re not skinny, you’re often not seen as attractive according to mainstream societal standards. We’re expected to wear one piece swimsuits and hide our bodies - it’s bullshit. I don’t have anything to cover up, I’m beautiful regardless of your misguided beauty standards.
On feminism: It’s the movement to obtain, social, political, and economic equity between men and women. I don’t think equality is the answer because there are a lot of ways in which we are “equal” to men, but it’s not really played out in the way that we want it to. We live in a patriarchal world, so I ask myself, do I want to be equal to men? The only reason they have power is because they oppress us. Do I want to be equal to the oppressor? I just want to be liberated from that system. I don’t want to base my worth off of being equal to a man.
On objectification: I was 11 or 12 when I first got catcalled. Ever since then, on the train, no matter what I’m wearing, I always notice when dude’s eyes are glued to my ass. Whenever I see men looking at women or especially young girls in a perverted way, I feel objectified - I am offended when I see that happening to other women. I’m trying to find my voice to speak up about those things. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to resist. There was a incident on the train recently where a guy said something gross to a woman, so she defended herself, and he sliced her face with a boxcutter. I had a huge argument with a guy about catcalling. He said, “well, how am I supposed to let a girl know that I like her?” Well, not through harassment. There’s a way to approach someone you’re attracted to because when its catcalling, it’s just another way to reinforce dominance.