Never have I been in a situation where women were expected to show their breasts for a crowd of cheering men. Never have I been in a situation where women complied. Never, that is, until Friday.
In volunteering to cover the infamous Wing Bowl, I knew what I was getting myself into: waking up before sunrise to watch competitors stuff their mouths with chicken wings while being egged on by a crowd of drunk and boob-loving men.
Yes, it sounds absurd on paper, but it was a spectacle I wanted to experience for myself — and what better way to do it than with a press pass around my neck, watching the event fewer than 50 feet from the action in the media’s designated area?
So that is what I did.
As the events of the morning took their course, I joined in with the crowd, allowing myself to cheer for the frontrunners, be grossed out when someone vomited and root for Penn football player Sebastian Jaskowski in the Big 5 competition.
I let myself write off the practically naked women who paraded the competitors around and cheered them on, as well as the bare chests of ordinary women on the jumbo-tron, as just part of the spectacle.
While it was certainly the absurd event I had been promised, behind the spectacle of it all lay double standards and expectations of women that I had never experienced.
I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted with hard work and diligence, regardless of my gender.
Though the world sometimes told me otherwise, I have been lucky enough to be in schools that value equality, and to have been inspired by female role models who pursued their dreams even when they faced tremondous odds.
Yet in an era where we stress equal opportunity for all, an event that displays such blatant sexism is still sold out and packed full of excited fans at six in the morning.
While the “main” attraction is the wing-eating competition itself (which has its own set of moral questions), the nearly-naked women are equally as important to the crowd.
What does this say about gender stereotypes that remain ingrained in our culture, and how do we explain such behavior to our daughters in the future?
There are many different forms of feminism — one of which takes pride in women wearing whatever they want, which can be seen in the “slut-walk” movement or on our very own campus with the BARE fashion show last week.
But this was not what was happening Friday morning. Women were being objectified and as a female spectator, it was hard to watch.
But alongside the 27 male competitors at the table was one woman, Molly Schuyler, who took home the crown. For just the second time, the victor was a woman — some could call that a big step towards equality.
However, we must ask ourselves: Is stuffing one’s face full of food what we want the people in our community to aspire towards?
Events such as Wing Bowl are absurd and don’t represent real life for most. But, behind every joke or spectacle is a bit of truth about the world we currently live in, and what we must ask ourselves is whether we are okay with the subtle message events like these send.
If we can recognize the craziness and laugh for a few hours, but then return to normal life, then great — let’s enjoy the show. But the second that this craziness begins to impact how we see the world — well, then we have a problem.