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Feminism and the Duke PowerPoint

Posted by Rob Anderson  October 19, 2010 02:30 PM

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This could be the start of the fourth wave of feminism: A female Duke undergrad made a detailed PowerPoint presentation detailing her sexual exploits with thirteen male student athletes, then allegedly emailed it to three of her friends. Soon, everyone on the campus saw it. Then it went national. Then international.

The researcher, as the woman portrays herself in her graphic "thesis," has been called the usual names for a woman who has had that damning yet subjective number of too many partners. Some bloggers have seized the obvious moment, calling it a reverse of the kind of kiss-and-tell fable that has long ruined women’s reputations, and praising the woman as a champion of female empowerment. It’s true the woman doesn’t deserve to be called names for owning her own sexuality, but she certainly isn’t the victim, either: Posting private, potentially embarrassing information &mdash in this case, sexual performance &mdash is tantamount to cyberbullying.

And that’s how the new wave of feminism has begun, the wave in which gender is no longer a factor: Unlike the 1977 scandal at MIT where women published information about their partners in attempt to make a gender statement, this undergrad was simply having a good time, then made a bad decision about sharing that information. The good guys and bad guys, the aggressors and the victims, are no longer so easily defined. The issue is no longer Men vs. Women, but has evolved online into redefining morality outside the confining boundaries of sex or even sexuality; it’s evolved into Good Decisions vs. Bad Decisions, into Don’t-Post-That vs. Seriously-Don’t-Post-That.

But, for those who still seek gender retribution, consider this: The woman is now reported to be fielding lucrative book and movie offers, a deal that might seem unfair to those more traditional braggers on the other side of the fence.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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