Opinion submission: Let's talk misogyny

By Camille Bismonte | April 17, 2018 5:40pm

Camille Bismonte. Photo courtesy Camille Bismonte.

As a former student at the University of Portland, OR, I’m ashamed to say that the few times it has landed in national news is because of a hateful, misogynistic speech at the Wally Awards – a yearly awards ceremony to celebrate the hard work that the University’s athletes had put it throughout the year. This year, however, it was tainted by the insensitive rhetoric given by the evening’s emcee, Goutham Sundaram.

For some context, Sundaram is a D1 athlete at the University of Portland’s tennis program, and was ranked as one of the best youth tennis athletes by the local newspaper, the Oregonian in 2014. For these reasons and I’m assuming more, he was selected to emcee for the event. For starters, the student athlete association at UP didn’t ask him to provide them with the details of what he was going to say at the Wally Awards.

What unfolded was something reprehensible. Sundaram began with saying that he was going to invite his audience to his “locker room” conversations. He then delved into inappropriate detail about his sexual exploits at the University of Portland, even going as far as to say “Gandhi didn’t fast for twenty days so that I could get to America and not sleep with white women.” He even cited his immigrant parent’s experience of struggle and perseverance for him to end up in America. Unfortunately, he ended it with saying that their hardship would only be “worth it” if he was able to “hook up with a white girl.”

Even worse, despite other student athletes as well as the basketball coach walking out, the University’s President Fr. Mark Poorman, and the rest of the administration present stayed at the event. I’m appalled and ashamed that this happened at the University of Portland, especially since we have a prevalent “green dot” program on campus, which discusses the need to have conversations regarding sexual assault and other forms of abuse, and how to prevent those issues from happening. I had always been proud of the University of Portland, especially since I felt that the administration required freshmen to undergo more sexual assault awareness training that the Georgetown University does. But all these precautions failed to prevent Sundaram’s speech in the first place. In fact, his speech came at the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Week at the University of Portland.

As a former student athlete at the University of Portland, a person of color, a child of immigrants, and a woman, what Sundaram said at the annual Wally Awards is nothing less than scathing. Goutham, women never owe you sex. I’m ashamed on behalf of your parents for having their struggles minimized into a contributing factor for your inability to “hook up with white girls.” I’m shocked that you took Gandhi’s struggle for independence from Great Britain as a means of enabling you to go on a sexual conquest at the University of Portland. Sexualizing and objectifying white women is gross and sexist, need I say more? I’m disappointed in how you’ve misrepresented people of color, immigrants, and your fellow Pilots.

Camille Bismonte is a Sophomore Economics Major at Georgetown University. Bismonte transferred to Georgetown from the University of Portland and can be reached at cbb63@georgetown.edu