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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: Consciousness Raising for Sexual Violence and Harrasment

As women at Grinnell of varying ages and from quite diverse backgrounds, we have each experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence on campus. It is a difficult issue to speak about, much less to write about. The deeply personal nature of these instances creates feelings of both alienation and isolation. Throughout our time here we have seen that sexist rhetoric is not only present on campus, but is continually tolerated, even when it makes women feel unsafe in the place they call their own. In sharing our personal experiences it has become clear to each of us that there is a striking pattern in our perception of these events. Are we unjust in feeling the way that we do? If we speak out, how will our ‘resistance’ be viewed? Will anyone else step in and support us?

In an attempt to address some of these questions, we led a consciousness raising activity outside of the Dining Hall last Wednesday, Feb. 19. Posing open questions to the campus, we encouraged any and all students to share their responses on posters we hung. Those who have seen them will know that there were two main questions we addressed: When have you, as a woman, felt unsafe on this campus? How do you envision a safer Grinnell for women?

Our answers overwhelmingly included observations of instances of sexual harassment on the weekends, specifically the issue of catcalls, obtaining consent and aggressiveness in the Grinnell party scene, whether it is Harris or High Street. Other comments dealt with hook-up pressures, including the shaming of people who do not want to have sex. Answers relating to experiences of racism and “exclusion of non-binary gender identities” highlight the need to broaden our notions of safety and trust and use intersectionality as a tool to understand women’s safety. In terms of envisioning a safer Grinnell, we repeatedly saw encouraging remarks about “empowering yourself,” “speaking up” and “awareness about lived experiences on campus.” Students urged that we need more “solidarity,” “dialogue,” “better resources” and “more transparency” at Grinnell.

These responses confirmed and broadened what we have found among ourselves: women on campus do indeed frequently feel unsafe and that our collective voice as women and as a student body as a whole provides insight and innovation into creating a safer Grinnell for everyone. Where do we go from here? We are not satisfied with merely expressing these concerns. We see an undeniable need for change. As such, in order to further explore these issues and discuss possible courses of action we will be leading a fishbowl next Tuesday at 4:15 in JRC 209. We hope that you can be there and we encourage you to e-mail us.

Corina Varlan ’14, Vinita Singh ’14, Hattie Zucker ’17, in association with OPEN

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