Monday, March 19, 2012

Guest post: Rape Culture, Social Media and Pedagogical Responsibility

Today we have another guest post. This is by friend and colleague Andrew Bretz at the University of Guelph. Andrew's post reminds me of how we 'celebrated' International Women's Day last year.
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Last year at Yale, Delta Kappa Epsilon, a major fraternity on campus, was formally reprimanded by the university for leading new pledges through campus chanting pro-rape slogans such as “No means yes, yes means anal!”  As a feminist and a member of a university community, I was disgusted by the actions of the fraternity, but at the time I attributed it to a misogynist Greek culture that dominates university campuses in the United States.

Until recently.

A pro-rape chant, delivered on a late night bus and not simply repeated on Facebook but expanded upon by students at the University of Guelph, forced me to take a good look at the state of rape culture on my own campus.  I couldn’t do nothing, but neither am I in a position to enact direct change myself.

I wrote a blog post about it.  Given that my blog is largely inactive (with perhaps two dozen pageviews over the past year), I thought that this would be my rant into the ether and nothing more.  My post, however, has started something well beyond what I could possibly have expected.

You can read my original post here


I posted a link to my blog on my Facebook profile and figured that would be the end of it.  Within the next 48 hours:
·      My blog had been viewed over 3000 times by places as far away as Lithuania; 
·      The discussion on the original Facebook page exploded and was eventually removed altogether:
·     The president’s office was drafting a response, now available here;  
·      The Central Student’s Association had an emergency meeting to draft a response to this situation;
·      A letter writing campaign to The Ontarion had been launched regarding this issue;
The posting had spawned a discussion board on Penny Arcade.com, available here
·    I had been interviewed by CFRU, the local campus radio station, bringing attention to the issue, available here (Starting 26.20).

I followed up the initial post with a second one that commented upon the storm of criticism that has occurred in the wake of the event.


So what is the take away from all of this?  The dialogue has begun.  The problem of rape culture on university campuses is not limited to any nation or any single campus.  At Guelph, the administration has been exceptionally supportive in their condemnation of such actions as were described in the Facebook post and has begun to take steps to ensure that students are made aware of the effects that their words have.

On a personal note, I find it horrifically fitting somehow that this happened all during SAFE Week (Sexual Assault Free Environment) here at the University of Guelph, which, by the way, has an undergraduate body that is mostly female.  Also, I have learned first hand about the incredible and instantaneous power of the internet for raising awareness, something that I intend to work into my pedagogy as I move forward from this event.

But again, this isn’t really about me. It isn’t about the individual students who wrote the chant down or added to it.  It is about the fact that as a community, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that sexual violence against women is not normalized or excused.

I hope that we can continue to talk about this over on my blog or here at Hook & Eye.

-Andrew Bretz
PhD Candidate, University of Guelph

2 comments:

  1. What a great post. I am always coming across professors who care deeply about their jobs and work hard to support students in every way they can, even outside of the classroom. As a student, I truly appreciate that.

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  2. This is a great post! Thank you for speaking out about this issue, here, and on your blog. You are an inspiration to those of us who do want to teach at the university level, especially those of us who want to teach students more than just the course work, but also to think critically about social and cultural issues. Thanks!

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