In regards to the article posted on Jan. 22, titled “More a Stumble Than a Walk,” I am thoroughly taken back by the lack of effort put into covering a topic so dear to the hearts of so many people; not just students, but alumni, parents, and administration. The work that certain students have accomplished to combat sexual assault, the organizers in this case, are so unfairly represented in this commentary. Here’s why:
The writer has not researched their story. In this article, the writer lists that he only spoke with “a few students.” By gaining various responses that “expressed agreement,” he dubbed the walkout a stumble. Without interviewing the administration, any of the organizers, or even any relevant unions regarding sexual assault, he left “disheartened.” However, what he really left with was disregard to any further information that might have proved him wrong. The only one who walked away with an empty illusion was the writer.
But were students “left with the empty illusion that something had been achieved?” No. As the crowd pounded on the front doors of South, some of us were threatened by administration and confronted by police officers. We demanded to be heard, and we won. BJ Blake, the director of secondary education, arrived at South and invited a group of protesters to speak with her. The main organizers, a few random protesters, the freshman class president and I had a very long conversation, not to discuss how much trouble we were in, but to resolve the outrage of the student body. For four hours, we discussed solutions to sexual assault with members of the 4J administration. This extensive list included better sex education, better staff training, better youth advocacy, better survivor care, better communication, restorative justice, consent education, better resources for survivors, how to prevent future protests, and the list goes on. During that meeting, one of the administrators, whose confidentiality I will respect, told us that “If y’all hadn’t protested, you probably wouldn’t have gotten the same level of attention from the administration.”
Moreover, according to OneinfourUSA.org, a website dedicated to the statistics of rape, 98 percent of all perpetrators are men, including cases in which men are sexually assaulted. This data is not a coincidence; it is a reflection of how men are raised in society. 4J must start combating rape culture starting in the first grade! We live in a culture and government that protects rapists, a result of our historic patriarchy, consisting of men oppressing women. To say that a “majority are even aware about what sexual assault is” is not backed up by any data or polls on the students of South. If I asked the average South student, or even teachers, what the five essential components to consent are, I have high doubts that anyone could answer correctly. Furthermore, the writer’s misconception of South’s plethora of awareness, which is “thanks to many well-run school-sponsored consent education workshops throughout the year,” is factually incorrect. We are given a lesson on consent from RespectED once as freshmen. We are not given any lesson on consent more than once in high school, let alone annual lessons. On top of that, sex education is an optional class to take at South, and can be avoided by taking other health classes, such as Child Development. Health credits are not seen as important and are often dealt with when students are seniors. By then, it is too late. I have not had any school-provided sex education lesson since the fifth grade, which is likely common for most students at South.
Additionally, saying “awareness itself is not such a useful goal,” is ridiculous. Awareness is a cause and effect of the people who fight for justice and is a key component to any movement. There has never been any significant movement in history that did not involve raising awareness on an issue. If it were not for the Kinsey report in 1948 challenging gender norms in a highly nuclear society, the seeds for marriage equality would have never been sown. If it were not for the invention of cable, the atrocities of police brutality would have never incensed the civil rights movement in the 1960s and current Black Lives Matter movements. If it were not for the wake of the #MeToo movement, we might not even be having this conversation. Awareness creates visibility, and when something is visible, it is harder to ignore.
Finally, aspects of this article seem downright disrespectful, condescending, and even discriminatory. As someone who identifies as queer, the quote, “pride each year turns into a party for teenagers to drink publicly while ‘showing support,’” particularly hit a nerve for me. Pride is not an event to show support, but to literally show pride for being queer. Shocker, right? To nullify an event, which is historically organized to combat the stigma of queerness, simply because kids are drinking fully misses the point. Additionally, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are significantly more prone to drug abuse due to ostracization, family exile, and homelessness. The comment made about Pride was ignorant, dismissive to queer movements, and arguably discriminatory due to the fact that it ignores the complexity of queer politics. Not only does this commentary miss the point of Pride, it misses the point of The Women’s March, and the walkout that was experienced that Friday.
There are a few points to this article that I completely agree with. Many of the students who walked out that day were only there to skip class. This is evident in the fact that many of the people protesting against sexual assault were ironically perpetrators of sexual assault themselves. Not only were there perpetrators walking among the protesters, but they were also in the meeting to discuss solutions to the very problems that they caused. This, in all aspects, is unfair to the people they have committed crimes against, and could be a way for them to dodge their guilt. Protests specifically against Andy Dey during the walkout were also very unfair. Many people do not realize that our principal has done more work for gender equality than many of his predecessors. Protesters who held signs that verbally harassed and threatened him, are the protesters that had no prior or current involvement in these issues. To simply walk out a single time to protest does not make anyone an ally to women, or to survivors of sexual assault.
“Chants and marches fade away all too quickly.”
Well here is my response: Many of us are loud and determined to work towards social justice. We have been heard and that is why we are currently working with the 4J administration. If you are interested in furthering the conversation of sexual assault and gender inequality, please come to Feminist Union in room 714 every Thursday during lunch. I would also like to include that, although I am a member of Feminist Union, this is not an official statement on behalf of the Feminist Union. As students of South, we all have a responsibility to hold each other accountable and work towards preventing the injustices that occur on our campus. These conversations are critical and must continue in order to work towards making South a safer place for every student.