Sexism?

One of our more recent commenters stated that “every single man” he had spoken to felt targeted and alienated by the postering campaign. Another comment that we moved into a full post said “I think people are angered that they were put up in an offensive and possibly sexist way. They overwhelmingly are in a woman’s tone of voice, and indict the hookup culture on campus (and as an extension, most men on campus) in a way that simply cannot be overlooked” [From our comments…].

We’re absolutely not saying that survivors are women and perpetrators are men. We’re not saying that hookup culture is universally bad–many of us have had positive experiences in hookup culture (in addition to some bad ones), both on and off campus.

There are exactly two posters that have an intentionally gendered “voice.”

  1. “My erection is not equal to my consent.”
  2. “My skirt may be short, my top may be low, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to go.”

The first has a male voice, but purposefully addresses sexist assumptions about rape and sexual assault– and challenges them.  Giving the second one a female voice assumes that men aren’t wearing skirts and low-cut tops, which is a different issue.  Every other poster can be coming from a man or a woman. Even though the one fish two fish and roses are red violets are blue posters mention gender, they don’t have give a gender for the speaker. A man could say keep your penis to yourself, and a woman could say if I want your vagina I’ll ask for it. Try reading through the list of posters with a man’s voice.  Our chalking in various classrooms on campus also purposefully challenged sexist assumptions regarding rape and sexual assault.

These chalkings were done in sets of two, one reading “I was sexually assaulted at Haverford in September 2010.  I am female.  It happens here.” and “I was sexually assaulted at Haverford in December 2010.  I am male.  It happens here.”  Another set read: “I said no.  He didn’t listen.  I am female.  It happens here.”  and “I said no.  He didn’t listen.  I am male.  It happens here.”  The first set is intentionally gender ambiguous, and if we are going to keep with the current line of heterosexual assumptions, would imply a female perpetrator.  Both sets purposefully challenge the idea that men cannot be survivors.  The use of the male pronoun in the second case simply reflects the actual experiences of the particular survivors who wrote those words; we did not want to change the pronouns (and thus misrepresent our actual experiences) in order to make a point.

When we were writing the posters, we were careful to keep a gender balance and to be gender neutral when possible. We said “I”, “you”, and “my” so that we could eliminate pronouns. It’s a shame that men feel targeted and assume that we’re not talking to women too. That’s very much contrary to our intention. One of the specific aspects of the college’s policies/information that we wish to have changed is the assumption that all perpetrators are men and all survivors women.  This is reflected in the following quote from our Open Letter to the Deans/Community:

  • We call for updates and improvements to all official sexual violence literature, including…
    • survivor-friendly language that does not assume gender, sexuality, or victimhood…

We encourage everyone to read our Open Letter to get a better sense of our campaign goals, regardless of whether or not you plan to sign it.

Although SOAR is gender inclusive, the specific individuals who were involved in designing the posters just so happened to all be women, so we understand where you’re coming from in hearing a woman’s tone.  Since the posters were developed by women, they do literally reflect women’s voices.  It is also true that in some cases the posters play on existing stereotypes, but for the purpose of challenging them (i.e. slut-shaming.)  We hope you understand that there was absolutely no sexist intent, and we have no interest in targeting people–that’s unproductive goes against everything we stand for.

Edited for confidentiality.

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