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(Anna Seward)—I’ve (mostly) stayed out of the fraternity debate for one reason: it makes me really sad. It actually really bums me out to see men I respect either personally or from afar write beautiful testimonials about an institution that excludes me based on my gender. It sucks that this is what the school is upset about. It saddens me to see anyone who speaks out against fraternities get shut down in comments.
At AC Voice, I’ve typically written about more nuanced examples of sexism or racism instead of more fundamental problems for a couple reasons. One, because in my experience white men or other privileged people don’t particularly enjoy listening to me explain things to them and, two, because it’s incredibly discouraging. Even though I’ve gotten lots of hate anyway, it has never reached the level of, say, Gina Faldetta’s bathroom article because the kind of people who would read an article about a more subtle topic, without some fundamental explanations are less likely to write things like “wow feminazi go home.” If you’re not familiar with the idea of “the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism,” aka Lewis’s Law, you clearly have never written anything about feminism.
But I’m going to quickly break my rule, here in my last post for AC Voice. I mean, I’m leaving soon, so if you hate me or the things I say hopefully I won’t have to see your face again. No offense. I just want to say from my point of view why I write about the things that I do and why I hope one day all of you will care about them.
I get that if you don’t identify as feminist or you don’t see the big deal about a lot of AC Voice topics, we might seem angry or defensive. And honestly, usually I am angry. Like, really fucking angry. And I allow that to come out in my pieces (it’s never an accident) because usually women and other minorities aren’t heard otherwise. That might not be your experience, but it’s mine. I got told a lot as a little girl to hide my anger, even when it was justified, and trust me, that has gotten me nowhere. Even now that I recognize how messed up that is, I still sometimes find myself allowing people to treat me terribly and walk all over me just because I don’t want to be “that angry girl.” You know, the one who asks to be treated with respect and won’t take any less than what she deserves. The one who prioritizes her own comfort or safety over making her acquaintances or friends uncomfortable in any way.
Listening to women and other minorities ask to “check your privilege” shouldn’t be a joke. And it’s not an accusation. It’s a call to fight for us. To fight for the rights you have so that they apply to all of us. It doesn’t mean we think you don’t deserve what you’ve earned. You’ve been given more opportunities based on your race, gender, or sexual orientation, sure, but we’re not saying that you’re worthless otherwise. But if you take it that way, we will slowly start to trust you less, because by rolling your eyes at us or laughing us off, you’re denying us our experience. And we’ve grown up surrounded by people who deny us our experience and so by the time we’re in our twenties, we’re starting to cull those people from our lives.
We don’t call you out to hurt you. We call you out so you’ll stop hurting us. “PC” language isn’t funny to us, like it is to you. I hope the next time you feel affronted when someone tells you a joke isn’t funny or a term isn’t ok, you’ll look at that person and realize that you don’t know their experience like you know yours. Maybe they’re a survivor and haven’t told you, maybe they’re disabled in a way that is not obvious to you, maybe the joke you told makes them feel small and unheard. And maybe they can’t tell you how it hurts them because the thing you just said makes them less likely to trust you, now. It makes them wonder what else you think about their experience or what actions are behind your words.
Not everyone is going to identify as a feminist. And I could write a whole other article about why that’s messed up. But I think everyone at this school especially should be able to empathize. Everyone could take a second before saying, “stop being so sensitive” and think on it. Think on whether you have a right to judge in that situation what is too sensitive or what isn’t for that person. You don’t know who’s been called a whore by her friends or who’s been sexually assaulted or been judged by the color of their skin by strangers.
I’m not writing anything revolutionary here. If you’re an activist this is the kind of post you’ve seen a hundred times. But by saying it in my own words and to the people who read me/like me/hate me/know of me vaguely, I hope some more people might “join the fold,” so to speak. If you’re a senior, you’re leaving this place soon and probably won’t be confronted with these topics as much in the “real world.” You could very easily find yourself surrounded by people who think fighting for equal rights is unnecessary and exaggerated, men and women alike. So I’m writing this without allowing anger or sarcasm to come through, so people who aren’t my usual audience aren’t put off.
We want you on our side. But we don’t need you. So if you choose to continue ignoring us or laughing at us, we won’t worry about you or what you think of us. We will stop thinking about you all together. And that would be a shame because with the work you’ve put into your education, you could have been wonderful allies and magnificent, supportive friends. Don’t make us leave you behind.
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