Campus / Featured / News / May 8, 2013

Students discuss sexism on campus, in society

Over the past term, a heated conversation about feminism has begun at Knox College. However, the conversation has taken place in a few unlikely places. Perhaps primarily amongst them is “Knox College Confessions,” a Facebook page Knox students can use to anonymously post their thoughts on the school.

Students Against Sexism in Society recently released an open letter after an incident with people vandalizing their board. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

Students Against Sexism in Society recently released an open letter after an incident with people vandalizing their board. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

“I’m afraid to ask questions about feminism. What I know about it I support, but I feel that my questions could make me sound ‘ignorant’ or ‘insensitive’ when I mean no disrespect to anyone by asking them. I simply don’t know the answers. I’m sad that I’m saying this all anonymously, but I feel that if my beliefs don’t completely match those of feminism that I will be ‘wrong’ or ‘ignorant,’” one confession on the page said.

The posts made on the “Confessions” page have received a great deal of attention, both attracting heated comments from students opposed to the general message of the posts and resulting in further anonymous posts in keeping with the ambiguous to hostile tone of the complaints against feminism. However, few students publicly spoke out on the Facebook page in favor of negative posts.

However, the timing of the “Knox College Confessions” postings has come relatively soon after Students Against Sexism (SASS) in Society, experienced vandalization. Earlier this term, “Shut the f— up SASS” was left written on SASS’s board, an act rapidly followed by the defacement of SASS’s response to the message in the form of a letter, which was torn down the week after it was posted.

“Our job as SASS, as an intersectional feminist group, is to work to create a safe space for people who are marginalized for their gender expression, sexuality, race, whatever,”  sophomore and SASS co-president Allie Fry said. “And when you deface that board, you’re saying we aren’t welcome here, and you’re degrading the work and belittling the work that we’re doing to create a safe space for people, and our club hurts when people say, ‘Shut up, you’re not welcome here.’”

Members addressed how the Knox campus environment creates a space where students’ anti-feminist sentiments are allowed to show.

“The climate on this campus needs to change from negative to positive. And I think we’re seeing the negative effects in the form of vandalism, but I think there are a lot of apathetic students on campus too, and we all need to get together and band against this negativity,” junior and creative director for SASS Hadley Gephart said.

With a disconnect between the scope of the Knox Confessions page and that of the defacement of SASS’s board, the task seems to have fallen to the students of Knox College to educate themselves to differentiate between the two messages.

“In terms of feminism especially, it is not our job to educate those who willfully misunderstand, but I think that’s what this situation calls for. … The problem is reaching those who won’t reach out. How to go about that is a daunting question, but I know that, even in the past year, I have seen several people completely change their minds about feminism for the better, so there is hope. Personally, I’ve always thought that everyone should be required to take an intro gender studies course,” sophomore and gender and women’s studies major Sam Auch said.

As a final note, Auch spoke on the “Confessions” and defacement episode

“Quite honestly, I’m not entirely sure that the tension is a wholly bad thing. Feminism, rightfully, makes people nervous because it threatens to overthrow entire ways of life. If there wasn’t any tension on campus, I’d say we weren’t really doing our job,” she said.

Emily Madden

Tags:  Allie Fry anonimity antifeminism feminism hadley gephart knox college confessions sam auch SASS vandalism

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