All posts by humberta15

“A Stronger, Loving World”

Please take the time to read the powerful message that W&L Senior Ryan Scott delivered at Take Back the Night earlier this evening:

A Stronger, Loving World 

Sexual assault is an issue surrounded by silence.  Less than one-third of sexual assaults are reported to the authorities, and that number is even lower among male victims of sexual violence.  Those in positions of authority and privilege often seem hostile to open discussions of instances of sexual abuse, whether they be the supporters of the Steubenville football team or the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America—and I say that as a proud Eagle Scout with a great love for the organization.

Even among those who want to be active bystanders and support survivors of sexual assault, findings the words to break the silence is often difficult.  What could one possibly say to address the reality of the issue?  What words could possibly do justice to what survivors have gone through?

But cloaking human suffering in quiet is rarely the answer.  Ignoring violence doesn’t make anything better.  If there was ever a time when silence was morally permissible, that period has long since passed.

On this campus and across the nation, more and more voices are speaking up to address issues than have been hidden in the dark for far too long.  People are beginning to acknowledge and address the alarmingly high rates of sexual assault on college campuses.  The White House has launched the It’s On Us campaign to raise awareness and to remind the nation that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  College administrations across the country are stepping up to take a more active role in helping to make campuses safer for everyone.

Even since the time that I was a first-year, there have been phenomenal changes on the Washington & Lee campus.  SPEAK has taken a greater role in teaching incoming students about the importance of being an active bystander.  The University has formed a Healthy Sexual Culture Committee to better coordinate the efforts of various campus groups to create a safer community.  Two students in particular, Anna Kathryn Barnes and Noelle Rutland, have done something very powerful: they have given survivors a chance to tell their stories.  Survivors of sexual violence deserve a platform from which to be heard and we need to listen to them if we are going to keep striving in our efforts to always be a community of honor.

W&L has been making great strides, but we can’t rest on our laurels.  Having this conversation is an important first step, but it is just that: a first step.  We need to commit ourselves to be willing to say or do something if we see that our peers might be in trouble.  We must promise ourselves and each other that we will work to build and maintain a community of real trust.  If we do not follow our words with actions, if we do not take concrete steps to make this campus a healthier and safer place for all, then all our talk becomes the proverbial sound and fury that signifies nothing.

So if you take anything from tonight, remember this: Washington & Lee, this university with its fabled history, is nothing greater or less than us.  We are this university, this community.  It is up to us to determine whether this will be a place where everyone can feel safe, or if it will not be.  It is our responsibility to create a space where a student does not have to feel nervous at a party because they know that they can rely not only on their friends, but upon the rest of the W&L community to be active bystanders to help them against those rare individuals who would act dishonorably.  We are all of us blessed with a brief four years on our Colonnade, and that blessing comes with the responsibility to ensure that no student ever fears leaving an abusive relationship because they feel they won’t be supported by their administration and their fellow students.

From what I have seen of this community over the past three and a half years, I am confident that we are more than up to the challenge.  So if, during your time here and beyond, you feel discouraged in your efforts to help your fellow men and women, remember tonight.  Remember every other person here.  Each and every one of them is a reminder of something that most of us desperately need to hear: that there are many other wonderful people who feel and think much as you do, and who care about their fellow human beings as much as you do.  You are not alone.

Sexual assault has been an issue surrounded by silence for too long.  In recognition of the silence that has shrouded survivors and stifled their voices, please join me in a moment of quiet reflection.  After the moment of reflection, our singers will break the silence with a song emblematic of our university.  After Shenandoah ends, and you walk back out onto the W&L campus, I hope that you will do everything in your power to speak up for survivors and help create a stronger, more loving world.

Thank you all.


Published with the permission of Ryan Scott.

Appreciating Beauty v. Sexual Objectification

Here are two articles I recently found discussing the objectification of women and the effects it can have on both men and women.  They were both written by Jamie Utt, and I recommend reading them both as he introduces some ideas in the first article that he then goes on to expand in the second.

While I understand that most people, including myself, will probably not strike up a conversation with every person we find attractive and thus create a relationship with them, I think the important message here is that (1) you do not need to say something to everyone you may find attractive (i.e. street harassment) and (2) you can appreciate someone’s beauty without staring pointedly or ‘gazing’ at specific body parts — as Utt says, we can practice our powers of rational thought and will in order to prevent ourselves from damaging others by compounding the problems of sexual objectification through our gaze.

RE: Article About Fighting Derby Days at William and Mary

In response to the article Annie just posted about fighting derby days at William and Mary, I would like to make a few points.

The link for those who haven’t read the article yet:
Thank you, Annie, for bringing it to our attention.

While we don’t have a strip tease (or “lip sync”) as part of our derby days, our events are still degrading towards women.  It is well known that when the “hot” sororities are competing in the athletic events, the men crowd around the field in order to watch (read: objectify) them.  I do not see why that would be any different now that the women play volleyball instead of football.

The men also throw water balloons from their balcony, sometimes filled with questionable contents, at the women competing.  And the women are judged based on their cooking merits as if we have travelled back to the 1950s.  The entire event is bizarre.  The men attempting to fundraise do almost nothing while the sorority women cook, perform, and compete with one another while giving the fraternity their money.  Usually the people running a fundraiser provide a service or a good to be purchased by others rather than having someone else provide the goods, services, and money.  Also, if they wanted to make the most money possible, then wouldn’t it make more sense to allow anyone to create a team to compete rather than excluding every man on campus, every unaffiliated woman, and every upper-division sorority woman?  They are losing more than half of our school’s population.  But I suppose allowing more people to compete would ruin the point of making all of the sorority women vie for that fraternity’s attention.  It might even result in co-ed teams, or teams with participants from different classes or organizations.

Not that the entire onus is even on the fraternity in question; the sororities certainly also play their part.  The new members generally happily compete and the upper division women heavily encourage them to.  All for the glory of… winning Derby Days?  I personally love competition, and when I was a first-year member of a sorority our team ‘won’ Derby Days, and I was thrilled.  But stepping back from it, and having time to consider the event, what does it really mean?   It has no bearing even on our social lives at this University, which is basically the only thing it could affect.  Sororities are not avoided if they lose Derby Days, nor are the rewarded socially if they win.  The sororities also basically demonstrate the definition of hazing at Derby Days.  Only one pledge class competes, they all wear the same shirt that the upper-division women do not wear, and in many sororities, the upper-division women get all of the first-years drunk before sending them out to compete in front of upper-division men and women.  So why do we so heartily support it?  I have yet to figure this out, but if you have any thoughts please send them my way.

It is encouraging to hear that the majority of students polled at William and Mary at least acknowledged that the events there were “degrading to women” and encouraged “inappropriate behavior.”  Unfortunately, I do not think that would be the case on Washington and Lee’s campus.  Thus far, everyone I have spoken to about Derby Days do not find anything wrong with the event and is confused that I might.  Perhaps we can change that by getting the word out early in the year what potential issues with Derby Days are and how they can be corrected.  If nothing else, I think it should at least be more like Lip Sync in that it should be open to men and women at our school and in a public place, like Cannan Green.  However, I know that this will be a battle that will take much longer than just my time at Washington and Lee and will face a lot of indifference and opposition from students, sorority advisors, and perhaps the administration before it is resolved.