121 Casual Fridays are for Discussing Sexual Assault and Queer Ecology

Katherine Whitcomb

For my Critical Theory in the Community experience, I attended Take Back the Night on April 27th, 2018. This event takes place all over the world in which people take a stand against sexual violence, especially against women (find more information here: Take Back the Night). This year’s event was the second annual TBTN for Plymouth State University’s organization, SAVE All. SAVE All (Sexual Assault and Violence Education Alliance) was founded in 2016 and their goal is to “raise awareness and prevention of sexual assault and sexual violence through meetings and events”. Speakers featured included a representative from the university’s counseling center, Voices Against Violence, Merrimack County Advocacy Center, Cambridge Eating Disorder Center, and To Write Love on Her Arms.

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All these organizations came to speak about the hidden aspects of the world that many people don’t wish to see, and so they pretend that they don’t. Paige Schoppmann touched on this in her speech where she quotes what some people have said to her, “‘rape isn’t a problem, I don’t understand feminists, they gotta chill'”, which brings me to relate this event to both Feminist Theory and Queer Ecology.

In the aspect of Feminist Theory, Take Back the Night works to recognize and empower women through the struggles that they face in the world, specifically through the events of sexual assault and violence. Women aren’t painted as people who just need saving anymore (that dang damsel in distress stereotype), but they forge a way for everyone to become part of the conversation and resolution to acts against and perceptions of women that are harmful. In this way, TBTN and it’s affiliates work in an attempt to create a better world (not only for women but they are a large demographic). Rivkin and Ryan question this effort through their critique of texts, “what does it mean here to speak of ‘a better world for women’?” (R/R 769).

Culture is critiqued heavily at an event like this and the conversation helps to define the kind of world we expect to live in as feminists (and just general members of society). Often people refer to the patriarchy and how it enables men who violate others to gain power over them through violence. Not all who partake in these actions are male, but an overwhelming history of violence by males towards females creates this dialogue. A shift away from gender came into play when discussing sexual assault as a whole. The Clothesline Project hung t-shirts of varying colors to symbolize what victims had gone through, each color reprsenting a different act/result that someone who had been assaulted faced. These shirts were hung in solidarity with and remembrance of those assaulted, regardless of the sex/gender of the individual.

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The cultural critique leads to Queer Ecology in that many dirty parts of society are discussed. The conversation extends beyond Nature/nature to human life, “At Christmas 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared that if tropical forests deserve our “protection,” then “the human being” (defined as “man” and “woman”) deserves it no less: ‘We need something like human ecology'” (Morton 273). Schoppmann’s speech reached out beyond the violence that occurs through sexual assault, “2018 has been a year of difficult news stories; terrorist attacks, supremacy and discrimination, and more sexual abuses in the media than ever before”. To Write Love On Her Arms and the Merrimack County Advocacy Center discussed emotionally disturbing topics such as self harm and sexual assault against children. Every group brought new issues to light, digging up the nitty-gritty parts of society that make your stomach churn. Queer Ecology demands that people take their rose-colored glasses off and look at the world for how it stands, not as they wish it would exist. No one brings up sexual assault or terrorist attacks at the dinner table, and not many people would devote their Friday night to discussing such topics.

Shameless Plug: Join PSU SAVE All Wednesdays at 8:00 PM in Hyde 234 next semester (!!!)

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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Katherine Whitcomb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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