Susan, we have a problem!!!

Good morning world. Wake up and smell the rape culture strongly in bloom all around us.

As of late there has been an alarming trend being reported at minimum on a weekly basis.  Strong, brave, empowering women are speaking up about the rape culture that we live in… and in response, society is threatening to rape them.  Thank you society.  Because we needed our point proven further.

I wrote about Zerlina Maxwell who went on FOX News to discuss our culture of rape and violence who suggested the novel idea that teaching individuals not to rape would be the ultimate way to prevent rape.  Despite my tendency for sarcasm, I am 100% genuine with this statement, because as common sense as it seems, teaching people that rape is wrong and unacceptable, that individuals have a right to their own bodies, and that no one is entitled to another individual, are not lessons that are taught on a regular basis in our society.

Carolyn Luby, my peer at the University of Connecticut, wrote a sophisticated, respectful and well-spoken open letter to the president of the university, Susan Herbst.  Herbst has spent her recent time in office working with Nike to design a new face for the university’s husky mascot through her “New University Visual Identity Program”.  Personally I hate change for the sake of change and feel that Herbst’s time could have been utilized focusing on much more essential issues, i.e., her plan to hire five-hundred new faculty and staff members for the university in a four year time period.  Thus far, at the end of year one, less than 70 of these proposed positions have been filled.  Or, better yet, she could address the issues of misogyny, sexism and sexual assault that are currently plaguing her campus.

Luby, wrote about Herbst’s focus on the mascot as a depiction of the University of Connecticut’s student athletics program.  Herbst’s comments that the mascot had be previewed and approved of by coaches and student athletes made clear where her focus is situated.  Luby appropriately reminded Herbst of the recent events that have revealed prominent athletic team members as exhibiting less than the “poise, confidence, competitiveness, and the determination to succeed in the classroom and on the field and the court” that she credits them with.

Luby speaks as a survivor of sexual assault, more eloquently than I am able, in response to women’s basketball coach, Geno Auriemma’s statement that the new mascot “is looking right through you and saying, ‘Do not mess with me.’”:

What terrifies me about the admiration of such traits is that I know what it feels like to have a real life Husky look straight through you and to feel powerless, and to wonder if even the administration cannot “mess with them.” And I know I am not alone.

We know Carolyn is not alone, as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men on college campuses has been the victim of sexual assault.

When I heard about Carolyn’s letter, I was so proud of my fellow student and feminist for speaking up against the rape culture we reside in.  However, two days following her letter going public, Carolyn has been harassed with comments as she walks across campus, spammed on her university email account, and verbally violated by the atrocious commentary and posts on Barstool Sports.  She’s been threatened with sexual assault and rape for speaking out against the culture.  I’m not even going to link to this horrendous site and I hope others don’t feel the need to search it, to give the organization the satisfaction of another viewing.

Here is some further food for thought:

  • When Carolyn went to the campus police about the harassment she was receiving online and on campus, the police took down her statements and recommended to she go to the police force whose jurisdiction is over her off-campus housing location, because the UConn police couldn’t protect her there. 
  • Despite the fact that a student wrote her a sophisticated and public letter, and is now being told she is danger in her campus community, Susan Herbst has yet to make a public statement or acknowledge these events.
  • The more mild commenters on Barstool Sports have stated that they stopped reading Luby’s letter after she identified herself as a feminist, because they felt this somehow negated her beliefs.
  • Various “supporters” of Luby on Facebook and other social media sites have felt the need to state that they approve of Luby’s stance, but don’t worry, they don’t identify with the f-word… feminist!
  • On the Change.org petition to President Susan Herbst, presented by The Feminist Wire, entitled, “UConn: Denounce Threats Against a Student and Make Campus Safer for Everyone”, individuals have signed and commented from across the nation, India, Canada, and Tanzania.  One supporter from India writes, “It’s really amazing that misogyny and violence against women is rampant in the US which is [supposed] to be the land of equal opportunities, freedom and equality. This country is on par with less developed nations in terms of attitudes to women.” Tell it like it is.
  • UConn student activists, who proudly and avidly identify themselves as feminists, are planning…something (TBA).  Personally, although I have been infuriated by the frequent speak-out-against-rape-culture-get-threatened-with-rape events as of late, this is MY peer, MY campus, MY community, and the safety of my friends, family, and colleagues that is at stake.  And although it is exhausting (dear God, this work is exhausting… and frustrating… and triggering!) I have to do something, to make a statement and take action against the college culture that is potentiating violence and sexual assault.  If you want to get involved, leave a post for more information and who to contact.

To read Carolyn Luby’s full letter to President Susan Herbst:

http://thefeministwire.com/2013/04/an-open-letter-to-uconn-president-susan-herbst/

Sign the petition on Change.org for Susan Herbst to take a stand on the issue of sexual violence and make campus a safer place for everyone:

http://www.change.org/petitions/uconn-denounce-threats-against-a-student-and-make-the-campus-safer-for-everyone?utm_campaign=twitter_link&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition

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