On the power of visibilty
In response to Mark Gracyk’s article in last week’s Echo concerning the Civil Discourse, we hope to offer some points of clarification, specifically on the power and impact of visibility. For an article that attempts to motivate students to make “real change on campus,” Mr. Gracyk’s message is hardly empowering; rather, it is silencing.
To start, Mr. Gracyk’s comments that “last year’s Skirt Day ‘debacle’ turned the Discourse into one gigantic, angry, estrogen-filled screech that went on and on about the evils of males at Colby” and that “if you believe that a bunch of random boys telling you to go change is the biggest, most pressing, most life threatening issue present today, then I do not care about your opinion” must be addressed. The response to the Skirt Day incident was not about “the evils of males,” but was instead about the evils of institutional, sexist infrastructures and the sexist situations that women are often subjected to on a daily basis. Both women and men spoke out against sexism, which was both empowering and effective. Moreover, the women who responded on the digest never phrased the event as “the most life threatening issue present today” but rather conceptualized it as a protest against one of the many microaggressions that women regularly face in society. Autonomy should not be a privilege, but a right.
Moreover, acts of prejudice are hardly isolated events, but part of greater hegemonic systems of power. Mr. Gracyk seems to have obviously overlooked this point when he wrote, “I could be wrong, but last time I checked there was a famine in Somalia, a financial meltdown in Europe, political instability in the Middle East and raging violence in Mexico. If someone laughs at a gay pride sticker on your door, I don’t see how one stranger’s act of drunken ignorance overshadows all of these crises.” When a student speaks out against one form of prejudice, they are hardly attempting to overshadow other forms of prejudice.
It takes courage for our fellow students to speak up about the recent use of homophobic language in both AMS and the gym. To write these microaggressions off as insignificant both disrespects the bravery of these students and fails to recognize how seemingly small incidences work against the safe and accepting community we are constantly working to create here at Colby. Indeed, how can we, as Colby graduates, be expected to help make progress on national and global issues if we do not first learn how to face the problems on our own campus and to speak out against them?
Central to changing a problem is making the problems one hopes to change visible. Our generation has been gifted with a mode of making our voices heard on a wide scale: the Internet. We have the power to make criticisms about our community public in order to make them stronger. The Echo provides one such space; however, it is edited, approved and fairly formal. The Civil Discourse provides an informal, accessible and relatively immediate space for members of our community to voice concerns. Using the Internet to facilitate change is hardly unique to Colby. Over the last four weeks, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook have helped create a worldwide movement called Occupy Wall Street. Mr. Gracyk talks about “political instability in the Middle East”, but the civilian uprising in Egypt was born out of a digital platform.
Singular voices are not as powerful as group discourse, and one article in a newspaper doesn’t get us very far. We have at our fingertips the power to quickly communicate our concerns and Colby would be remiss if we were to not use one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to better our community.
In his book, Change the World Without Taking Power, John Holloway describes the multiple dimensions of a scream. He explains that when we cry out against oppression, we express not only our pain, but our vision for the possibilities of the future. He writes, “Our scream...is two-dimensional: the scream of rage that arises from present experience carries within itself a hope, a projection of possible otherness.” While you may simply hear an “estrogen filled screech,” we, as women leaders and as activists on this campus, will continue to scream out our hope for what Colby can be.
Trust us, we are just getting started.
Sincerely, Carla Arohnsohn Hannah DeAngelis Berol Dewdney Ruth Frank-Holcomb Laura Maloney Nicole Sintetos