Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More stuff I don't want to write about (but will anyway).

Recently I had my 25th college reunion.  My old roommate and I rehashed the Viking incident.  In the middle of our discussion, I got this text from a former student (shared with permission):

Just stumbled across your blog. Weirdly, when I lived in Willetts my first year I had almost the exact same experience as your roommate - except I kicked the drunk person out before he passed out. My roommate was away (at a frisbee tournament) and a drunken football player stumbled into my room somehow,
I think he thought it was his room since he proceeded to lie down in my roommate's empty bed and try to go to sleep before asking me what I was doing in his room. Fortunately he did not pee in my fridge nor try to get in bed with me.  I dragged him out of her bed - not sure how since he was probably twice my size -- and threw him out and locked the door.

Clearly this was not a case of sexual assault, but more a case of a confused drunk who did not know where he was. What amazes me as I look back on it was that I think I still kept my door unlocked at night after that. I think I felt like locking my door would not have been in keeping with the trusting Quaker ethos of Swarthmore. As I look back on it I'm also not sure how I would have responded had he continued to insist it was his room and try to sleep in my roommates empty bed. Would I have felt comfortable waking up an RA? I don't know. I might have felt it was something that I should have resolved peacefully and amiacbly in the Quaker way since there didn't appear to be any malicious intent, just drunken confusion, even though the situation was obviously inappropriate.
My point in sharing that was twofold. I wanted to say how much I respect the work you're doing sharing the stories of women who have been victims of sexual assault and then been abandoned or discredited by the their college administrations. But more specifically to thank you for sharing a story that caused me to reflect more personally and deeply on how the pervasive culture on a college campus could prevent and discourage women from reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment or takings steps to prevent assault that would seem commonplace anywhere else (eg locking their door at night)
I think the writer hits on something really important here.  At SLACs (Small Liberal Arts Colleges), people are encouraged to think of themselves as temporarily living apart from the real world, that the college is an especially trusting intellectual community.  There is no doubt that the alumni who came back to the reunion are all deeply committed to Swarthmore and many of us are saddened by Swat's continued inability to solve the problems.    But it's not our problem to solve, at least not directly.  Many of us are trying to raise kids in sex positive, safe, consent oriented ways.  The problem here is that our generation didn't figure it out, so in raising our kids we don't have huge positive models.  It's a whole lot of "don't do this."  And as Withywindle has pointed out, some of these tropes predate the modern world.   

Taking down patriarchy is a long, slow slog that isn't going to happen overnight.  So as much as I don't want to keep writing these posts, I'm going to as long as people keep sending me their stories.  Someday, I hope I won't have to, but today is not that day.  Sigh.   


  1. On a lighter note--how was the reunion?

  2. I have to keep saying this: NOTHING is 'taken down' in one generation. The work of altering minds takes many generations and, as we see, a stable economy or perhaps a growing one. Fifty years now of working on race -- and that's just the form we can see. Why would patriarchy be faster? What about class? Ethnicity? Sunni-Shia? etc.

  3. @Withy The reunion was delightful. A good time was had by all despite some rather severe injuries sustained by a classmate that required a hospital trip (old people should not play kickball). As I said on FB, the problem with Swarthmore reunions is reintegration afterwards. IRL, nobody wants to argue! I guess that's why the internets were invented.