Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Struggle to stop sexual violence engenders artistic expression

The stand against sexual violence on campus has taken a creative turn. With the “Take Back the Night” rally today, April 19 and the release of a new zine, “Breaking Ground,” Whitman College students seek to combat sexual assault with artistic expression.

Over the past month, Whitman has seen growing campus engagement in the discussion around sexual assault. Several student groups as well as individuals have banded together to raise awareness, activism and to keep the discussion rolling through various media.

“I think people are inspired to talk about sexual assault because it is so not spoken about, but it is such an important issue,” said senior Emma O’Rourke-Powell, politics major and member of the Coalition Against Homophobia. “It’s something that really does need to be addressed, so trying in different ways to create a dialogue about sexual assault and how we can work against it is really important.”

O’Rourke-Powell currently serves as the Coalition sponsor for the second annual “Take Back the Night” rally. A program centered on re-claiming the night as a “safe space,” the rally is a two-part event involving a candlelit walk from Reid Campus Center to the outdoor amphitheater, and an open mic performance for music, poetry and sharing of personal stories.

“It’s a march both in solidarity with the victims of sexual misconduct and for those who you would march in protection of,” said junior Michael Putnam, an unaffiliated member of the TBtN planning committee. “It has that double aspect where it’s against the bad things that have happened, but it also feels like a hopeful approach.”

The rally happens to fall on the same day as the release of “Breaking Ground,” an art zine created by senior F.A.C.E. members Ellie Newell, Alice Minor and Mehera Nori.

“There is some vaginal art, some photography of vaginal objects in our world, and I think pen and ink drawings, as well as some chemical printing,” Newell said of the zine’s content. “One of the more powerful pieces was done by Madeleine Peterson, a junior, and she took a huge sheet of paper and scribbled on it with a black ball point pen, because when she thinks of rape, she gets that angry. It’s this incredibly angry, powerful piece. Lisa Beneman has done a series of really beautiful prints that are more metaphorical. It’s going to be all over the place.”

“Breaking Ground” will hopefully become a safe place for people to share their experiences with sexual violence and have their voices heard.

“This is my parting shot. With The Pioneer’s good work and the ‘Vagina Monologues,’ and a whole bunch of other things combined, I’m really seeing that the culture is changing and the people are talking,” said Newell. “I don’t know if that will actually result in one less person being raped, but if it did, then it would all be worth it. I see it as a really receptive community right now and that there’s a lot of buzz for these issues.”

It is this very buzz that inspired the united efforts of the two events. Through art, the sponsors and organizers of “Take Back the Night” and “Breaking Ground” hope to find a unique way of reaching out to students otherwise uncomfortable or closed to the topic.

“I think that because art is necessarily performative it’s a way of communicating with people that doesn’t subject you to all the negative things,” said Putnam. “It’s a different way of trying to connect with people. You can testify that ‘this is what happened to me’ and all these negative people respond back and say ‘that isn’t rape.’ Art is a way of communicating that elevates what you’re trying to do above all that stuff, and without pointing fingers.”

“If this just leads to a 15 minute conversation over dinner with your friends, that’s worth it,” Newell said of the week’s events. “Because if we don’t talk about it, then we can’t do anything to change it.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *