Letter to the Editor: In response to ‘Feminism is more than just sex positivity

To my fellow feminists, to the Purple staff, and to the Sewanee community as a whole:

I want to preface this letter by clarifying that my statements here are in no way a representation of the Wick as a whole. As a Wick resident, my opinions and perspective is inevitably informed by the fact that I live in the Women’s Center, but with that being said, please read the following sentiments as my thoughts as an individual who recognizes her privilege and her bias and tries to check them every day.

I am always so glad when outlets such as The Purple shed light on social issues on campus. Articles critiquing activism on campus, in my view, can help strengthen social movements by providing constructive feedback. When someone vocalizes a complaint about Wick programming, you can bet that in our meetings, we discuss it. When someone publishes an article on how the Wick’s programming this year has focused disproportionately on sex positivity, we’re going use it to better ourselves. By no means, in my experience, do we discount criticism just because we disagree with it.
As someone who identifies as a feminist, happens to be a resident of the Wick, and is involved in many other student organizations on campus, I do have to express my disappointment over some of the sentiments expressed in this editorial. Of the ~50 events the Wick has hosted or co-sponsored this year alone, a relative few of them have focused solely on sex positivity. Admittedly, the sex positivity oriented events have been some of the biggest (Cliteracy, Best Sex Ever, etc.) But consider why those are the biggest. They’re the ones students show up to. They’re the ones Purple writers show up to.
I know that our programming isn’t perfect. I know that as an organization, the Wick is flawed. Our out-going co-directors, Sarah and Michelle, know it better than anyone out there criticizing us. We spend our Saturday nights out being accosted for what we believe in, and we try our best to welcome it. So before you critique the fact that we haven’t done enough of this or of that, maybe consider that we’ve done more than you think we have. Y’all just haven’t shown up. 
Before you call us out for not doing programming on women in the military, read our weekly newsletter, “Her Side of the Story” or go to the SUT documentary we co-sponsored with the Cinema Guild that specifically focused on military rape, “Invisible War.” If you want to talk abortion, then you could have come to our Amendment 1 discussion with Students for Life representatives last semester. Did you know that it was the Wick who chalked the sidewalks late at night in freezing weather to advertise “Obvious Child?” Oh, and sexist linguistic norms? I’m pretty sure Wick residents hear them and call them out every single day. The porn industry? When we tackle that one, we’ll get criticized for being too sex positive yet again. Beauty norms? It was the Wick who woke up at 7 am to put body positive messages on bathroom mirrors on the first day of class last year. Of course we wish we could dedicate all of our time and effort to each of these issues, but as one resident says, the Wick is organic, residents have their own thoughts and passions, and there’s rarely ever a perfect distribution of interests or concerns. If you aren’t being represented, shoot one of us an email. Suggest an event. Apply to the house yourself.
 I don’t expect our fellow students to attend every single Tuesday Toast (which this year has covered maternal health in Bangladesh, mentoring in the local community, No Labels–which focuses on politics–and many other topics), or Pinnacle Luncheon (we’ve had one on virginity, one on domestic violence, one on men in feminism, one on feminist blogging, and more), or to sit through every Monologue (some of them focused on issues like immigration, war in foreign countries, addiction, domestic violence, just to name a few). But I do expect students to know that those events are happening. Critique them, critique us, but know what you’re critiquing.
Another aspect of the article that I found not only incorrect but personally insulting was the recommendation that we should “talk about every aspect of feminism—not just the convenient ones.” First of all, it is impossible to talk about or even name every aspect of feminism, but with God as my witness, we are trying. Secondly, to assume that anything we do is for the sake of convenience is naive and condescending. Explaining to my parents why I support a giant gold clit is not convenient. Skipping lunch to talk to a Dean about sexual assault is not convenient (for me or for that Dean, who drops everything to talk). Having an event cancelled last minute after hours of preparation because it’s too controversial is not convenient. Having these same old conversations explaining these same issues again and again—yeah, it’s pretty inconvenient. Of course our programming is going to reflect our interests, and of course we are not as intersectional or wide-reaching as we should be, but to think that we take the easy way out on anything is fallacy. If I sound self-righteous, I apologize. I know we can sound like we’re trying to martyr ourselves sometimes when really we’re not doing much compared to our feminist forebears who fought for the right to vote or Roe v. Wade. But hear me out.
We are certainly not “unintentional.” All of our events and decisions take hours of discussion, planning, and often physical labor. If we leave something out, and I know we do, it was not for lack of trying to include it. Contrary to popular belief, feminism is not a checklist and its issues cannot be tokenized. We can’t just check off immigration because we sponsored an event on it, or cross off periods because we had an entire week dedicated to women’s health. All these issues are inextricably tied, all of our issues fall onto a spectrum, and it is not your job, nor mine, to decide which ones take precedence in a movement for equality that’s bigger than all of us.
YSR,
Gracie Gibson

One thought

  1. Hey Gracie! Thanks for your response! I hope it’s clear that my original intent was never to criticize, only to offer suggestions to help the Wick expand its (already incredible) message. I would more than happily write an opinions piece similar to my initial article for every organization I care about, including the Purple, as I believe every group has room to grow. I know it’s impossible for one group to address absolutely everything, and I know you guys put so much effort into covering important issues (avid reader of Her Side of the Story!) Regardless, the disproportionate focus on sex positivity was brought to my attention by some of my peers, and while I certainly did not mean to imply the Wick never addresses other issues, I think social perception of how popular the issues are still plays a big role. Of course, the article was my opinion and in no way should the Purple as a whole be held accountable for my views. Cheers to working together in the future, YSR, and EQB!

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