By Zainab Iqbal
Published: November 29th, 2017
“When women’s bodies are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
A dozen students, along with BC Classics professor Nicholas Rynearson, held posters and chanted slogans that accompanied the #MeToo movement all across campus on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
The “Stand with Survivors” speak-out was organized by BC Women of Color, Brooklyn College Socialists, and the BC Sociology Club. It was an opportunity for the Brooklyn College community to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
According to Daphna Thier, the president of BC Socialists, there was a club meeting a couple of weeks ago about sexual violence, which many people attended. Students said they wanted to be a “part of something that challenges the systemic, widespread nature of sexual violence,” she said. And that’s when they decided to do just exactly that—a speak-out on campus.
“It’s good for women to voice their opinions,” BC senior Temitope Jinad said. “[The speak-out] is important because it gets the message out and maybe if there’s a girl in school who was sexually assaulted, she could be encouraged to speak out.”
#MeToo, a powerful movement that swept across social media, gained a lot of attention after multiple women accused Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Soon after, in what was dubbed the “Weinstein effect,” many other men in the industry were accused of sexual harassment or assault. This inspired women and men all across the globe to come forward and share their stories of sexual harassment. Even if they weren’t able to share the stories, many simply acknowledged that they were harassed. And according to Thier, the “Stand with Survivors” speak-out was encouraging the BC community to do the same—it was letting them know they were not alone.
Thier paused and then her eyes reddened and filled with tears.
“#MeToo is my personal story,” she said. “But it’s also what connects my personal story to lots of other women and people around the world.”
“Ask for consent,” was another chant heard when the group was walking from the East Quad to the West. According to the event page on Facebook, the #MeToo movement “isn’t a movement reserved for white wealthy and middle class women: It’s multi-racial and working class.” This is why Thier wants the campus to get together and resist injustice.
“So often protest is done in darkness and isolation,” Thier said. “Women and other victims feel shame. We want to challenge that isolation because it’s a collective experience and that’s what the meeting and movement exposed.”
Melissa Beagle, a BC junior, also believes it’s highly important for students to voice their concerns on campus, as many go unheard.
“But even the [survivors] that are heard, usually aren’t taken into consideration because by then it’s too late,” Beagle said. “There’s no proof to back it up. Then the accusers are called liars, the accused play the victim card, and the cycle of fear to admit when something has happened to you fulfills its own propagation.”
Though the three organizations collectively worked to put the speak-out together, Thier says it was a struggle.
“It’s a struggle to be an activist on campus,” Thier said. “And I know a lot of other activists on campus have experienced that in particular.”
This isn’t the first sexual assault awareness event at BC. On Oct. 24, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez hosted a symposium at BC to discuss sexual assault on campus. Last March, the DA’s office created a new task force to aid survivors called the Campus Sexual Assault Response Initiative.
“I heard the march pass my window today,” Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson told The Excelsior. “It was wonderful to hear the chant I shouted when I went to college 30 years ago (‘Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no’) being shouted at Brooklyn College today. It is sad that we still need to say it, but it is also inspiring that students still believe in the work of gender justice.”
Yesterday’s #MeToo speak-out came almost four weeks after a BC alum contacted The Excelsior about two uncomfortable experiences she had in 2009 and 2011 with a current BC faculty member, who was “incredibly pervy” during both experiences. Because the story is still under investigation, The Excelsior has chosen to maintain both the alum’s and the faculty member’s anonymity.