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The Blue & Gray Press | December 11, 2017

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Op-Ed: Attacks against Feminists United will not stop fight for change

Op-Ed: Attacks against Feminists United will not stop fight for change

By KELLI MUSICK

The University of Mary Washington is not a feminist-friendly campus. I acknowledge that by putting forth this statement I open the metaphorical floodgates for criticism, backlash and general opposition. I make this statement so that direct and lasting action can be taken in moving forward. I do so confidently, despite knowing I will not personally experience many of the positives to come. Because of this, I have been asked, “Why do you do it?” The answer is simple. I love the University of Mary Washington.

As vice president of Feminists United, this university has, at times, been a place of great support. Other times, I have received more pushback than I ever imagined possible. To the professors and peers who challenge me and this club to more critically examine the world, this school and ourselves: I am thankful. I am a better person and feminist for that.

This is the legacy of feminism and of all great social movements: that the struggle allows and demands those involved to become more focused and determined to effect change. My lived experience of sexism, rape culture, harassment and deeply-entrenched misogyny at the University of Mary Washington will not allow me to stand on the sidelines and be an observer. Nor can I allow myself, my opinions or my passion to be marginalized.

There exists a pattern within both the broader context of society and our charming microcosm of UMW in which women’s experiences are challenged, dismissed and denied. In a previous op-ed, my colleague Paige McKinsey had her personal experiences refuted in a public forum. Fundamentally, she was attacked. By speaking on behalf of a wider feminist collective, the experiences of club members were also mocked and denied. Nearly a dozen different commenters referenced Feminists United as bullies.

Fundamentally, Paige and our club were attacked. Rather than expressing horror at a Mary Washington rugby chant comprised of lyrics supporting sexual and physical violence against women, anonymous commenters denounced both she and our club for smearing the name of a prominent sports group. Rather than expressing empathy for Feminists United as victims of targeted online and street harassment, an anonymous student Yakked that they are “trying to have FUC listed as a hate group/terrorist organization.” Additionally, we were told to “Go join the caliphate if you desire so ardently to regulate human behavior” by another anonymous commenter named “PRIVILEGED MALE.” Both comments are done without the author taking any responsibility for their words, yet the assertion is that the latter is a valid critique of Feminists United and the former is a “far from a credible source,” according to article commenter “Billy Bob.”

What cannot be mistaken is that the ability to hide one’s identity is a historical tactic used by countless oppressive groups and cowards throughout history. Before the advent of technology, groups used clothing to hide and shirk ownership of their hateful actions. Today, well-dressed individuals seated next to one another in Town Hall meetings post factual lies and personal attacks from their cell phones via anonymous social media apps. While tangible inventions change, tools exist in every century to keep oppressors in a state of power by creating an unidentifiable, vague concept or mass, while the focus and debate is directed toward their individualized targets.

Feminists United will continue to educate, disrupt, dismantle, organize, strategize and fundamentally affect change at this campus. For me, this is unequivocally rooted in my love for the University of Mary Washington. As a liberal arts institution, the academic atmosphere fostered here is one of intellectual rigor, personal integrity, and dedication to excellence. From within many peers I see a relentless drive to make a difference, unparalleled by students at other institutions. Nonetheless, there are students and administrators who seek to cement the status quo rather than chip away at the gender, racial and religious hierarchies that continue to permeate campus dialogue and life. To conclude, I hark back to my opening: The University of Mary Washington is not a feminist-friendly campus because life is not feminist-friendly. We have the power to change that. By creating a collegiate space in which the fight for liberation is not exterminated, but rather encouraged, we can make both Mary Washington and our world a better place.

Kelli Musick is vice president of Feminists United

Comments

  1. Anonymous

    You guys are amazing! You all give a voice for those of us that are not confident enough to speak up. Thank you and keep being wonderful!

  2. Anonymous

    The fuck is a factual lie?

  3. Anonymous

    This is a lot of flowery language for nothing. Also, it’s affect change, not effect change. I noticed you used both spellings within your article. A little proofreading would have been ideal.

    Why did you write this article? To say that you aren’t backing down? That does not change anything the student body has claimed against FUC before. You ARE bullies. You verbally harass people on campus walk. You are no different than the cars on College Avenue who honk or make remarks to students.

    Maybe the problem ISN’T us; it’s you. I am a feminist, but I refuse to associate with FUC because of their tactics. I find them rude, offensive, and unwelcoming. And before you ask, yes, I have interacted with several of your members. These interactions only strengthened my opinion of your organization.

    Reflect inward, and find what is wrong with your organization. Until you listen to us, and actually listen (instead of just head butting against us), we won’t be listening to you.

  4. Anonymous

    Did Deepak Chopra write this thing, or what?

  5. Anonymous

    I am ashamed to be part of a school that thinks it’s acceptable to put a large disrespectful sign up on display that puts men down simply because they have a penis. I am ashamed that I dropped out of my Women’s Rights class because a self proclaimed feminist told me that I, “was not allowed to be an egalitarian”, simply because she believed that not labeling myself a feminist was a, “pussy move”.

  6. Anonymous

    So, let me get this straight….The vice president of FUC has to come in and clean up the mess that the president of FUC made exactly a week ago?

    We fucking get it- no need to reiterate the exact same thing and try so hard to make it seem like FUC can compose a well-written article. And “factual lie”?

    You all are wasting so much energy on irrelevant issues. If you put yourself out there on a hot topic, expect to have others, especially those with anonymity, oppose you and be incredibly rude. Worry about change and fighting for your cause, not about swaying the opinions of those who are against your cause, or worrying so much about what others think of you based on what you stand for.

  7. Nikki O

    To Anonymous: I believe a “factual lie”means a distortion of facts; it’s used in contrast to “poetic lie,” which means to distort reality while also revealing some measure of truth (e.g. metaphors and personification are poetic lies). Hope that clears things up.

    Also, you go Kelli! *thumbs up*

  8. Nikki Oestreicher

    Also to Anonymous:
    I am a feminist, and I, too, was appalled by the “Are you man enough?” sign. To whomever that came up with that slogan, that really, really was not a well-thought out move. I know you can do better.
    Anonymous, I am sorry that someone rudely invalidated your thoughts and feelings in your Women’s Rights class to the point where you felt the need to withdraw. While they are entitled to their opinions on your opinions, they should have been more patient, respectful, and reflective about your decision to identify as an “egalitarian.” It could have been a teachable moment, but unfortunately it was not.
    I am sorry that you are so angry at Feminists United. I’m not here to tell you to think or feel differently about them. Your anger is valid and it means something.
    I can only ask that anyone here that is angry at FUC, and anyone here that angrily defends FUC in response, to try to direct that anger towards positive change instead of perpetuating a back-and-forth bashing session in the comments section between pro-FUC students and anti-FUC students. As the comments section in Paige’s article showed, it is anything but productive, and will just culminate in more articles like this one, more bashing comments from all sides, more division, less empathy, and even less understanding.
    No one side here has sole responsibility for change and progress: pro-FUC students shouldn’t dismiss anti-FUC students’ anger simply as internalized misogyny/anti-feminism/”they’re attacking us we need to fight back”, nor should anti-FUC students attack FUC members (Kelli and Paige) and deny their feelings and experiences, however much they may disagree with them.
    I’m probably a deluded idealist here, but I think this has to be a two-way street for any change to happen, and something does need to change.

  9. Nikki Oestreicher

    *delusional idealist. Pardon the typo.

  10. umw student

    I don’t post my name because I don’t want to be directly attacked by FUC like a friend of mine was before me. I don’t need mg name tarnished, potentially putting future employment at risk. If that makes me a coward then so be it.

    Now on to my main point. FUC, you HAVE to change. You are all extremely stubburn, which if used appropriately can be extremely beneficial. Unfortunately you are not utilizing this trait correctly. You have attacked and used very questionable tactics. You have not listened to the student body that has explicity told you that you are going to far. You have not been open to change at all. You have been as sexist as the men that you are talking about. You seem to have forgotten that feminism don’t mean women deserve more rights then men, but that they deserve equal rights. Many feminists have said these same things, and for these reasons they do not join you.

    Also you have purposefully given yourself the acronym FUC. This is extremely disrespectful to those of us that actually do want change. You make light of a very serious problem by naming yourself FUC and then going on to say “see what we did there”… Why should we take you seriously if you don’t take yourselves seriously.

    Stop ignoring the majority of this campus,which happens to be female, and work to make yourselves better just like you expect everyone else to. I have seen the fraternities,who you have attacked directly, try extremely hard to help your cause despite your hate for them. They have tried to go to your meetings and have tried to got to seminars and talks. Yet you shun these groups and say its a publicity stunt…

    Lastly I just want to say I don’t want the Feminist United club to go away. I want them to continue to fight for equal rights. I just want to see them do it in a respectful manner.

    P.S. I wrote this on my phone which is difficult enough so please excuse any typos and such.

  11. Embarrassed Alum

    I believe that Feminist United should continue their fight, but it won’t get anywhere constantly making generalizations of people. You are doing the same actions to the rugby team, Greek life, and any other opposition as they have done to you. The high road includes an apology to those groups as well as feminists themselves. Everyone has their right to express their opinion, but there are more educated and mature ways to go about it.

  12. A fellow feminist

    The critique of this article so far is as trite as it is ignorant.
    The feminists WERE NOT BEHIND THE “MAN ENOUGH” campaign, and would agree that it is offensive, beside the point, and extremely heteronormative. The feminist agenda, both as demonstrated by FUC and the broader feminist movement IS NOT ANTI-MEN, OR ANTI-PENIS. In my whole time here, and on this fucking planet, I’ve never encounteted a feminist that hated men on principal. What we hate is the patriarchy. What we hate is narrowly defined gender roles, and the consequences of them. What we hate is ignorance. Egalitarianism is unecesssry when you realize and accept that femenism stands to benefit men as much as women. Gender roles and societal expectationa hurt us all. I’ve never been more disappointed with my fellow peers. Why is it that already, some of you turn to skepticism and anger before understanding and sympathy? Why are you already so jaded? I hope all my fellow feminists stay strong, and continue to uphold the caliber of integrity that I’ve seen so far. Fabulous article Kelli, it was well worded and full of the passion I know you possess.

  13. A fellow feminist- again

    The notion that the feminists need to apologize to anyone is ridiculous. They spoke out about something they believed strongly about, and were persecuted. Do they need to apologize for their existence? These articles? For exposing the unjust treatment they receive? What the fuck do you want from them?

  14. silence dogood

    So people like Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Samuel Clemons, etc are cowards because they used pen names and wrote anonymously?

  15. Jethro

    FUC is great and I’m glad they’re still active.

  16. Anonymous

    Rather than tearing groups like the rugby team and the fraternities down, why not accept their invitation to work together and come to an understanding with each other? These “misogynist” groups have reached out to FUC in the past and are denied (by the FUCkers) the opportunity to expand their knowledge of your cause and how they can help to improve their relationship with you and the rest of your club. Why not accept these invitations and create a sense of unity among students as well as progressing your beliefs? Right now all you are doing is creating a divide between the campus and pushing people away from your cause. Maybe if you weren’t so stubborn and confrontational and showed the possibility of listening to other peoples beliefs you might find UMW to be more feminist friendly than you know.

  17. WoC

    It doesn’t help that you are all white – in every photo and have no representation of other women, especially women of color. my problem with FUC isn’t their advocacy its their lack of diversity and therefore lack of true social change. but thats just me

  18. feminist

    lol how you access a computer? go back to kitchen!!

  19. Friend

    FUC wants to enact change on campus, but they will NOT change their methods, it seems.

    This post did not read as a well thought out response to the comments and backlash to the initial article, but more as a re-iteration of the same things Ms Mikinseys article stated.

    FUC, it’s clear a lot of students are unhappy with you. Unhappy does not mean uncooperative, though. Hold a survey on campus asking if your peers approve of same-sex equality. It would be silly to think that anyone would respond to such a survey as against it.

    We want you to achieve your goals, but we do not want to see those goals achieved by the stubborn, arrogant, and overly-defensive way you have been approaching it. Address the campus as your peers, not as your enemies.

    You put too much weight of your arguments into yik yak and songs sung by rugby teams worldwide, both of which were unsubstantial for your claim that our campus isn’t feminist friendly. Comment after comment said as much. But you do not put forth more information or situations, you harp on the same instances. Any comment from the initial article that wasn’t a mere ‘attack’ is not mentioned at all here. Why? I saw plenty of feedback and respectful suggestions in those comments, but you decide to ignore them all?

    Your peers at this school are not your enemies, we are your peers. If your outlook on the general student population is as negative and poor as these two articles have described, then it is no wonder you feel attacked.

    Peers, not enemies. Feedback, not attacks. Arguments, not anecdotes. Give us change, we will give you cooperation.

  20. Kristine H.

    Fantastic job on this article! You are a beautiful writer. I am new to UMW this semester but I am so excited to be a part of this vibrant club despite the ridiculous backlash. You all have really inspired me just in the past 3 weeks, and I just wanted to add some positivity to this thread 🙂

  21. Sir Hammerlock

    Yik Yak and third party accounts are hardly sources to defend your claims. Yik Yak is full of trolls and people who will say anything just to get under your skin. As for the whole guys rugby statement, any person can make that story up. If you want people on campus to take you seriously and to stop making fun of FUC, you need to show a tad bit more respect to your fellow students and stop making accusations against other organizations like the rugby team and Greek life. We read about the events of what happened to the Frats at UVA, which turned out to be false in the end. As for basically calling Anonymous posters “cowards” for not revealing their true identities, I find this very disrespectful because both men and women have made changes in the world through keeping their identities hidden. Overall, I feel as though FUC could be a respectful organization/club but attacking other organizations/clubs based on faulty information is the exact same thing you complain about when it happens to you. I feel as though you could make more of an impression on both the campus and the student body by simply working with these organizations to help make a change instead of trying to eradicate them.

  22. Student

    “What cannot be mistaken is that the ability to hide one’s identity is a historical tactic used by countless oppressive groups and cowards throughout history. Before the advent of technology, groups used clothing to hide and shirk ownership of their hateful actions. Today, well-dressed individuals seated next to one another in Town Hall meetings post factual lies and personal attacks from their cell phones via anonymous social media apps.”

    …did you just compare Yik Yak haters to the KKK?

  23. DQ

    ‘Friend’ brings up an excellent point. Demanding peace and being whiny and judgmental about it will get us nowhere. We need to work together as a campus, not just bash and generalize people. Please realize that everyone in the entire world has grown up differently and was raised in a different environment. For some people, college is the first time they’ve ever heard of feminism. Some people clearly just don’t understand feminism and FUC’s motives. Your job is to educate the public and raise awareness of important issues, and not by pointing fingers and creating a divide between “you” and “them” because who wants to associate with a group like that? Keep fighting and doing your thing, but realize that you serve as role models for what feminists are supposed to be like. Be strong, be loud, and be proud, but be patient. Change CAN happen, but not by forcing it down peoples’ throats.

  24. NotZakk

    What problem is FUC trying to solve?
    This is whining in search of an actual issue.

  25. Note Subjectivity

    Why is every criticism of FUC labeled as an attack? And why is every FUC position described as attack on men? Yes, both sides have been attacked on this issue, but both sides have been fairly criticized. What has not been fairly done is in an investigation by the Blue and Grey Op Ed writers about how both men and women rugby players both at UMW and across the nation sing the same songs. If you are truly invested in egalitarianism, then you will take a hard look at how both women and men contribute to patriarchy and heteronormativeity and not just men. If you only care about bashing men, then you only call out only one gender for singing these songs. If you actually want equal treatment, then both men and women who sing these songs must be put under the same microscope of feminist critique.

  26. Moderation is Key

    I am not a student at the University of Mary Washington. I am, however, from Virginia, and many of my high school friends chose to go to Mary Washington. I am a man, and (not but) I would certainly classify myself as a feminist. I’m also gay, which I don’t think is particularly important in general, but because of my audience and my personal experience I feel it may be relevant to my take on this issue. I mention this in part because, in a bizarre twist of ideology, there are those who would think my opinion more valuable because I am gay, whereas traditionally my opinion would have been less valuable. I don’t think there are many people these days who think I’m less smart because I’m gay, which I find rather amusing. While reading what I have to say, I ask those who would do so to not allow my sexuality to inflate their opinion of my point of view, just because I have less “privilege” or whatever. Everyone’s opinion should be valued the same amount, because everyone is a person, and everyone ought to have a voice.

    As a feminist, I’ve always been very disappointed when extremist feminist, and other “social justice” groups nit-pick songs, jokes, and phrases because they, or someone else, takes offense to them. Just because something can be offensive does not mean you should be utterly mortified by a joke someone tells. It’s important to remember that being offended is a choice. I go to college in Texas, and it’s not uncommon for people to make jokes about gay people. While I could be offended by these jokes, I am not. I prefer to laugh along with them, because by laughing along with these jokes, I show that I am comfortable with my place in society as a gay person, and that I don’t feel the need to constantly defend myself and my “gayness”. I know that the tellers of these jokes don’t think less of me because I am gay. After all, some of them are my closest friends. They ask my advice on things, and they care deeply about my personal well-being. If I were to eviscerate them and call them homophobic bigots every time they made a joke, it would be an unfair accusation. Jokes are not meant to hurt people. Jokes are meant to be laughed at. While there are some jokes that go too far, these jokes are few and far between, and people will usually not laugh at them because they are universally accepted as going too far. Do not feel the need to police others’ jokes. If you MUST take offense, do so quietly. It will make people like you more, and it’ll further your cause in the long run.

    I’m a freshman in college, and while some would say “wow being gay in Texas must be hard,” it’s really not. I have encountered several homophobic people, but my reaction to them is not to attempt character assassination against them by revealing their prejudice, but to befriend them. By trying to have them put in the proverbial stocks so that the public may throw tomatos and other rotten fruits (see what I did there? Don’t be offended!) at them only serves to further their dislike of gay people, and others who seek social change. Instead, by becoming their friend, they grow to appreciate me as a human, who happens to be gay. Once they are able to make a positive human connection to a gay person, their opinion of gay people as a whole improves, and many of the prejudices and stereotypes they held about gay people evaporate. It’s important to note that those who are racist, or sexist, or homophobic often don’t “hate” people of other races, or women, or gays. They often just don’t particularly care for or don’t give the same respect to the aforementioned groups. Because they don’t have a deep-seated hatred, their opinion and viewpoint can be changed, but your weapon must be the carrot, and not the stick. By using the stick, attempting to vilify and shame them into submission, you only create resentment. Try to remove prejudice through love and understanding; prejudice isn’t something someone can easily choose; one needs help removing it, and if you truly care about furthering the cause of justice and equality, you will help them, so that one day they will in turn help you. If you go around handing out what amounts to a social Treaty of Versailles, humiliating people with old-fashioned and less progressive viewpoints, you’ll just brew more hatred, which holds back change, and ends up helping no one.

    I don’t like homophobia, or racism, or sexism any more than the next guy. In fact, I think they’re pretty lame. I am doing my best not to nip it in the bud, but to grow the bud of inequality into a flower of equality. The only way to do that is through friendship, love, and civility. Maybe civility is just another one of those old-fashioned viewpoints that merits being burned at the proverbial stake. If that be the case, I am ready for the tomatos and the burning.

  27. George Orwell

    I will us the pen name George Orwell because that is the name which Eric Blair used when he wrote the book Animal Farm, which attacked the concept of communism, which I find relevant here, as it seems FUC on this campus isn’t seek equality by building themselves up as individuals, but more so an attempt to bring down and oppress others as they attempt to dismantle the mens rugby team and prevent members of the campus who are associated with greek organizations from flexing the rights and privileges owed to them.

    Feminism is defined as “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” What then I must ask is the FUC group pushing so adamantly for on this campus in regard to change? I have yet to find in either of their articles what social, political or other rights are not equal to men on this campus. Yet they are preventing women from having the same privileges as men when it comes to being associated with greek organizations, and don’t allow the men to congregate as a recognized group on campus a SOCIAL fraternity. Seems a bit ironic…

    There are many things that should certainly be different on this campus, but the fact that people would rather not be preached to about privilege from those who are privileged is not one of them. It seems hard for one to conceive that a school that allegedly runs deep with sexual misconduct, sexism, harassment and mysogyny can all the while be a school you can find an ounce of pride in. Please, actually point out where the sexual misconduct and sexism takes place so that it can be dealt with, I would much rather see that take place, and i would personally involve myself in carrying out the measures for that to happen.

    Yes there is a larger microcosm outside the gates of Mary Washington in which women are challenged. But don’t sit here and think you are the only group that faces challenges, but you know what you can do? You CAN rise above them. But you don’t need to bring problems which exist outside of these grounds, here. We aren’t saying that horrific things don’t happen in the real world, or that they haven’t happened to you and your peers, but you aren’t the only ones, so get off of your high horses and simply work to improve your lives. Stop worrying about irrelevant factors such as yik yak, which could simply be comprised of post of 1 or 2 individuals. You seriously can’t give something like that credibility.

    I can justify these statements because I am not a “white male” and I have been personally attacked by name on yik yak, and organizations I am involved with have been attacked on yik yak. But I do not give them any merit, because they sufficiently lack support of any kind. You all have attacked this entire school, by labeling all of us as members of this institution as unfriendly, and for that I would say an apology is in order. I implore any individual to find the flaw or hole in my reasoning on this.

    My last statement, GET OFF YOUR FUCKING HIGH HORSE! Your life is not so terrible, so get on with it, I do, I get harassed daily, but do you see me writing articles about how the campus is horrible towards my minority? NO!

  28. you go girl

    keep is real kelli, paige, and FUC. You guys are doing great things and should never be told to bow down before the masses.

  29. A statement from an alum

    If I am ever on an interview panel, anywhere, anytime and I see that someone was a member of the “Feminist United Campaign” (FUC FUC FUC) that person WILL NOT get a job with my company. You know why? You seem to have zero room for individual thought, you have very poor decision-making process and you seem to be setting yourself up for harassment charges and a lawsuit. I refuse to associate with people like you. You may walk away from meeting me thinking I am discriminating against you – no, I won’t deal with you because I don’t like small-minded people who bully others. How does that grab you, FUCCERS!

  30. student

    Hey FUC I’m calling you out. Respond to these comments. Show your proof. Cause as it stands you have listed 0 credible sources. You have also ignored every thoughtful comment and you have your cheer squad over here posting “good job! Keep trying to fuck over your fellow students!”

    You call people cowards for not using their name. Well I call yall cowards for not responding in an appropriate fashion.

  31. Anonymous

    many people here just dont understand what feminism is or the positive impact that FUC is doing. Keep on keeping on FUC!

  32. George Orwell

    Hey there, I’m back again. So seriously, what are you pushing for on this campus?

  33. umw student

    What positive impact are you talking about?? Please give me a specific example. Because their impact only seems yo be negative. People seem to be moving against true feminism. And its because of FUC. if they actully were positive don’t you think it would be opposite??? They won’t answer because they have none/they are to cowardly

  34. anonymous

    Hey, I’m going to comment as an anonymous user because it is within my rights to do so, regardless of whether FUC considers me a ‘coward’.

    Kelli and Paige are making null arguments. No one on campus feels any impact from these articles other than being pushed to criticize or support FUC.

    Notice that there isn’t any actual support for FUC policies or methods, just general support. Also notice that there is specific criticism of FUC policy and method.

    FUC doesn’t recognize either. They only respond to ‘attacks’.

    Get this group disbanded before they make a complete ruin of the idea of feminism in front of the entire campus.

    Their cause is just, their leadership is defunct.

  35. Anonymous

    I recently read an article about universities trying to ban yik yak. There was a paragraph that reminded me of FUC’s attitude towards this whole situation:

    “Our nation’s colleges are, for the most part, cranking out incredibly insular individuals who believe the world can be bent to their whims, thanks to the excessive coddling of every person whose feelings have been rubbed the wrong way by the abrasiveness of real life. It’s not enough that they’ll graduate saddled in debt and possibly armed with a useless degree. They’re also being dumped into a world where everyday nastiness can’t be papered over by tutting administrators and futile bans. Sure, we all would prefer the world be filled with “constructive” speech and “respectful” people, but it doesn’t work like that. By providing shelter rather than pushing students to take control of these situations, these universities are doing their students — and the future of this country — a huge disservice.”

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150208/17483229953/university-thinks-yik-yak-ban-it-cant-possibly-enforce-will-fix-its-hate-speech-problem.shtml