Pretty cool retrospective of 2017. What’s missing? Whose missing? Whose issues are missing? Say up in the comments!
Pretty cool retrospective of 2017. What’s missing? Whose missing? Whose issues are missing? Say up in the comments!
On Thursday November 30, 2017, in Peck Hall on our own SIUE campus, a message was written on the chalkboard during a several hour gap between classes. That message read as follows:
“NO PERSON OF AFRICAN Descent Shall be Citizen of The U.S…. NOR were they ever Intended to be”
Dred Scott Decision <— GOOGLE IT
What’s YOUR NATIONALITY? <—Million Dollar Q
For context on the SIUE administration’s quick response, see this article. For some background on the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, which held that two former slaves were not citizens according to the U.S. constitution because of its original form and was long ago overturned by constitutional amendment, see this short article or this longer one.
This is but one of many messages on campus over the years that seem intended to mark non-white students, faculty, and staff out as not belonging here, in this case Black students, faculty, and staff in particular. The SIUE Women’s Studies Program Statement on White Supremacy and Racism on Campus was our reply to an incident in September of this year. There have been others. Many faculty have spent the day offering comfort and a listening ear to each other and to our students. For this incident, we compiled several Women’s Studies Faculty responses to give a few different perspectives.
Connie Frey Spurlock, Associate Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies, Faculty Director SIUE Successful Communities Collaborative: “Ecosystems thrive and flourish because they are rich with diversity. The same is true for human communities. Universities offer us opportunities to learn about and engage in authentic diversity and to realize the value of it in our work, our play, our art, and our struggles. White supremacy has no home at SIUE.”
Saba Fatima, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Religious Studies Advisor: “This is not just about one particular interest, but about the larger patterns of anti-black racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, hatred …. we must resist this hatred! For the vulnerable and marginalized amongst us who are at the frontlines of receiving hate in virtue of our identities and are burnt out, I say: engage in self-care. And for the rest, especially those who carry any mount of privilege, I say: use your privilege wisely and resist!”
Anushiya Ramaswamy, Professor, English Language and Literature: “We need to remember that the presidency of Obama was plagued by similar sentiments about his citizenship, and in the months leading to the 2012 election, the so-called Birther movement promoted the fake news that he had been born a Kenyan Muslim.”
Linda Markowitz, Professor, Chair of the Sociology Department: “Universities are places to shed our prejudices, not places to dive into them more. We are failing at SIUE if students are confused about our mission.”
Darci Schmidgall, Lecturer, Sociology: “We the people have long since decided that the original intent of the Constitution, which defined slaves as 3/5 of a person, should be amended, and that all persons born in the United States, regardless of what socially constructed racial category those persons are defined as being a part of, are citizens of the United States. The nationality of African Americans is American; we the people now rightfully includes people of diverse global descent, and we the people are stronger because of this beautiful diversity. When will white supremacy cease to vex the American spirit? That’s the million dollar question.”
Alison Reiheld, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Director of Women’s Studies: “When I saw this, I had three thoughts. First, this idea is common in American white nationalism which currently goes by the name ‘alt-right’ and is on the rise. The whiteness of this nationalism is part and parcel of the rhetorical question this message asks: ‘what is your nationality?’ It is unlikely to have been innocently left; whoever left it must have known–or ought to have known–how it would make members of our community feel yet they deliberately left it where it would be seen. They should have known that this would intimidate, and likely did since this rhetoric is such a key part of American white supremacist propaganda. Second, we must be able to talk about the history of racism in our nation, a history that is nowhere more explicit than in historical judgments like Dred Scott v. Sandford. Universities talk about ideas. But to discuss that history is not to advance it. Advancing it would cut out members of our community of learning. That’s not how universities work. That’s not how any of this works. Third, how do those of us who disagree profoundly with this kind of claim show our solidarity with those who are, and for generations have been, targeted by it? How best do we counter it?”
SIUE Women’s Studies stalwart Christy Ferguson, SIUE English, has taught our introductory WMST 200: Issues in Feminism course several times. Most recently, she conceived a project to get her WMST 200 students involved in spreading the word about their own developing convictions. With a box of chalk and an evening class, the students went out onto the quad. Here, Ferguson writes about this activity and society’s, and the students’, need for feminism.
Understanding why feminism is still an important aspect of our culture, has become a continuous area of contention within our culture. For many years, the feminist community has been bombarded with naysayers claiming that feminism is no longer a necessity. This has become problematic in terms of enacting change within our sociological and political systems. One way feminists are attempting to continue to endorse and explain feminism’s necessity, is through social media platforms. One such action, is posting a picture of oneself holding a hand-written sign that explains the sometimes simple, and oftentimes complex, reasons why feminism is in fact, still an integral part of our ever-changing cultural climate.
My WMST 200 course took to the Stratton Quadrangle on Halloween day to express their individually chosen reasons for needing feminism. Everyone’s statement was not just valid, but unique to their own experiences. Their statements ranged from cat-calling to health to body shaming to rape. These students bravely expressed their need for feminism in a public forum to show the community how important it is.
Dr. Jill Schreiber, SIUE Department of Social Work, brings us this reflection on a hot-off-the-presses article about the ways in which faculty abuse other faculty, or enable abusers. What does this look like? What should faculty do differently to protect each other from abuse? And lastly, a question that won’t be answered here but should be asked, how can faculty protect students on campus when they cannot trust their own colleagues? For more on this issue, see also the superb book Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia.
“In the humanities, our approach to bullying, manipulation, coercion, and control is made worse by the fact that we spend our days critiquing gender norms, power structures, and injustice — convinced that we will speak truth to that power if we ever run across it in real life. We are all good liberals, we think. Abuse couldn’t happen here….And yet it does.”
–K.A. Amienne, “Abusers and Enablers in Faculty Culture”, ChronicleVitae, November 3 2017
As a pre-tenure female faculty member, I have been painfully aware of the privileges I have received as a white person, while at the same time, noticing the challenges of being a woman in all too traditional an institution. I joined the Women’s Studies listserv this fall and have been grateful for the advocacy on issues of both race and gender for our students. However, I am aware that institutional issues of oppression are present for faculty too. I have seen it and it has happened to “Me too.”
A colleague recently sent me the link to an article from the ChronicleVitae, which markets itself as “the only online career hub that makes it easier and more rewarding for faculty and administrators to do their jobs each day.” The article, Abusers and Enablers in Faculty Culture, is the one from which I pulled the quote, above. It spoke truth for me. It addressed the ‘long-term effects of systemic, sexist dysfunction in academe’. It helped put into words my experiences and validated my feelings. I share it with you in the hopes that we together can continue to notice and respond to instances of abuse on our campus, for our faculty as well as our students.
The following statement was developed as a group with input from many members of the SIUE Women’s Studies Program, both faculty and students. We join in solidarity with students who have already been working to draw attention to such incidents and to push back against them. If you want to get involved, check out the Solidarity and Activism Starter Kit we developed last year.
We have chosen not to keep an image of the note mentioned in this Statement as part of the Statement itself, so as to avoid recapitulating the harm it does. There are times when quoting terrible speech only slightly lessens its force. If you want to see that note, you can find it here, but we cannot well support black students, faculty, and staff if we force them to encounter it in the course of reading a message of support.
Monday, September 18, 2017
On Wednesday night, September 13 of 2017, a Black student at SIUE returned to their housing in Cougar Village to find a note on their door reading “filthy (plural n-word).”
For a long time now, Black members of SIUE’s community have suffered racist incidents directed against students, staff, and faculty. Some have been overt, as in the incident several years ago in which a pickup truck driving through campus slowed down next to a group of Black male students so that its occupants could lean out to call them the n-word before it sped away. These overt acts express a belief in the inferiority of Black persons and show that they are actively unwanted.
Other racist incidents are more covert, small acts of disrespect related to race which pile up over time. These include classroom behavior from students and professors such as assumptions about a student’s family status based on their race, assuming that a Black faculty member in her office must be the department secretary, and continual unconcerned mispronunciation of student names that requires the student, faculty or staff member to adjust rather than the speaker. These acts make it clear that whiteness is seen as the norm, and blackness is seen as outside the norm.
Both overt and covert acts reinforce power structures that maintain white supremacy, and paint Black students, staff, and faculty as at best atypical or foreign and more often as actively unwanted.
The incident of the note on the student’s door is overt and aggressively racist. Part of its power comes from the fact that this student cannot know which of the many people around them hates them so much. It could be anyone or, rather, it could be anyone who doesn’t speak out against it.
As you can see from the student’s response, they did not believe that SIUE was responding appropriately. Indeed, the initial response was lacking. When the student checked their e-mail Friday morning, their first formal response to racism was an e-mail from the Chancellor about the impending verdict on former police officer Jason Stockley who fatally shot a Black man in St. Louis in 2011. That e-mail, below, urged “peace and understanding” and referred vaguely to the Stockley verdict’s racial implications (“We understand that emotions run deep”) while referencing SIUE’s admirable principles. But who is being urged to be peaceful, and who is supposed to be working to understand whom?
The above message is what the student who received that note woke up to Friday morning. It is what the student found as their first formal response from SIUE. Only through the efforts of advocate faculty and staff was the student able to receive a direct response later on Friday to their own issues.
The University has failed to create an atmosphere in which Black students feel safe and welcomed. We have failed to educate the white members of our community on how to be and do better. We have wordsmithed our messages until they are lovely but hollow. SIUE students, staff, and faculty hear that hollowness ringing loud and clear.
We have failed to respond adequately, or at all, to major regional and national incidents that clearly bear on the welfare of our community. This includes the university’s response to white supremacists marching in Charlottesville and at the University of Virginia. The sole response was a single paragraph in SIU President Randy Dunn’s August 23 Message from the President, which is not directed at students. SIUE administration simply did not address the issue for faculty and staff or for students, seeming to see it as irrelevant to our campus despite our own history. Many universities across the nation rightly saw that Charlottesville implicated their own communities and affected their own students. SIUE did not act, nor did Women’s Studies. Silence speaks volumes. SIUE students, staff, and faculty hear that silence loud and clear.
The Women’s Studies Program stands against racism in its covert and overt forms. We stand with this student and the others who have experienced and may continue to experience such treatment. We pledge to be active bystanders when we observe such incidents occurring, and to hold ourselves and each other accountable for our own behaviors.
We call on SIUE to develop clear and compassionate and speedy student-centered responses to incidents of this nature. These responses should trust the testimony of the person who has received such treatment, and should always reach the individual student face to face before any related announcement goes out to the university community. They should be concerned with the student’s welfare rather than the university’s image. This should also be true of university responses to events in our region, the nation, or the world at large. The University should support opportunities for SIUE community members to gather and discuss such events. There is power in naming and the administration should call things what they are, avoiding euphemisms or phrases that will, however unintentionally, minimize what has happened. Racism is racism, not merely intolerance; white supremacy is white supremacy, not merely a failure of respect and dignity for all.
How we conduct ourselves when others do wrong is all that distinguishes us from them. It is our responsibility to respond actively, unambiguously, and compassionately. When members of our community who are Black are made to feel unsafe or unwelcome, the task before all of us is to create a community that reaches out and that does not push further away.
To make that sheltering and decent community possible, some of us will have to work on ourselves: on our tendency to act in ways that play into the view that whiteness is the norm, and on how we act when we are bystanders to behaviors that reinforce white supremacy. To make that sheltering and decent community possible, the university will have to work on how it responds to these incidents and on the support it provides to Black students, staff, and faculty. To make that sheltering and decent community possible, all members of the SIUE community will have to work to earn the trust of our Black students and colleagues. It is a trust we have not yet earned.
We have work to do. Let’s get to work.
Alison Reiheld, Philosophy faculty and Director of Women’s Studies
Jill Anderson, English faculty
Kim Carter, Social Work faculty
Matt Sautman, TA, English
Anushiya Ramaswamy, English faculty
Abigail Hall, alumni
Samara Chapple, Sociology graduate student
Megan Arnett, Sociology faculty and SIUE alumni
Kiana Cox, Sociology & Criminal Justice faculty
Michelle Miller, alumni
Katherine Poole-Jones, Art & Design faculty
Mary Sue Love, Department of Managing and Marketing faculty
Justin Yancey, TA, English
Breanne Burton, student
Catherine Seltzer, English faculty
Aimie Pace, alumni
Carole Frick, History faculty
Linda Markowitz, Sociology & Criminal Justice faculty
Cory Willmott, Anthropology faculty
Liz Stygar, Sociology & Criminal Justice faculty
Jill Schreiber, Social Work faculty
Christy Ferguson, English faculty
Emily Truckenbrod, Music faculty
Helena Gurfinkel, English faculty
Jessica Despain, English faculty
Mike Anderson, alumni
Saba Fatima, Philosophy faculty
Jennifer Logue, Educational Leadership faculty
Mariana Solares, Foreign Languages & Literature faculty
Rosalind Evans, Social Work faculty
Laurel Puchner, Educational Leadership faculty
Tricia Oberweis, Sociology & Criminal Justice faculty
Tori Walters, English and Philosophy staff
Valerie Vogrin, English faculty
Nicole Klein, Applied Health faculty
Connie Frey-Spurlock, Sociology & Criminal Justice faculty
Ekaterina Gorislavsky, Sociology & Criminal Justice faculty
A number of years ago, Alison Reiheld (SIUE WMST Director) came across this poem by LiveJournal user ursalav. It reminded her stylistically of the famous Tom Wayman poem, “Did I miss anything?“, a humorous and biting and beautiful response to the common student inquiry after missing class. Now seems as good a time as any to share ursulav’s poem replying to the common response to feminist critiques of speech, including jokes and social observations.
Someone always says it, whenever it comes up:
“I guess I’m just not allowed to talk to anyone any more!”
It is my duty to inform you that we took a vote
all us women
and determined that you are not allowed to talk to anyone
This vote is legally binding.
Yes, of course, all women know each other,
the way you always suspected.
(Incidentally, so do Canadians. I’m just throwing that out there.)
We went into the women’s room at the Applebee’s at the corner of 54
and all the others streamed in through the doors
into that endless liminal space,
a chain of humans stretching backward
heavy skulled Neanderthal women laughing with New York socialites,
Lucille Ball hand in hand with the Taung child.
We sat around in the couches in the women’s room
(I know you’ve always been suspicious of those couches)
and chatted with each other in the secret female language
that you always knew existed.
Somebody set up a console–
the Empress Wu is ruthless at Mario Kart
and Cleopatra never learned to lose
and a woman who ruled an empire that fell
when the Sea People came
and left no trace
can use the blue shell like a surgical instrument.
Eventually we took the vote.
You had three defenders:
your grandmother and your first-grade teacher
and an Albanian nun who believes the best of everybody.
Your mom abstained.
It was duly recorded in the secret notebooks
that have been kept under the couch in the Applebee’s
since the beginning of recorded time.
And then we went back to playing Mario Kart
and Hoelun took off her bra
and we didn’t think about you again
except that I had to carry this message.
good luck with that
it’s just as you always said it was.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Our first blog entry of this month comes to us from Christy Ferguson of SIUE’s English Department and the SIUE Women’s Studies Program.
American culture dictates that we, as citizens of this country, respect and honor our leaders. However, how are we, as women, expected to honor a man that has been recorded saying the most incredibly demeaning things about us as sex? A man who has a proven track record of utter disrespect, not just for the women in his life, but for women in general?
The answer: We will not. We cannot.
Having leaders who openly and unapologetically express their dominance over women, not only perpetuates the misogynistic attitudes we have become accustomed to, but outright condones this behavior. We teach our children from a very young age to admire our leaders, who are expected to be positive role models. We encourage our children to follow in the same paths, study their lives, and respect them in their positions of authority in our country. So, when we elect a leader who embodies sexist attitudes and openly expresses them, this is incredibly problematic, not just to young women, but also to young men and our culture as a whole.
As our children grow and learn, more often than not, the media has quite an influence on the way that they see the world. They learn by following the examples set for them, not only in their households, classrooms, and peer groups, but through depictions of powerful people in the media. Of course, there are different levels of power from celebrity, to internet sensation, to the President of the United States. However, despite that distribution of power, children tend to emulate the things these people do. It is understood to most children that there are appropriate and inappropriate things that a person can do and say, not just in their lives in general, but in public to other people. Growing up in a society that has consistently shamed women for being sexual and men for being too sensitive, they grow to embody those ideals without even trying. Now, we have a president whose misogynistic comments and actions have been thoroughly documented. This was not just a minor slip up or words twisted by media outlets. The fact that they are being continually overlooked as if unimportant is a matter of contention.
Alison Reiheld, SIUE Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of SIUE Women’s Studies Program, brings us PART 4 in our series on gender, sexualization, and the media.
Every once in awhile, Wikipedia has a surprisingly well fleshed-out entry. One of these is the description of racial fetishism. This:
…involves fetishizing a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group that is not one’s own—therefore it involves racial/ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped, and at times their cultural practices. This can include having strong racial preferences in dating…
Do you know someone who tends to only date people of their own race? What about someone who tends to date people of another particular race? What is the line between preference and fetish, between finding certain particular kinds of people beautiful and treating them particularly, out of all other groups, as sex objects?
The African-American online magazine, The Root, has an article called “5 signs you’re about to be racially fetishized.” It begins “So… What’s your type? Admit it. You probably have one. Most of us do.” The author goes on to describe her experiences with on-line dating and the dating app Tinder:
As a member of what is purportedly the least-pursued demographic online (smart, sexy and successful, yet single, black women), I was understandably leery about what—and whom—I’d encounter on an app best known for “hookups.” But in the interest of adventure, I braced myself for potential encounters with predators, grade-A creepers and flat-out racists.
I wasn’t prepared for the fetishists… my experiences dating “across the aisle” were no preparation for the highly racialized world of online dating.
Such fetishization of African-American women relies on stereotypes about black women’s sexuality such as those described by sociologist Patricia Hill Collins in her book Black Feminist Thought.