This article has an exciting title, “Take Back Your Campus”. Unfortunately, even though it is a beautifully written expose of the epidemic of campus rape, it’s “call to action” is in fact an invitation to get on our computers and ask universities, governments and the police to continue their ineffectual policies.
In the late 60’s and early ’70’s, college women were forming groups to stop rape on campus. Actions included confronting a man identified as a rapist en masse, outing the same with leaflets posted strategically and forming all-women escort groups to take women through sections of the campus where rapes were occurring.
What was patriarchy’s response to the blatant actions of “strident” feminists? They studied the problem. They created task forces. They devised new rules and structures, combined with educating men to respect women and women to take precautions. The U.S. Law Enforcement Assistance Agency was funded to replace community-controlled women’s projects with professionally-run rape crisis centers where rape victims would answer questions, submit to pelvic examinations to make rape kits (many of which would languish on police departments’ shelves). Women were pressured to become complainants; the goal was to arrest and imprison perpetrators.
Almost fifty years later, The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Assault is continuing in patriarchy’s efforts to “protect” women rather than giving them more power. The Task Force has found that, (after having co-opted authentic action by the women themselves), their paternalistic, police-state programs have not improved the situation. In fact, it seems to be worse.
Chandler McCorkle does urge readers to engage fellow students and citizens, presumably multi-gendered, to help change the way campuses are run across the nation. Let’s learn from history. If we want to recapture the outrage and the energy of the Second Wave, we females will organize ourselves, whatever gender we identify ourselves as, to fight against our common problem. Collectively, we can demand better policies, such as using university or government budgets to fund our collectively controlled projects.
We demanded sexual liberation in the 70’s; instead we got license to like sex, to want sex and to have sex, but we have not achieved the ability to exercise that freedom to have sex without fearing rape. Why not? What happened to those many thousands of women who took to the streets and who made these outrageous demands. Did they all just give up? Is it that women aren’t interested anymore? No, from the moment we started raising our voices, patriarchy has been using all its weapons-- its universities, its foundations, its publishing industry, its police powers, to quell our movement.
But, besides the benign takeover of women’s projects by government's pale imitations and strings-attached funding and academic jobs, independent women’s organizations have been hounded and harassed, many out of existence. We at the Feminist Women’s Health Centers, one of the most successful and influential of outspoken women’s groups working for female control of sexuality and reproduction, were arrested for looking at our own cervixes in 1972. Even though American women were given permission by the U.S. Supreme Court to have abortions and risky, medically-controlled methods of birth control at our clinics, our centers were not allowed to use cervical caps, herbal remedies or other women controlled methods of safe birth control or to have participatory clinics in which non-licensed health care workers shared self-examination skills with groups of women.
Women are licensed to get abortions, but we don’t have the freedom to seek abortion without going through a gauntlet of screaming fanatics. The government refused for several decades to enforce simple “disturbing the peace” type laws to restrain protestors from accosting women who try to use abortion facilities. Finally, the reign of terror culminated in burning and bombing clinics, killing abortion doctors and their staff and supporters. Our clinics have been repeatedly investigated for such things as use of guns and non-doctors to do abortions. We’ve been charged with fraud. Payment for medical services rendered at the clinic have been withheld due to suspicion of overcharging. In all of the above situations, the investigations have found nothing. Charges have been dropped and payment for services has been restored.
We need to take back the Campus!