For the Record Vol. 116 No. 18

Quinn Brenneke

Editor-in-Chief

quinnb@goshen.edu

 

Prrr, hey baby! is not a good way to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Unfortunately, many women on campus know firsthand that not everyone knows that.

Goshen Monologues, a storytelling project that features the experiences of women at Goshen College, fulfills a long-needed venue for silenced female voices. It is a symbol of progress for our community.

My first experience with catcalling came last summer during my internship in Philadelphia when a man called to one of my female colleagues as we walked toward our office building on the sidewalk.

The man’s audacity came as a shock to me – but my colleague, who has experienced worse harassment, was unphased.

She told me that she’s received such unwanted attention ever since she’s been old enough to walk around alone (and it doesn’t just happen in the city).

It’s everywhere, she told me. And sometimes it’s blood-chillingly terrifying.

Many GC students don’t need to try hard to imagine the fear that ripples down the back of a catcaller’s prey as soon they’ve been spotted.

The ignore-it-keep-looking-forward-and-don’t-stop-moving thought that strikes like an instinct is too familiar to some of GC’s women.

Fear is a weapon of control and at its worst, it’s violent. Goshen Monologues will expose that fear on stage and subvert it completely.

That’s progress.

And speaking of progress, The Record published a lot of it this week.

The Athletic Department is moving forward with a new logo, GC was given a silver rating for its environmental sustainability efforts, basketball seniors are moving into “the real world,” the composting crew is gaining national attention, students are volunteering off campus… and then there are the yellow shirts.

For some students, those shirts signify progress. For others, they are the opposite.

Regardless of who wears purple and who wears yellow, I can’t say that I see progress until I see those people talking to each other.

The conversation about GC’s hiring policies is a lot more important than whose campaign has the best merchandise. We are talking about people and identity.

This cannot be a war of the t-shirts.

As soon as the shirts become more important than the people wearing them, we have already lost – all of us. Those shirts will dehumanize the people who wear them and when we see someone as less than human, the best that can happen is that the weapon of fear will slay us all.

Face-to-face conversation – and more importantly, listening – has to happen.

Let’s take a lesson from Goshen Monologues and expose our fears and passions in the flesh, not in a t-shirt.

Talking honestly and lovingly to one another will turn the weapon of fear into a tool for peace.

Record
Written by Record

3 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    March 08, 2014

    Thank you, Patrick, for exposing yet again the inherently unjust power dynamic in all this praying and dialoguing. How can any discernment process hold any legitimacy while it bars the people whose (very private) lives are most affected by its outcome from taking part?! Many blessings to you. You are made in God’s image as much as the next person and we are your Church. Don’t let anyone make you feel or believe otherwise. And keep writing and speaking up. After awhile your body won’t shake at all. You’ll just feel the exhilarating freedom that comes with authentic self-expression and speaking one’s truth.

  2. Avatar
    March 07, 2014

    I respect your words and intentions, Quinn.
    You’re a valuable ally and a dear friend.
    Thank you for sharing your words.

  3. Avatar
    March 07, 2014

    Quinn,

    I would ask you to think about what “talking to each other” and “listening” means in the context of the hiring policy. I ask you to put yourself in my shoes—imagine in detail what it would be like for me as a gay person to attempt to engage in “dialogue” with someone who supports the current hiring policy.

    For the hiring policy supporter, “talking” means explaining a political or religious position. It may include biblical passages, maxims, understandings of what is “natural” and “unnatural.” It may be a strong opinion, but this person does not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (and most likely never has). The current hiring policy does not affect this person’s emotional well-being, does not send this person a message about their worth or belonging in the Goshen College community, and does not bar this person from employment at the College.

    For me, “talking” means explaining my eligibility—my worthiness—as a person to access the same rights as my non-queer peers. I would talk about my fears and passions (as LGBTQ people are forced to do every day) as well as the pain that I have experienced in being told I don’t belong—that I’m not eligible for employment, membership, leadership, ordination, or a marriage covenant in the Mennonite Church and its institutions. The current hiring policy sends me a clear message about my worth and my belonging at Goshen College.

    For the hiring policy supporter, “listening” means hearing my personal story through a lens. This person’s faith tradition and upbringing say that I am “less than,” “damaged,” or “sinful”—and this person views my personal story through these lenses. My sharing does not attack this person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, nor does it condemn this person’s God-given gift to love and live authentically. My sharing is about me and my worthiness as a child of God.

    For me, “listening” means hearing messages from from this person’s faith tradition and upbringing—messages that tell me I am “less than,” “damaged,” or “sinful.” These are messages that I’ve heard many times before; these are messages that I had to wrestle with in order to accept myself. This person’s sharing, under the guise of “dialogue,” attacks my sexual orientation and/or gender identity and condemns my God-given gift to love and live authentically.

    Engaging in “dialogue” implies that two parties have an equal voice to share with each other. In talking and listening to each other about our hopes and desires for the Goshen College hiring policy, there is an inherent imbalance of power. I ask you to put yourself in my shoes and consider that engaging in this kind of “dialogue” (where there is disproportionate power), is not only imbalanced—it is harmful to me as a person. Moreover, this kind of harmful “dialogue” has been happening at Goshen College and the Mennonite Church for decades. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are expected to expose our fears and passions in the flesh in order to be heard at all.

    I want you to know that I am only human—and while I’m strong, there is only so much danger I can put myself through. I want you to know that my entire body is shaking as I write this. This is my College, this is my Church. I am worthy—and my God-given worthiness is not determined through dialogue.

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