The editor of the Vanderbilt student newspaper wrote a nice opinion piece about the visibility of rape culture on a fraternity message board. After summarizing the toxic discussion, Andre Rouillard shares his conclusion and noted that he had saved the message board discussion and posted it for posterity:
If all of this isn’t rape culture made manifest, then I don’t know what is. I’m not going to waste my limited word count railing against the enabling power of anonymous message boards and social media, the insularity and cliquey-ness of Greek life, or other favorite targets of those who write on this subject but who don’t pay witness to it. This single, 44-post thread is a glimpse into a rape culture that is alive and well here at Vanderbilt. It’s alive in dorm rooms, Greek houses, classrooms and public spaces. It is a culture that commits rape and then comes together to shut down its victim.
“Consider yourself lucky if no one finds this thread,” warns one user. Well, now no one can: The thread was deleted from the website yesterday after 8 p.m. However, you’ll be able to find the entire thread saved here, with the name redacted.
It is plain now that there are groups of individuals at this prestigious, beautiful, diverse institution darkening its classrooms and hallways and making it a less safe and accepting place for the women in attendance. After all of the steps forward that Vanderbilt has taken in my four years here, this thread represents one hundred steps backward. I am deeply ashamed to share classrooms, professors and the name on my soon-to-be-printed diploma with the students represented in this cesspool of destructive gossip and self-serving intimidation. I’d like to think we at Vanderbilt, the lucky few, are better than this — but now, I’m not so sure.
In a badass moment of solidarity, another student has written a shared letter declaring that she is the ‘girl who ratted.’ Sharing risk and making the threats of retaliation visible are both smart responses to the incident. Julia Ordog explained her strategic thinking:
“I wanted to just do something to make my thoughts on it heard in a concrete way,” she added. Ordog also wanted to demonstrate her support for the alleged victim.
“I came up with this idea of ‘I am the Girl That Ratted’ because in my head, I was thinking about how it really could have been anyone, and how even though I haven’t been a victim myself, it’s something that I feel very passionately about,” she said. “I wanted it to be an ally statement, but also more powerful than that.”
She only circulated the letter to about 60 people initially, who she says were students she had talked to about the online postings, students who she knew were passionate about the issues involved, and close friends. The message spread throughout campus during the course of the day, with Ordog being contacted by several students requesting permission to forward her email along to others.
Small numbers, smart organizing and strategic thinking change culture.