Social Justice F*ckrapeculture rallies students against sexual assault By The New Political Posted on October 11, 2013 11 min read 7 0 1,051 Ohio University students and faculty took to the streets of Athens on Friday to bring attention to and to combat what they saw as a toxic culture pervading the university. Underneath their colorful banners and boisterous chants was one theme: respect. A new Ohio University activism group f*ckrapeculture, focused on promoting a culture of tolerance toward all and ending a culture of fear of sexual harassment, held its first public demonstration Friday with a march up Mill and Court Street before ending in a demonstration on College Green. Over 100 people flowed through busy Athens streets as bystanders listened to their chants of “Blame the system, not the victim,” and “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape.” “A much smarter woman than me once told me that feminism is concerned with the question of ‘What makes us freer?’ That’s what f*ckrapeculture is about,” co-founder Allie Erwin said to the crowd by the war memorial on college green. “We exist to make the OU campus and surrounding community a safer, freer place for everyone.” From the war memorial, Erwin, megaphone in hand, explained the group’s purpose to the growing crowd of onlookers. “Each and every one of us has the right to walk home alone at night without fear of cat-calling, harassment, or intimidation,” she said. “We all have the right to equal dignity and respect regardless of our bodies, our gender our gender, whatever. We’re all equals and we deserve equal respect.” Erwin announced several achievements that the nascent organization has garnered in the first few weeks of its existence. The group has begun talks with Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi and OU President Roderick McDavis to adopt a policy requiring student employees to undergo sexual harassment and tolerance training before being hired. Erwin announced that beginning next year, University College will have courses focusing specifically on sexual consent education. She also cited new progress in a policy in which victims of sexual violence will receive amnesty for whatever they were doing at the time of their assault and regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated. Claire Chadwick and Erwin began F*ckrapeculture as a response to what they saw as a toxic environment that promotes casual sexism in public places. Previously, the group faced some opposition as its first official act was writing letters expressing disapproval of the Marching 110’s choice to play “Blurred Lines.” University administration requested that the band pull the song, creating confusion and controversy about the new organization’s goals. In a column written to The New Political earlier this month, Chadwick explained that having the song pulled was not the goal of the organization, and that they did not want this event to take away from their more positive goals. Chadwick’s mother, Margo Chadwick, attended the event and expressed her support for her daughter’s organization. “I was wishing she hadn’t used the f-word, but other than that, I think it’s really important and worthwhile, which is why I’m here to support her,” she said. The group has worked closely with Hollaback Appalachian Ohio, an organization dedicated to fighting street harassment around the Athens area. This is one of 64 branches of Hollaback, which, in total, has organizations in 23 countries around the world. The organization’s website allows participants to submit stories and pictures of instances of street harassment, which are then plotted on a Google Map of the area. Hollaback’s volunteers spoke about the organization and the services it offers to students who wish to fight back against street harassment, saying, “Athens will no longer be a place where harassment is just part of going out.” Rachel Berens, a senior who heard about the event on Facebook, shared her opinions on why it was important for her to be at the rally. “Seeing the way that rape culture is perpetuated on this campus on a daily basis, and seeing that a group of students took the initiative to stand up and speak out, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to come out and be a part of something I felt was so much bigger than me,” Berens said. Student Senate President Nick Southall was in attendance, carrying a banner and marching along with other protesters. Earlier this semester, Southall found himself the center of controversy after posting a tweet that many students identified as “slut-shaming,” just one of many events that precipitated F*ckrapeculture’s formation. “It’s important for students to show support for initiatives like this,” Southall said. He said that it was important for him to show support for this cause. Other bystanders expressed support for the cause in their own ways. Patrick O’Keefe, a professor of English, said that he had only heard about the rally in the news, but said that the turnout for the event was “excellent.” Wren Jackson, one of many females who chose to go topless for the event, expressed her thoughts on why the event was important enough to march without a top. “I decided before,” Jackson said. “I was just like ‘I’m not going to wear a shirt.’It’s not, you know, it’s not like a new thing, so I just don’t understand why we should be covered up all the time.” Patricia Stokes, a women’s and gender studies professor who followed the march, and who has worked closely with the group, expressed her positive feelings before the march began. “I’m happy to see that the anger out there that has been building up for a long time around these issues is resulting in this kind of activism,” she said. “I think signs are encouraging so that the administration is also interested in moving on these issues as well. So I feel a kind of optimism about this that I haven’t felt in a while.” Stokes said that some events these past few weeks have made her pessimistic about the future of our campus culture. She cited the @OU_Confessions Twitter account as a source of much distress earlier in the year. “I’m hopeful that this is the start and not the end of the energy building. I hope there’s a change coming to create the kind of campus that I think everyone deserves to have here.” This article was written by Ben Postlethwait, with Jaelynn Grisso and Sarah Volpenhein contributing to the report.