A UVA Student Reflects

UVA-Rotunda.jpg

When the Rolling Stone story about the UVA rape came out, I wrote a post. There were a lot of opinions floating around, and it seemed to be the best way to express my opinion and offer it for others to read, discuss, or ignore. This blog has been an outlet for the thoughts that are constantly circulating in my head. A way for me to organize and gain clarity. It took me a long time before I showed it to my friends and even longer to show my family, but I eventually realized it gives insight into what I’m thinking on occasions when I can’t vocally express myself. So when I wrote that piece last November, it was just a way of me letting people know my thoughts.

The internet had other intentions. I was soon bombarded with notifications. I saw my post spreading like wildfire across social media and started receiving notice of a sizeable number of comments on the blog itself . Friends, family, and strangers a like were all using my words as a part of their forum. And a lot of it was quite demeaning. All opinions are welcome in my comment section, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. Revisiting these words didn’t appeal to me (being compared to a gang of rapists isn’t exactly a confidence builder.) So when an investigation revealed the whole story was fabricated as part of a larger scheme, I thought about adding an update, but I found it hard to go back. When the Stanford rape case went viral, I again thought of revisiting my previous post, but settled for a separate one. I’ve marinated in my thoughts on the subject for a while now, and I’ve decided there’s more I want to say, and more that I think needs to be heard.


When the Rolling Stone article was published, many people immediately realized it was false. A lot of the details didn’t make sense, especially in the context of UVA. There was a lot of discussion pointing this out. I purposefully steered clear of that, attempting to focus specifically on the impact of the article on the UVA community and on progress in the system. I did this because I knew that while Jackie’s story was suspect and likely false, there were hundreds more like hers that were true. Some of them even told to me by friends.

I discuss the need for policy reform and the crucial nature of community support in my other piece, so I won’t get into that here. I stand by those words, though they may have been brief and somewhat incomplete. If you are lost in this, catch up here: A UVA Student Responds. There are countless articles that are more articulate and researched than I could ever be on the subject, so I will leave that up to you to seek out.
In reflecting on the past events lately, I’ve been digging deeper into the catalyst for these circumstances, and I’ve come to some conclusions. The more I see and read the news, and hear about everything going on in the world, the more I take in everything that goes on across social media platforms, the more these conclusions are confirmed. I hope this revisit to previous things is worthwhile.

I believe that underlying all of these things is misunderstanding, and an erroneous value system. To read about the misunderstanding, read my post in response to the Stanford Rape case: Rape is Rape. I’m still fairly solid on what I’ve written there, and don’t feel the need to edit or explain any more than I already have.

Let’s get into the erroneous value system.

Every society defines value, and almost every aspect of life is based around that value system. And in almost every society today (I can’t think of an exception, but I could be wrong. Point it out and I will probably go there!) value isn’t fixed. It’s relative. And this is inherent in any value system. The entire purpose of giving value to something is as a reference point. Its how humans think. The way we keep ourselves oriented and make decisions is by constantly comparing what we are perceiving to existing archetypes based on data gathered during previous experiences. If there isn’t a previous experience to hang on to, we are uncomfortable. We pull from whatever is closest, note differences, and form new archetypes. This thought process could be its own discussion, but I’ll leave it here for now, though I’d be happy to further discuss with anyone.

This constant comparison drives everything from racial stereotypes to the financial system to the things we deem as our “favorites.” It is at the core of the so-called “American dream” of creating a better life.

But when your value system is based on comparison, you arrive at some problems. If success is relative, you necessarily inject the notion of something being better and something being worse (don’t even get me started on how this affects the education system.)

This drive can be seen as a source of the issues we discuss surrounding these rape cases, and many others.

When someone decides to rape someone else they are deciding they have more value than the victim.

When someone decides to publish a sensationalized and false accusation against a group of students as a way of getting attention (e.g. Jackie), they are deciding that they want to create a value for themselves that is higher than those they are putting down, and those viewed as the competition.

When a religious extremist group carries out an attack, they have decided that their religious beliefs have more value than the lives they attack, and that they themselves will gain value over others through the violence.

When someone chooses to bully others it is in an attempt to gain value others or because they already believe they hold value over others.

When a parent says they are proud of their child’s accomplishment, they are placing value on this achievement over others and their child over others.

Competition isn’t always bad. It can produce wonderful things. But in a society with an entrenched value system saturated by relativism, problems will inevitably arise. When the society continues to uphold these tenants and instill them in the upcoming generations, the problems persist.

When you couple these factors with a fundamental misunderstanding of things like rape, you get a rape culture that seems impossible to eradicate. You get a generation frustrated with the status quo but no success in changing it. You impede the way of progress.

We get angry at injustice because deep down we know that this is a flawed way of looking at things.

Until we start seeing each other as people instead of as competition, until society transforms, and until everyone understands; solution will be stymied, stories will be published, people will be outraged, and the cycle will start again.

The good new is, as one of my favorite teachers has always said, as long as there are those who challenge and think critically, and who are willing to speak out, we will have hope.

 

I’m out.wordpress

 

 

A UVA Student Responds

Updated thoughts can be found here: A UVA Student Reflects


This morning an unfortunately familiar wave of oppression and darkness fell over UVA. Somber and hushed conversations sounded like a sorrowful murmur against the blustery wind of the eerie November cold. A community that had just come together and started a healing journey had received yet another strong blow.

10339772_733089573427960_2519857760281200386_n

A memorial to Hannah students created on UVA grounds.

It has been two months since Hannah Graham went missing. Her loss is one that the entire student body felt, as well as the faculty, staff, and residents in the surrounding Charlottesville area. The long process of healing has only just begun. People have come together more than ever before in support and encouragement.

In the midst of this atmosphere, Rolling Stone published the following article; causing the second wave of gloom to descend like a blanket over grounds:

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119 

The article is long, but definitely worth reading. There has been an enormous response to this article. Links are ubiquitously present on all social media platforms which are littered with opinions. It hardly feels appropriate to speak of anything else in a moment such as this.

There has been a lot of backlash critiquing the article as bad journalism; and a large outcry for fact checking.

These people are missing the point.

I agree that the article could have been written differently. There are a lot of sweeping generalizations and careful wording which dramatizes things that shouldn’t be. Perhaps not all the quotes are exact and perhaps they aren’t word for word what was actually exchanged during those events. However, this is nitpicking.

The main image from the article

This article has also sparked a lot of debate about how the faculty at the University, and others, have handled such cases, and what should be done in the future. Some are ignoring the fact that there are laws and policies in place which must be adhered to, however this does not mean that those laws and policies are effective and should exist in the first place. It is very disheartening that survivors feel hindered from coming forward for fear of being judged or losing social capital. I’ll be the first to admit that I am personally very frustrated by the whole broken system, and the feeling like there is little possibility of real change occurring. No one disagrees that there is a large need for change. The how is what is debated. This is a conversation that needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. But it is also necessary to keep perspective and realize that change won’t happen overnight. This whole ordeal is infuriating, but I hope it can inspire hope and change and instill a sense of responsibility in the minds of everyone affected.

However, I, along with many others, fear that this article will be counterproductive. The divisiveness that results from something like this will cause strain on an already vulnerable community. The negative image of UVA that it depicts is going to taint all aspects of the University, including the good ones. My personal experience interacting with people at UVA, including those involved in Greek Life, has been nothing but positive. I do not discount the fact that others have had much different experiences than I have, but this article portrays the University as a whole and its students in a way that makes it seem like there is no good and there is no trust. By in large, this is a great place with great people. But like everywhere else in this twisted world, evil does exist.

6625301779_2972ccf5c4_b

The Academical Village

Regardless of the details, rape culture and gang rape is very much real. It is a huge problem; one which is not isolated simply to UVA. In all the controversy that has arisen surrounding this article, I fear the story will be lost in the chaos.

We need to let this story have its impact.  What has happened to “Jackie” and many others is horrific and makes me sick. To think that anyone could treat someone else in such a way is heartbreaking. The vivid memories she faces everyday should not exist. I hope that everyone who has experienced something like this can find healing and begin to see the good in the world again.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that our community comes together in support of each other, so that we can heal together. And in doing so, maybe, there can be one less.