In Response to Sommers’ Talk: A Love Letter to Ourselves

Oberlin community members

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Content Warning: This letter contains discussion of rape culture, online harassment, victim blaming and rape apologism/denialism.

Dear community members:

The Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians are bringing Christina Hoff Sommers to speak on Monday, April 20. This Monday happens to be a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which makes the timing of this talk particularly objectionable. Though OCRL advertised Christina Hoff Sommers as a feminist with a “perspective that differs from the general Oberlin population,” they failed to mention that she is a rape denialist. A rape denialist is someone who denies the prevalence of rape and denies known causes of it. Christina Hoff Sommers believes that rape occurs less often than statistics (those which actually leave out a plethora of unreported rapes) suggest. She also believes that false rape accusations are a rampant issue and that intoxication and coercion cannot rightly be considered barriers to consent. OCRL additionally failed to mention that she participates in violent movements such as GamerGate, a campaign that threatened feminists advocating against sexism in video games via threats of death and rape. If you need proof, examples or explanation of that, just Google her. Better yet, look at her Twitter. Here are some examples:

On April 13, Sommers tweeted: “The wage gap is a myth. So is ‘rape culture’ & claims of gender bias in science. But women’s grievance industry goes on.”

On April 15, Sommers retweeted Adrian Chmielarz’s tweet: “Thanks for showing how trolls exploit #GamerGate. This account has NEVER used the tag before.” Chmielarz was referring to a tweet by Feminist Frequency, in which Anita Sarkeesian publicized an offensive tweet from @ cox4vox. The tweet contained a misogynistic, anti-Semitic rape threat that used the hashtag #GamerGate. “Reminder: I’ve been bombarded with messages like this one on a daily basis since GamerGate began,” Sarkeesian wrote.

On April 15, Sommers also tweeted: “Looking forward to visiting Oberlin next week. I see my talk is already the focus of a lively campus discussion.” She shared OCRL’s event page with all of her followers on Twitter, after which many of them flocked to the page to defend her viewpoint.

By denying rape culture, she’s creating exactly the cycle of victim/survivor blame, where victims are responsible for the violence that was forced upon them and the subsequent shame that occurs when survivors share their stories, whose existence she denies. This is how rape culture flourishes. By bringing her to a college campus laden with trauma and sexualized violence and full of victims/survivors, OCRL is choosing to reinforce this climate of denial/blame/shame that ultimately has real life consequences on the well-being of people who have experienced sexualized violence. We could spend all of our time and energy explaining all of the ways she’s harmful. But why should we?

Anger is productive, and critiques are necessary. At this point, though, why don’t we stop spinning our wheels and burning ourselves out on conversations with Christina Hoff Sommers’ Twitter followers? We need to let survivors lead the conversation: to let them define their experience for themselves and to let them tell us what they need. We’re never going to get what we need from Christina Hoff Sommers or her Twitter followers, so let’s pull together and take care of each other. She can prioritize debunking statistics on sexualized violence; let’s prioritize each other healing from and refusing to tolerate violence. Her talk is happening, so let’s pull together in the face of this violence and make our own space to support each other. She exists, but so do we.

From centering survivors, their needs and community support, there are so many ways to engage. It is valid and necessary to both create alternative spaces for healing and to directly challenge the violence that is happening.

A few concrete examples of ways to engage:

  1. Listening to your friends who’ve been harmed
  2. Using your social and financial capital
  3. Challenging violence and harm
  4. Participating in actions and conversations in response to the event
  5. Recognizing and prioritizing intersectional feminism and survivor support
  6. Genuinely caring for one another
  7. Educating yourself on the impacts of trauma and symptoms of post-traumatic stress/reactions
  8. Silence

While navigating these many forms of support, it is important to underscore both that safety is a priority and that it’s not possible to be neutral about rape culture. A decision not to support survivors/victims is a decision to permit the actions of the perpetrators.

So let’s engage in some radical, beautiful community care, support and love. Let’s make space for everyone to engage at whichever level they want/need. Let’s come through for each other, both now and in the future. Trauma is an experience that threatens a person’s bodily, spiritual and emotional integrity. The psychological, emotional and somatic impacts extend beyond the experience of trauma. Healing is a process that looks different for each person. Let’s make space to care for all experiences of trauma and to respect those we care for. Let’s focus our energy on taking care of each other and ourselves. Let’s make her talk irrelevant in the face of our love, passion and power.

Alternate Event: We’re Still Here Monday, April 20, 7:30–9:00 p.m. Shiperd Lounge, Asia House

Direct Action (occurring prior to and at the event)

Monday, April 20, 7:00–9:30 p.m. Hallock Auditorium, AJLC

Love,

Sarah MacFadden, College senior

Sophie Meade, College senior

Tanya Stickles, College sophomore

Akane Little, College sophomore

Juliana Ruoff, College senior

Anna Field, College senior

Lydia Smith

Oberlin Students United for Reproductive Freedom (SURF)

Gabriella Hakim

Sasha Solov, College sophomore

Elliot Ezcurra, College senior

Kye Campbell-Fox, College senior

Jolie De Feis, College senior

HIV Peer Testers Oberlin

Emily D’Angelo, junior

Sreyashi Bhattacharyya

Zoe Braunstein, College junior

Felicia Heiney, College

Kelsey Weber

Talia Nadel, College sophomore

Clara Lincoln, College sophomore

Frances Casey, College sophomore

Emanne Saleh, College senior

Elizabeth Gobbo, College sophomore

Augie Blackman

Maya Gillett, College sophomore

Kepler Mears, College sophomore

Olivia Harris

Bryn Whitney-Blum, College sophomore

Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct (PRSM)

Rebecca Newman, College first-year

Anna Menta, College senior

Stevie Kelly, senior

Maya Wergeles, College junior

Jasmine Eshkar, College

Annie Peskoe

Kaïa Austin, College junior

Dana Kurzer-Yashin

Ellie Tremayne, College sophomore

Anya Katz, College sophomore

Zachariah Claypole White, College sophomore

Gracie Freeman Lifschutz, College sophomore

Sarah Johnson, senior

EMB

Alison Cameron, College first-year

Tori Willbanks-Roos, College sophomore

Isabel Boratav

Edmund Metzold, senior

– Rose Murphree Gamble, College sophomore

Megs Gisela Bautista, College

Sage Mitchell-Sparke

Amethyst Carey

Jason Freedman

Oberlin Men’s Ultimate team

OC Club Sports Council

Oberlin Nu Rho Psi – Neuroscience Honors Society

Chelsea de Souza

Chris Gould, senior

Nothing But Treble, all-female a cappella group

Margaret Miller, senior

Bryn Weiler, first-year

Haley Jones, College sophomore

Sky Kalfus, College senior

Matt Simon, College sophomore

– Maggie Ritten, sophomore

Sarah Snider, double-degree sophomore

Emma Nash, first-year

Arturo Octavio, College sophomore

Hannah Grandine

Mavis Corrigan

Leah Awkward-Rich, sophomore

Louisa Liles, first-year

Tory Sparks, College sophomore

Sujoy Bhattacharyya

Patrick Ellsworth, sophomore

Elka Lee-Shapiro

David Lawrence, College senior

Kristine Chiu, College junior

Olivia Menzer, College sophomore

Maddie Bishop

Megan Orticelli, Conservatory

Della Kurzer-Zlotnick, first-year

Cole Blouin, College sophomore

Jenny Kneebone, College sophomore

Gabi Bembry

Shining Hope for Communities- Oberlin Chapter

Emma Keeshin, senior

Ellie Lindberg, first-year

Emily Kuhn 

Madeline Peltz

Ronni Getz, senior

Benjamin Biffis, College sophomore

Maya Martin, College sophomore

Rory O’Donoghue, double-degree first-year

Jordan Ecker

Abby Cali

Olivia Fountain, College sophomore

Dylan McDonnell, senior

The Oberlin Sexual Information Center (SIC)

Carmen Wolcott, College first-year

Sage Jenson 

Abby Singer, College junior

Diana Dover, College

Gabriel Smith, College

Mia Russell

Galen Landsberg, sophomore

Kai Shinbrough, College sophomore

Olivia Roak

Kevin G. Gilfether, OC ’13

Camille Sacristan

Preying Manti (Women’s Ultimate Team)

Athena Pult, sophomore

Rachel Maclean 

Eliza Edwards, College first-year

Han Taub, College

Katie Leader, College sophomore

Sabrina Paskewitz, senior

Emily Wilkerson, senior

Rob Jamnerb, sophomore

Emma Lehmann, College

Odette Chalandon

Julia Sheppard, senior

Judith Jackson, double-degree sophomore

Claire Kotarski, first-year

Tali Levy-Bernstein, College sophomore

Kathryn Spurgin, College senior

Carolyn Holt, College senior

Sarah Minion, College sophomore

Lisa Minkoff, College sophomore

Caroline Philo, College junior

Charlotte Ahlin

Rachel Webberman, senior

Serena Creary, double-degree sophomore

Sophie Weinstein, College junior

Franklin Sussman

Tyler Sloan, College sophomore

Emily Edelstein, Conservatory first-year

Emily Rizzo, junior

Keenan DuBois, double-degree

Peter Schalch

Dorothy Klement

Isabella McKnight

Molly Copeland, College

Oberlin Bike Co-op

Julianne Hussman, first-year

Delia Scoville, junior

Sela Miller, College senior

Daniel Miller-Medzon, College senior

Kaeli C. Mogg

Sarah Lewinger

Henrietta Key

Kyle Neal

Sophie Kemp, College first-year

Victoria Velasco

Sophia Yapalater, OC ’13

Dana Fang

Anika Burg

J Street U Oberlin

The complete list of signees as on Friday, April 17 at noon.

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