#FeministFriday No. 20

Just in case the past 20 weeks of posts haven’t clued you in yet, I am a feminist. Feminism is something that is important to me, and that I believe is extremely important for society as a whole to embrace.

However, according to quite a lot of people, feminism is apparently not relevant or important enough to be any sort of priority for anyone, which makes this week’s #FeministFriday that much more upsetting:

A U.S. college student was murdered last month for calling herself a feminist. 

Grace Rebecca Mann, a junior at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, was an active member of her campus community. Described as “bubbly” and “a force of nature” by friends and family, Mann served in the Student Senate, was a board member of the Feminists United on Campus (FUC) group, an appointee of the school’s task force against sexual assault, and a member of the Gay Men & Lesbians’ club, among other activities.

Mann, at a UMW Feminists United rally

Mann, at a UMW Feminists United rally

Earlier this year, FUC filed a disturbing complaint with the Department of Education, stating that UMW condoned a sexually hostile environment that disregarded the safety of students. It went on to say that female students were abused over Yik Yak, an anonymous social app that lets people post, or “yak” to people in a 10-mile radius.

Members of FUC allegedly received over 700 overtly sexist or threatening “yaks” about the group as a whole or individual members, and claim school administrators were alerted to the situation and did nothing.

FUC became the target of contempt on campus in March after a member wrote an op-ed for the school newspaper, accusing the university of being an antagonistic environment for feminists. The article cited the men’s rugby team at UMW as an example of the author’s claims, pointing to a team chant that mentioned “violence against women, including murder and battery, sexual violence against women, including assault, necrophilia, and rape.”

A recording of the aforementioned chant was then leaked, resulting in the team being dissolved indefinitely and requiring all 46 members to attend sexual assault training courses. According to the official complaint, the fate of the rugby team exacerbated anger against FUC on Yik Yak.

It is clear that members of FUC felt unsafe on campus during this time. On March 23, the group posted the following message on its Facebook page:

To all of our members, if at any time you feel unsafe or threatened, or just need someone to talk or vent to, please feel free to reach out to any of e-board, or at least have someone you trust that you can talk to. If any of you receives any threats, however, please also make sure to contact the UMW police! No matter what happens, remember that Feminists United is here to support our members, and that your safety and well-being comes first.

On April 17th, between an event highlighting the bullying of gays and a political rally, Grace Mann stopped at the Fredericksburg, VA home she shared with three other UMW students.

At 3:00 PM, police were called to the house after her two female roommates came home to find her unconscious and bound. The roommates performed CPR and she was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Steven Vander Briel, Mann’s third roommate — as well as a former member of the rugby team — was arrested later that day. He allegedly told the other roommates that he assaulted Mann and fled. He has been charged with first-degree murder and abduction and is being held without bond.

Mann’s friends and family described her as untroubled and happy in the days leading up to her death. She was preparing for finals and had a schedule full of political activities, which was normal for her.

“She just wanted the world to be a beautiful place, a safe place, and a kind place,” said Grace’s father, Judge Thomas P. Mann of Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. He added that she hoped to become a lawyer and work on human rights issues.

Feminism matters for an abundance of unique and important reasons, and if you say that feminism is no longer relevant or isn’t necessary to our society then you’re saying that you’re fine with the current state we live in.

You’re saying that the rate of sexual assault at colleges and universities isn’t a problem, and that female college students who don’t feel safe on their own campus should just deal with it.

You’re saying that the UMW rugby team was punished unjustly, and that groups like FUC deserve to be taunted and threatened.

You’re saying that you’re fine with the fact that it’s 2015 and a 20-year-old woman was strangled in her own home because she actively worked for feminist causes in her community.

mannmemorial

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but if your opinion is that feminism doesn’t matter, it isn’t feminism that’s irrelevant to modern society.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

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One response to “#FeministFriday No. 20

  1. I SO enjoy your writing! At a recent training on Sexual Violence we heard several points you made – our society allows and encourages many unhealthy behaviors, it’s really amazing what we consider “normal.” Keep up the good work in bringing a spotlight to these issues.

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