To the editor,
Last night I streamed into Southwest Residential Area with a thousand or so of my closest friends in absolute ecstasy over the election results. President Barack Obama was re-elected president, and the crowd was raucous: toilet paper rolls hurled across the crowd, American flags unfurled and were borne on the backs of screaming students, chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” echoed against the brick walls of Kennedy, JQA, Coolidge and the assorted dorms of Southwest.
At first, I was proud, excited, rowdy with the rest of them. I smiled as toilet paper unfurled above me, laughed as a friend of mine screamed that he wouldn’t have to change his citizenship, and clapped along as we chanted in unison about the reelection of Obama.
But that did not last long – the gathering took only half an hour or so before it took a turn for the worse. The first, and perhaps expected outcome was that of the destruction of property: a window broken by a toilet paper roll hurled at a dormitory window, and a tree nearly set on fire as students draped toilet paper around a sapling maple tree and lit it alight with butane lighters. This was disappointing, but perhaps to be expected; there is always likely to be some collateral damage when thousands of well-lubricated students engage in drunken revelry with little to no apparent police presence.
What concerned me more, though, was the attitude of some students in the crowd, and what they began to chant. I was standing near the John Quincy Adams residence hall, near the center of the celebration, when some of the male students noticed a group of female residents looking out, observing. A group of students began to scream at the girls in the window, asking them to “show their tits.”
At first, it was an isolated cheer, but soon it was picked up by the crowd at large. I looked out at amazement as a group of people previously cheering for a liberal president, a man who champions women’s rights, easily picked up the sexist, misogynistic chant without realizing the hypocrisy. For the next half hour or so, the crowd would return to screaming about that window, the chants getting more and more vulgar as the girls in the window teased the crowd, but ultimately did not acquiesce to their demands.
I felt dirty standing there. I felt dirty standing with thousands of students who seemed to forget what brought them there – the communal feeling of democracy, the desire to feel relevant – and instead called for women to show them what they wanted, who allowed their lust and base desires to overshadow the importance of this moment.
This is an important moment for UMass. A woman was recently allegedly raped by four men in her dormitory at UMass, and Amherst College is embroiled in controversy over the administration’s handling of another woman’s sexual assault on campus.
You may say that these are so far removed in magnitude, that to compare rape to the chants of drunken college students is absurd. But the attitude is the same: the objectification of women, the idea that they are merely subjects of men’s desires, the idea that it’s not a serious problem is a common thread among all of these actions.
Obama is a democrat. Democrats are supposed to be the progressive party, the party that carries the women vote, the party that distances itself from Republican candidates who speak of “legitimate rape” and rape as a “blessing from God,” in the words of Senate Candidates Thomas Mourdock and Todd Akin. And yet those same supporters thought nothing of pressuring women, of acting like absolute buffoons, of burning, destroying, and harassing women who happened to appear in a window near them.
I know that tomorrow I will make up and smile because my candidate was elected, and because I believe the country is moving forward in the right direction. But there will be a sour taste in my mouth, and it is all of our faults.