Letter to the Editor

Dear editor of The Bucknellian:

Last month, hundreds of students at Colgate staged a five-day sit-in to protest the hostile environment created by a series of horrifically racist comments posted on Yik Yak. Here at Bucknell, we have obviously had our own experiences with social media based on anonymous commentary which has proven similarly destructive. One of the most damaging aspects of apps that encourage anonymity is that the voices of a few unnamed people can come to sound like the voice of a whole community. The inability to attach an individual’s name to a hateful–and sometimes violently threatening–post risks making one stray sentiment seem universal, although more often than not it is the lone voice of a person not brave enough to own his or her opinions. Another related problem created by anonymity is that the individuals and groups targeted by the ugliest of these posts come to represent entire communities of people and the posts come to feel threatening to all members of those communities.

For example, when a woman is objectified and denigrated anonymously–the most common pastime of those using these apps–it is not only damaging to her individually, but indeed creates a hostile environment for all women. It ceases to be only about an individual woman, which would be bad enough, and becomes about women. When an image of a nude woman is posted against her will it victimizes her and shouts that women’s bodies are there for the taking. And when a picture of a woman’s body, or, more often, parts thereof, is posted for the purpose of public evaluation, it reinforces an environment in which women are perpetually judged based on appearance first, and only secondarily (or never) on their intellects, their accomplishments, and their talents. A person radically removed from her or his identity becomes easy to denigrate, easy to harass, easy even to assault.

We feel encouraged by the profoundly negative reaction of many students on this campus to a recently-launched app that was dominated by photos of women’s bodies (frequently, it would seem, posted without their consent) accompanied by misogynistic comments in addition to racist and homophobic slurs. The bombardment of the app with random images, and the decision by students to denounce this newest app, indicates to us a desire to reject the toxic environment created by this kind of social media. While not everyone denouncing these apps will claim the label of feminist–and some will actively reject it–standing up for a woman’s right to live in her community without being forced to confront such objectification at every turn is, at its most basic level, a feminist action. And as Deirdre O’Connor stated so eloquently in her letter of Sept. 29, “It’s past time for everyone to stop being afraid of the feminist label.”

BFF,

 

Ashli Baker, Classics Department

Katie Edwards, History Department

Jason Leddington, Philosophy Department

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