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sEXPO educates on rape culture, sexuality

Kelsey Bundra
News Editor

The first sEXPO took place last Friday, April 18. It included roundtable discussions, panels, spoken word performance, sEXPLORATIONs, and keynote addresses. Speakers were professors from Millersville and other colleges, students, activists, and religious leaders.

The first keynote address was given by Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle, activist artists that are part of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. The organization is meant to “promote a counter culture on consent,” said Nagle.

Society often asks if victims really did get raped. “Rape culture teaches survivors to question their experience,” explained Nagle. “You get to say what happened to your body,” continued Nagle.

The rape culture becomes problematic when people accept that rape “just happens.” Nagle said that accepting it as a part of life is “demotivating and paralyzing.”

They argue that saying ‘no’ has a bad connotation that leads people to hesitate when wanting to say it. “[A goal of this counter-culture] is to de-stigmatize saying ‘no,” said Nagle.

FORCE started the consent is sexy underwear culture jam. A culture jam uses logos of commercialized material and uses it for progressive messages. They did this by making a parody website of Victoria Secret with a “new” line of underwear reading “consent is sexy” as opposed to standard phrases like “a sure thing.”

The website was accompanied with a fake press release. The truth was revealed when a reporter called Victoria Secret. Further mobilizing the campaign, they created the hashtag #loveconsent used during the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. FORCE also left panties in stores that said “ask first.”

Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle, activist artists that are part of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, talked about a counter-culture to rape culture.
Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle, activist artists that are part of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, talked about a counter-culture to rape culture.

After this campaign, many people wanted to buy the underwear. Nagle and Brancato said the campaign was never in support of consumerism; they just wanted to open up the conversation to Victoria Secret customers.

FORCE saw another opportunity nearing the time that Playboy publishes its list of Top Ten Party Schools. The parodied list featured schools that supported victims of rape and educated the campus on consent. A series of fake news websites was created to spread the story. Brancato said the list “help[ed] people imagine what this world could look like [in a consent standard culture].” Playboy put off publishing their real list due to the culture jam.

Along with encouraging a culture of consent, FORCE also supports survivors. The counter-culture also shifts the blame from victims to rapists.

Nagle and Brancato used former U.S. Representative of Missouri, Todd Akin, as an opportunity to change the culture. Akin believed that the female body shut down after rape in order to prevent pregnancy. In response to that statement by Akin, the organization projected an image of the phrase “rape is rape” on one of the walls of the Capitol Building. “It was a national debate, but the stories of the survivors were left out,” said Nagle.

The next big project of FORCE is a quilt square placed on the National Mall. An aerial view will reveal that the squares spell out “not alone.” Each individual square will have a story from a survivor of rape or words of general support. “If they want to reconnect to the public, [survivors] should be able to,” said Brancato. In 2016, the project should be finalized.

The next keynote address was given by activist and writer, Suey Park. Park was proponent of the #CancelColbert hashtag after the Colbert Report’s twitter account made a racist remark against Asian Americans. Park was then featured on Huffington Post Live, when a reporter interrupted her and accused her of not knowing what satire was. The sEXPO was the first event she has spoken at since the incident.

She opened up joking about her role as a “feminist kill joy.” Park defines the term as a person who points out misogynistic and racist comments. She mentioned that she was not very popular in college because most people were “not used to an angry Asian.”

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture was behind the “consent is sexy” underwear.
FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture was behind the “consent is sexy” underwear.

Park, an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke of sometimes wondering if she was “[there] to enrich the experience of the white students.” She goes on to say that it is difficult to get an education when you are expected to educate others.

When fielding an audience question about how white people should approach being allies to women of color, she explained her stance. “I don’t want to spend all of my time educating white allies and not get anything back,” said Park. The activist is willing to put the time in to educate white people if they will use it in a way that will not just benefit them. She added that being an ally is “not equal to ending global oppression.”

When she is not calling out problematic jokes, Park is participating in on-the-ground efforts. Park is a part of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, an organization that helped spread the word of Marissa Alexander. Alexander fired a warning shot in the air to dissuade her abusive husband. She now faces up to sixty years in prison.

Speaking from her experience as an Asian American, Park explained that Asians are seen as the “model minority.” Therefore, some Asian women feel excluded from the women of color category. This type of feminism can be “endlessly nuanced, but women of color is always read as literal and one dimensional.”

The last keynote address of the evening came from Sam Killermann, a social justice comedian addressing the topic of gender and sexuality.

The first time Killermann “came out as not gay” was when he thought he was dating someone his freshman year of college. He explained that others had called him gay in high school but he did not think it was commentary on his sexuality.
When addressing confusion over his sexuality, Killermann said, “Don’t apologize because it implies that being gay is bad.” He said that it would be worst if he looked like he was “stabby.”

Most of these people assumed he was gay because he had a good appearance. Killermann explained that “positive” stereotypes are just as limiting as negative ones. He said that when people are expected to live in line with a stereotype, they feel alienated.

Killermann talked about how he combined activism with humor. “[For me] humor makes conversations more accessible,” explained Killermann. His humor effectively reached the audience when talking about gender neutral bathrooms.

Many assaults on transgendered people occur in bathrooms. Killermann commented on the unnecessarily complicated issues raised by the opposition to gender neutral bathrooms . He said many people ask, “What are we going to put on the sign?” He answered, “A picture of a toilet.”