Every year the SPCOM 440 class explores and grapples with a controversial topic. Their discussion is then showcased through various artistic mediums in an attempt to spark a campus-wide conversation.
This year, the topic chosen was rape culture. Rape Culture was defined by the class as “the normalization and acceptance of unequal gendered power dynamics at social, cultural, individual and institutional levels. Rape culture is an extremely heavy topic and unfortunately one that in our society many of us are forced to confront on an everyday basis. As a class, these students attempted to define rape culture and evaluate the effects it has on individuals navigating their way through society. Preparing to go and see this exhibit I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Luckily, any concerns I had were expelled within less than five minutes after I entered the exhibit, which was beautifully displayed in the Modern Languages Theater. It became evident right away that these students had worked tirelessly to create accurate and honest representations of what rape culture meant to them while showcasing their exceptional artistic and creative abilities. With an array of pieces that drew the viewers in through various mediums, every exhibit was profound and articulated a powerful and individual message.
I had the opportunity to talk to one of the creators of a piece, Kaitlyn, a fourth year speech communications student in order to get a better understanding of what this project meant to her and how this process has affected her a student. The piece was simply entitled “safe/unsafe spaces.” Its purpose was to inform the audience of the vast difference in experiences faced by men and women when they are placed in the same situation.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for this piece?
A: We sat down with the female members of our group and we discussed areas on campus where we felt unsafe and why. We then took these ideas to the male members of our group and asked them to contribute not only their experiences, but also their personal level of comfort in the same areas. There was such a different and intense contrast in experience that we decided to map it out. The idea was to make a representation of the places on campus that may feel safe for some individuals but completely unsafe for others.
Q: How has this project been important and meaningful for you?
A: I think identifying and having the opportunity to really look into personal experiences that people don’t realize make myself and other individuals feel unsafe was an extremely valuable experience. For example, uncovering that women are consciously worrying about what shoes to wear in order to be able to run away from an attacker is extremely profound and hopefully will leave people thinking and spark conversation about what we need to do in order for that to change.
Q: What has having the opportunity to be involved in this project and talk about rape culture in an open and safe environment meant for you and your success?
A: I believe it really opens the door for conversation. I think it is so important for student success and life success in general to have your views, your opinions and your experiences validated and that is what this project is doing. It is allowing people to have a safe conversation about an extremely important issue and I think that is very important for, not only personal wellbeing, but for the progression and wellbeing of our society.