Posted by: Amiris J. Brown on: March 18, 2012
Appalachian State University (ASU) has essentially forced rape culture onto student-athletes, and I wanted to express that within my design. It is my opinion that ASU has created an injustice through its allowance of a serial gang rapist to return to an otherwise upstanding team. The actions taken by ASU thus far have served to further condone and promote rape culture by insisting fellow football players harbor and cooperate with a rapist. This is a psychologically harmful example to set, especially when, “… a disproportionate number of gang rapes are being committed by … young male athletes”. The last time ASU failed to take a strong stance against rape, it started an epidemic of team-gang-rapes committed by ASU football players — which eventually had to be remedied by the National Organization for Women (NOW). Thus, my design is an educational tool that seeks to spread awareness, by its act of cultivating openly insightful debate about accountability.
The subject of accountability is at the rotting core of rape culture. Dr. Claire Walsh of the University of Florida’s sexual-assault recovery program explained about two decades ago that, “[w]hen we’re talking about athletic teams and gang rape, we see how, time after time, the entire community comes to the support of the team. Athletes are very important in the fabric of a campus or town. They keep alumni interested, and produce money for the community.” When ASU acts in such a way it creates, “… a culture that values a game over basic bodily integrity and physical health; it’s a culture that values that game over education, even at an institution of higher learning.” In summery ASU is not only promoting rape culture, but the pure exploitation of its student-athletes.
Disgustingly, ASU would go so far as to silence student-athletes who wish to distance themselves from such criminal and immoral behavior, by threatening student-athletes with a breach of their sports contract with the university if they spoke out publicly. This is what institutionalized silence looks like! Student-athletes are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and this is a violation of said amendment. I commend those student-athletes who wish to speak out against these atrocities, for they demonstrate a deep understanding of, “[w]hat athletes do reflects on our society – and influences others”. I hope such student-athletes educate themselves on their Civil Rights, and call upon the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to defend their Free Speech.
While the act of silence is a key factor in promoting rape culture, so too is the act of belittling such violence. To make an accusation that posing a critical question about and to ASU is the equivalent of making a slanderous statement, is not only a fallacy but is an act of belittling the violence that has been committed. It is a scapegoating tactic that implies victim-blaming indirectly, while directly attacking Free Speech carried by any messenger of transparency. For clarification purposes, this piece of art is no different than the Watauga Democrat reporting that, “… one [of the two serial gang rapists are] currently listed on the 2012 roster of the ASU football team”. This artwork I have created has done nothing more than display the team that is publicly listed on the online ASU football roster. ASU’s action of placing a serial gang rapist back onto the team is what has implicated the ASU football team, not the reports stating facts and not artwork that displays only the facts available at the time of its creation and dissemination.
The most disturbing fact that remains, is that ASU has yet to reveal the serial gang rapist that is reported to be back on the football team. When rape culture is perpetuated it only serves to further reinforce the psychological response of not reporting rape among accomplices, witnesses, and survivors because, “[o]f course people are going to cover for him, or look the other way, or make small changes so that they can feel better but don’t actually go to law enforcement, which might threaten the game”. These actions not only make the entire football team suspect to the public, but compromises student safety while simultaneously tarnishing the reputation of ASU sports overall. In contrast, my artwork on this subject seeks to ask a question, not make an insinuating statement of implication based on association.
My process in creating this design was the following:
With this artwork I wanted to address the rape culture that envelops ASU. It needed to get a reaction that would spark thought, so that it could cultivate a deeper and wider discussion about rape culture on the ASU campus. I chose the “one liner” that I did, because it was a question to the audience, and not a statement or accusation of associated blame. Specifically, such a question was picked because it would stir and engage my audience in radical feminist theory regarding issues of rape. Most of all, I needed this artwork to be a conversation starter, in order to cultivate a dialog that has repeatedly been ignored and silenced. The conversation I have attempted to frame is that of holding those who support rape culture accountable.
My approach to the design was most influenced by the Kony 2012 campaign poster design style. While I didn’t receive any one-to-two word slogan submission suggestions, I did successfully pick a slogan that expressed a question. I picked such a slogan precisely because it was short, catchy, and to the point like Kony 2012. Just as the iconic poster of Kony 2012 demands accountability, so too does my design. While Kony 2012 asks why developed nations within the western world aren’t aware of Joseph Kony, my design asks a question about our awareness of rape culture on this campus. This piece specifically demands that those responsible for the team stand up to stop rape.
My hope is that this piece will serve its purpose in ending rape culture. One example of rape culture is that no one at this time has revealed the actual serial gang rapist(s), yet the survivors have been publicly identified. Such shortsighted actions often stem from and further promote mentalities of victim-blaming and revictimization of all survivors. Though this is highly upsetting, I took this opportunity to focus on the culture that perpetuates rape rather than the actual individual(s) that committed the horrendous act(s) of rape. A second example of rape culture is that ASU mishandled the case, then promptly allowed one of the serial gang rapists back onto the football team for the 2012-2013 season. According to the Watauga Democrat, “[The Appalachian State] University Conduct Board found [the two serial gang rapists] responsible for sex offenses in a September 2011 event”, yet due to the incompetence of the ASU administration to properly handle the Board hearing, “… one [of the two serial gang rapists are] currently listed on the 2012 roster of the ASU football team.” Like any artist, I welcome critiques of all my works. Before critiquing this specific artwork, all I ask is that you be educated on rape culture and how it intersects with the oppression of athletes. Finally, a personal question I have is where is the “… rape awareness trainings for all current students and for incoming and transferring students”? I sure didn’t get such training upon transferring into ASU. It seems ASU didn’t take the lessons of the past to heart, and are dooming themselves to repeating it in rhyme.