Collective Voices, Common Ground

February 9, 2018

The #MeToo movement, simmering in social media for over a decade, boiled over last fall with Alyssa Milano’s famous tweet: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Now two GCC students, Sequoia Lebreux and Lu Vincent, have brought this movement to campus by creating the GCC #MeToo board.  On display in the East Building, the board announces its purpose: “…this is a movement with the intention of creating solidarity and visibility for survivors of sexual assault and harassment.”  A panel discussion on February 15th will take this another step forward on our campus.  The event will be held in the Stinchfield Lecture on the Main Campus, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The path to creating the board and panel began last fall when Dean of Humanities Leo Hwang and Professor of Sociology Linda McCarthy convened a student group called Collective Voices, Common Ground to provide a forum for discussing current social issues and bringing together students interested in activism on campus.  Out of the many issues raised, #MeToo emerged. Then Lu and Sequoia got to work.

Combining their passion and talents and supported by the art department, the #MeToo board is a visual representation full of color and content, with bold lettering and beautiful cutouts of many hands and an interactive component where you can leave a message by tucking it between outreaching fingers. It all came together organically to explain the movement, provide resources, educate and promote expression in a lively and accessible way.

Interviewed together, the sense of it comes tumbling forth.  Lu: “This is the opportune moment. This is a national, if not global thing that is alive right now, so we thought, let’s see what’s happening on our campus, how we can help represent this here.” Sequoia: “…we want to help put this out in the world in a way that isn’t necessarily personal or vulnerable, but adds color and fills in something – creating something hopeful and forward moving.”

Both acknowledged the power of survivors’ messages and the potential risk of the board triggering unwelcome responses so they wanted to make viewing a safe experience. Lu: “…a lot of people we know in our community… are carrying something, from maybe when they were a child or a teenager. This is an opportunity to release some of that burden.” Sequoia: “The mindful component for us was, we’d seen a lot of #MeToo campaigns where there were very personal statements. People are certainly welcome to do that, but this is a place where you don’t have to do that … if you want to leave your mark, that’s a great first step in bridging that gap between never talking about something, to moving into a space … Maybe we won’t talk about it today, but we’re getting there!” Lu adds, “ GCC has been really supportive as far as bringing this issue to light and we have had a lot of support to make this happen.”

The support they feel is part and parcel of an overarching college effort to address diversity issues and challenges on campus.  The “Just One Thing” initiative invites each of us to do one new thing each year to strengthen inclusion and diversity at GCC. Says Professor Hwang, “As educators, it’s part of our job to learn and change and grow.” He adds, “This semester one important step will be to focus on the #MeToo movement.” Adds Linda McCarthy, “In my class we are always trying to connect our everyday life with academics. We also try to link classroom and co-curricular activities.”

For more information on what others on campus have done as their “Just One Thing”, see: http://www.gcc.mass.edu/justonething/

By Christine Copeland

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