Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Created by a small coalition of women in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the Clothesline Project has grown into a nationwide movement to honor survivors of violence and sexual assault, inspiring various spin-off projects. This year, Delta Upsilon (DU) and Phi Psi pushed the boundaries of the project by inviting Swarthmore to pledge against sexual assault and abuse through handprints and badges.
The project began in 1990 after a group of women learned that 58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam War while 51,000 women died as a result of sexual violence during that same time period. Historically, the project has been dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women; however, Co-Organizer Lisa Sendrow ’13 said the event at Swarthmroe highlights violence against all people. Sendrow is part of Swarthmore’s Sexual Misconduct and Resources Team (SMART) which organized the Project on campus including working with the fraternities to help set up their events.
During DU’s Handprint Pledge, men are traditionally invited to place their handprint on a red sheet that is hung with the t-shirts. Each of the marks is a commitment to stand against sexual violence. This year, however, anyone could place their handprint and pledge to never commit harm toward another person. The handprints were hung with the t-shirts on the clothesline.
“Around 120 handprints were pledged,” said DU SMART Liaison Matt Bertuch ’14, reflecting on the pledge’s strong turnout. Bertuch said the event displays how everyone has an active role in preventing sexual abuse.
According to Trevor Shepherd ’15, part of DU’s community service committee, the event reached out to members of the Swarthmore community too. “A group of moms hanging out on Parrish Beach pledged, as well as students and faculty,” Shepherd said.
Matt Lamb ’12, former DU President, says he feels it is up to the fraternities to step up as leaders to speak up against sexual assault. “We are an all-male controlled student space and we do throw parties with alcohol which increases the likelihood of sexual assault happening,” said Lamb. By participating in the project, Lamb says DU aims to be a responsible party host through combating sexual assault.
In addition to DU’s pledge, for the first time, Phi Psi held its own campaign for the Clothesline Project, the Power of Words, which ran from Tuesday to Thursday. In their campaign, they tabled at Sharples handing out badges and stickers that acknowledge the power of language in perpetuating violent attitudes.
“These badges are regular name tag stickers, but will have slogans underscoring the importance of watching what you say,” said Phi Psi President Mike Girardi ’13. “For instance one badge will pledge ‘Say what you MEAN and MEAN what you say.’”
Phi Psi says it plans to expand their involvement in the Clothesline Project. Brothers of both DU and Phi Psi also helped SMART distribute white ribbons in Sharples during the week of the Project. Those who wear the ribbons identify as supporters of survivors of violence and sexual assault.
-Photo by Ellen Sanchez-Huerta, The Daily Gazette
“We are an all-male controlled student space and we do throw parties with alcohol which increases the likelihood of sexual assault happening,”
I have a problem with this statement. Sexual assault does not “happen.” It is not a passive act. Somebody commits sexual assault. The frats seem to be semantically avoiding taking real responsibility.
are you fucking serious?
I assume Happening is serious. Would you mind explaining exactly what you take issue with in their comment?
I think it’s lovely that the Du and Phi Psi brothers are helping out with The Clothesline Project. However, it definitely felt incredibly uncomfortable being handed a sticker from someone that I knew to be a perpetrator – I didn’t want to not support the cause, but at the same time, it was a really weird situation to be in.
I think it was also a strange approach to take: As the comment above suggests, they are being incredibly passive and I would like for someone to take some responsibility. I absolutely adore the My Strength is Not for Hurting / Men Can Stop Rape campaign; I wish they had turned to that instead of the mild “words have weight” campaign extremely reminiscent of GLSEN’s controversial Think B4 You Speak project.
I agree–stickers about using words like bitch and fag may have been apropos to the pub nite situation, but had very little to do with sexual assault.
Thank you, DU and Phi Psi. If you continue to back up movements like this with actions I will be very happy. I mean it. 🙂
I know that this is an extremely late comment, but I was just reading this for the first time and taking issue with some of the comments made.
Trust me, it was hard for me at first as well because it’s hard to separate “perp” from “frat bro,” but honestly, DU and Phi Psi did sooooo much to help out with CLP this year, and I think that many of them had different responses and many have learned why this issue is so important. So even for brothers I was uncomfortable with before, after seeing them hang up the shirts at 9 AM with us, it’s getting much harder for me to take issue.
Also, with regard to Happening’s comment, I think you’re really reading too much into it. Matt Lamb in particular is an ally of survivors, as well as other brothers in DU, and has dedicated a lot of his time to helping us as CLP facilitators and SMARTeam members. You’re right that sexual assault doesn’t just “happen,” but I can honestly say that this is not what he meant. If you have been working as close with them as we have, you can see that both Phi Psi and DU are trying very hard and are definitely starting to take responsibility for their actions and for actions other brothers have taken.
I am unbelievably grateful for everything they have done as someone who has felt that way in the past and still feels that way about certain people. But we, as a campus, have to learn how to separate individuals from groups because they are really working hard to change perceptions.
This was not intended to be an ad hominem attack on Matt at all. I agree that I’m reading into it but I do think it is a demonstration of the pervasiveness of rape culture. I think it’s important for people to think critically about what words can mean.
I /am/ separating perp from frat bro. The person who personally handed me a sticker is a perpetrator. I know, because I know his victim. Please don’t assume I’m making generalizations when I’m not. Regardless to what time someone woke up to help, at least one person helping out is a perpetrator of sexual misconduct. I don’t care how many t-shirts he hangs up.
I definitely know what you’re saying, trust me. I’ve gotten calls and know from personal experience that there are perpS who are in both frats. You are not making generalizations, I just want to assure you that I understand. And trust me, most of those perps did not help us. However, in terms of the frats not taking responsibility for the actions of those perps, we’ve talked a lot to those frats and have gone through really difficult personal situations, but many of them have asked for help and want to change. I am not asking you to forgive and/ or forget, but just to understand that for me, it was really nice to see that many of them are trying to make an effort and many have their hearts in the right place. Yes, there are perpetrators, I don’t want you to think that I am denying that. But I want people to see that the brothers are having more discussions with us and have asked us to run workshops and trainings and are trying to do something about the actions that are associated with them.
I also just wanted to add that I am sorry you felt uncomfortable and that you were put in that unwanted situation. I know what it’s like and it is absolutely awful, and I am glad that you were able to say something. Hopefully, this issue will be addressed by Phi Psi. If you want us as the SMARTeam to do something, please let me/ us know.
First off, I’d really like to thank the DU and Phi Psi brothers for helping out with CLP this year. While there may be negativity surrounding the brothers’ involvement (sometimes legitimate and for good reason, sometimes not), I hope this will not decrease the support of the brothers in future years.
I have one response to the Handprint Pledge. While I was very appreciative of the event and the presence of the brothers at the station, there was very little communication about what the Handprint Pledge meant and what the brothers’ presence meant. I was simply asked if I wanted to pledge my support against sexual violence and then directed to the paint bucket. While I have no qualms about the request itself, I would very much have liked to hear more verbal communication about the event, its meaning, and the significance of the brothers taking such a stand. DU Brothers: What does taking a stand against sexual violence mean to you? What does it look like? Why is it important for men (frat brothers or not) to initiate activism against sexual violence? Why are y’all committed to CLP? In your minds, what does my pledge mean/stand for? The request to pledge followed by mostly silence seemed a little too simple/passive to me.
Again, thanks for your participation and hope to see y’all at CLP again next year!