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.
This past Monday night around 10 pm, Swarthmore students chalked pro-LGBTQA+ messages on sidewalks all over campus in honor of Pride Month. Messages included “Queers eat here,” chalked outside of Sharples, and “George and Molly are queer,” referring to the bookstore dogs, written outside of Clothier. Counter-chalkings expressing anti-queer sentiments appeared around campus by 2 am that same night.
One chalking outside of Sharples (shown above) said, “Gays can’t make kids w/o a petri dish.” Other chalkings included “For true equality let the women rape the men” and “#fuckherrightinthepussy.”
Many students felt uncomfortable and unsafe because of these chalkings. In response to a chalking outside of Willets that said “procreator pride,” one student, who asked to be referred to as AL ‘17, said, “As someone who is asexual and plans not to have kids through childbirth, it was kind of like a gut punch. [..] You forget that at a place like Swarthmore there are still people who will hate and judge me just for being me […] I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t want to think about it, I did not want that to invade my space.”
One queer student in the class of 2017, who asked to remain anonymous, said when they heard about the rape chalking, it made them feel unsafe. “You just trivialized my status as a survivor, you totally took everything that I’ve gone through and made it into this sad attempt at a political statement. It’s not okay, it’s not acceptable,” they said. “I’m also a part of ASAP, and you’re just missing the point of everything a group like ASAP [stands] for. I couldn’t believe someone like that is at Swarthmore.”
Students had mixed reactions to the original chalkings as well.
The anonymous student said, “Last year I was kind of offended by it. I was like, ‘Oh, this is so aggressive,’ […] But this year I started going to SQU meetings and was like, ‘Oh, there’s a reason to be angry, and there’s a reason people are so aggressive in their chalkings.’ So I wanted to be a part of this. Even if it makes people uncomfortable, because last year some of my straight friends were like “I don’t need to see your sexuality everywhere.” This year I was like, ‘I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable, this is something you just need to see.’”
AL was comforted by the pro-queer chalkings, saying, “As a closeted asexual last year, it was very nice walking to class and seeing an Ace Pride chalking. And even though I couldn’t interact in the dialogue, it was still very moving to me.”
Peter Amadeo ‘15 said, “I think the chalkings are really great because they’re amplifying queer and trans voices, which obviously don’t have a position in society.”
While Amadeo understood why students might feel that some of the pro-queer chalkings were inappropriate, they did not warrant the reactions expressed in the counterchalkings. “Some of the sexually explicit ones are a little bit inappropriate because I think that people have extremely valid reasons to be uncomfortable with sexually explicit material. And I think that it’s inappropriate to put that in front of them in a very public way, that they can’t avoid it. Like there was one chalking about ‘sucking dick is the best thing that ever happened to me.’ There are a lot of people who have extremely negative experiences tied to that,” Amadeo said. “[But] feeling the need to counterchalk is very inappropriate. Believe it or not, you, as a straight person, have your feelings magnified all the time.”
When asked how she thought we should address the issue of these chalkings on campus, AL responded, “I think we should be talking about it because there is evidently a vocal minority on campus who see queer identity as something to either be mocked or dismissed.”
Claudia Lo ‘16 saw the chalked responses as an opportunity to draw upon institutional memory. “This’d be a great opportunity to remind ourselves that homophobia exists, and for the student body to learn about the history of queer chalking and its inevitable virulent response,” she said.
This is not the first time anti-queer sentiments have been expressed on campus: negative reactions to pro-queer chalkings have shown up on campus as early as 1989. To learn more, see The Daily Gazette’s history of queer chalkings on campus here.
Allison Hrabar ‘16 contributed reporting.
Images courtesy of Jake Moon ‘17 and Hannah Armbruster ‘15