On Nov. 3, 2017, the WRC held a silent candlelight vigil followed by a gathering for conversation in order to show solidarity with those who have been affected by sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Women’s Resource Center sought to ensure that the #metoo campaign would extend beyond its influence on social media.
Attendees lit candles in the WRC courtyard before having a moment of silence for victims. Afterwards, they headed inside to the WRC to engage in a conversation about the effects of the campaign.
The campaign began shortly after the “New York Times” published an investigative report on sexual misconduct allegations against prominent film producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The report ignited the national viral #metoo campaign that would give voice to women who were victims of sexual misconduct. Though the #metoo campaign initially began in response to the numerous allegations against Weinstein, other leading men in Hollywood, such as Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman, have found themselves facing similar claims of sexual misconduct.
According to Shá Duncan Smith, dean of diversity inclusion and director of the WRC, the candlelight vigil was organized as a joint project between the WRC and the Title IX office.
“The #metoo vigil came about as an effort by different thought partners such as the WRC associates and the Title IX office. Together, we [the WRC and the Title IX office] talked about the #metoo campaign as a whole and how we think about the skill sets that are needed to proactively do a paradigm shift in the culture,” Smith said.
Lucy Jones ’20, a WRC associate, believes that the WRC vigil raised awareness about both the #metoo campaign and about the presence of the center on campus.
“I think for most people there was really a sense of community that was built online from the #metoo campaign. The WRC felt the need to bring that to a physical space because one of our main goals is to make a space on campus that is open to not just women but people of all genders,” Jones said.
The WRC has had a role on campus for nearly 40 years and provides a safe space where students can study, bake, speak to associates, and attend college-sponsored events. By addressing the #metoo campaign, the WRC promoted the awareness of sexual misconduct on campus and rallied even those who were not involved in the social media movement.
“I don’t know a lot about the campaign but I wanted to come tonight to show up and show my support for anyone who’s dealt with issues like sexual assault, sexual misconduct, or sexual based violence,” Meghan Kelly ’18, an attendee of the vigil, said. “Specifically, I was thinking about my role as an RA on campus and how it’s important for me to reach out to everyone in the Swarthmore community.”
Keton Kakkar ’19 attended due to the soothing atmosphere that the vigil provided.
“I enjoy candles and vigils and think they are conducive to reflection on serious issues,” Kakkar said. “There is something beautiful and communal about standing in a circle with people and holding a flame.”
Though some students attended because of the environment the vigil provided, Smith expressed sentiments about how the objectives of the WRC on campus relate to the vigil and the recent movement, noting that the movement also has the potential to positively change the current culture surrounding the treatment of sexual misconduct victims.
“I was excited about looking at [the #metoo campaign] as a way to change the culture. We’re sort of socialized to accept certain things in relation to language and action,” said Smith. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It’s not just about us as individuals but about how the ‘me too’ affects everyone collectively.”
Moving forward, the WRC has further plans to create a safe environment and inclusive community on campus. The Title IX Office, in collaboration with the WRC, is introducing a campaign about the value of healthy relationships on campus.
“One of the things the Title IX office is doing with the WRC is focusing on healthy relationships and healthy communities. As a college, let’s take a look at these unhealthy relationships and how it affects the building of a healthy community,” Smith said. “We can’t have an inclusive community without healthy relationships.”
While the WRC strives to make campus a more safe and inclusive place, the #metoo campaign shows that progress remains to be made. The vigil held by the WRC highlights how students seek to promote awareness by standing in solidarity with the victims of #metoo.