Sunday, September 30, 2007

Attack on UBC Womyn's Centre Threatens Feminist and LGBT Community


In light of the recent druggings at the UBC Beta Theta Pi fraternity party, I’d also like to make mention of the attack on the Womyn's Centre which happened on September 19th. An individual tore down posters and graffitied anti-feminist and homophobic messages in the Womyn's Centre lounge and on its message board. For those like myself who are involved with the Womyn's Centre, the attack has left us threatened, demeaned and afraid. Because the attack happened on campus, it isn't very comforting that we go to school where individuals who are fundamentally against women's and LGBT rights coexist among us. Furthermore, the Womyn's Centre is a designated safe place. The attack threatens and undermines the function of the positive, liberal space provided by the Centre
and by the University. An excerpt from the official statement released by Erin Innes of the Womyn's Centre the day after the attack is as follows:

"Clearly this attack indicates what we all knew already -- that whatever the university would like to think, gender-based oppression and violence is alive and well on this campus, and the need for services and spaces to name and organize against gender-based oppression are vital to the safety of our community and should be supported in every way possible. For myself, this attack has left me feeling frightened and threatened in the one place on campus where I have always up to now felt the most safe, the most respected. I believe that the most immediate way that we can respond to this attack is to send a message that violence is not tolerated on our campus, that the people who use our centre are not a nameless, faceless, voiceless minority that can be victimized in this way with impunity."

Even though there was a small article (or, as I saw it, a "blip") in the Monday, September 25th issue of the Ubyssey reporting the attack on the Womyn's Centre, the paper made no effort to discuss what such an attack could mean for women and/or the LGBT community on campus. It could just be my bias, but I felt that an attack on a designated safe place on university grounds would take precedence over the headliner about VPD recruitment. As for solutions, the Centre has suggested putting up posters to increase awareness. I also encourage people to write editorials to the Ubyssey or other media. Don't be afraid to express your rights and opinions.

What I'd like to stress is that more attention should be drawn to incidents of bias motivated crime (and by no means am I suggesting that potential date-rape is any less of a crime). While UBC and the RCMP work to keep individuals safe, the question that arises is whether or not you can compare an attack on a designated safe place on university grounds on the same level as the recent drugging of girls at a UBC frat party. Can we go to a party and feel safe? Can we be Feminists (or women) and/or LGBT on campus and feel safe? Are we solely responsible for our own safety? It is unfortunate that there cannot be the same media coverage or attention paid to a kind of hate crime than there is to attempted sexual assault. In my mind, the two are interrelated. Both incidents attacked the safety of women and men and demand equal attention.

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