Content warning for mentions of sexual harassment and assault
In the wake of #MeToo, reexamining and recontextualizing societal norms has proved a continuous challenge. The reporting of the Voice over the past few weeks has been groundbreaking in that attempting to look back through Wooster’s own history and acknowledge faults is something that is likely to open more wounds. While the actions of Howard Lowry occurred in the “past,” his legacy has shaped all of our experiences on this campus, and the way the school addresses Lowry’s actions will be important to the future of the institution.
It’s a shame that — in my own experience — the #MeToo movement has gone from a solemn recognition of a wider societal culture that continues to prey upon women to something yet again “taboo,” or something to be ashamed to admit. In reality, no matter how many times you are told that your truth matters, sometimes the situation is so delicate that the one person telling you that you are at fault can crumble your view of a situation entirely. I have so much respect for the women who came forward to discuss Howard Lowry, and maybe the reason it was so off-putting for me is because I’d seen a part of myself in their voices that I had wanted so long to dismiss.
When I first got the email from the school explaining an investigation would be launched — I’m not going to shy away from it — I totally shrugged it off. It wasn’t something I wanted to see talked about here. It sounds awful, and it was. More than anything else, I thought about myself in the position of a woman who has come forward with that information about such a well-respected and powerful man so central to our interpretations of The College of Wooster. And I thought that if I had that information, the shame would just eat me whole and spit me back out. That’s why I truly admire the bravery and strength of the women who came out, who stood their ground and let an intimate detail of their lives be publicized so we can all readjust our understanding of what it means to be a part of the community that makes up the College of Wooster.
My reaction to this situation was so abrasive and defensive that it sent me into a tiny spiral of wondering how I could call myself a woman and advocate for victims of any kind of sexual harassment or assault when I bristled at the mention of actions like this occurring in a place I respect. I had the kind of realization that you can only have when you confront a dark part of yourself that doesn’t want to let your hurt out. That it scared me so much because I had come again to see the actions the women described as normalized. Even after doing what I thought was some decent work to see how widespread sexual harassment and assault occurs, to address it in how I viewed the world around me — I was still scared at the end of the day to admit that it had reached me before, it was reaching me when I opened up the Voice, and it is going to continue to reach me in my life.
I’d like to end this piece by encouraging everyone to have a similar conversation with themselves. It’s hard, it’ll mess you up for a bit, but it truly is worth it, because I don’t want to look at someone brave enough to speak their truth again and ignore it for my own personal comfort in the status quo ever again.