On Scarlet Letters and Slut-Shaming

To Whom It May Concern:

Last Saturday, under the direction of Bev Scavvy, teams were sent to the Scripps 240 house to place an “A,” a reference to The Scarlet Letter, on the house and take a picture of it. I, along with many of my other housemates, watched a large number of our peers, some of whom we consider our friends, walk up to our doorstep and place a symbol denoting us as sluts on our home.

I feel very privileged that I can say that up until this point in my life I have never felt discriminated against based on my gender. However, this incident made me realize more than ever that not only is gender discrimination alive and well, but also alive and well in the Claremont community. The current political climate is certainly not a comfortable place for advocates of women’s equality, but if there is anywhere that should be safe from attacks based on gender and sexual expression, it should be a personal residence on a women’s liberal arts college campus. Last weekend proved that even seemingly the safest of places is not immune to ignorance and insensitivity. 

The Bev Scavvy organizers explain that they were “making a joke,” but I think it is important to realize that out of all of the ways to include our house in Bev Scavvy—out of all of the ways to “make a joke” involving us—they chose to attack our gender and sexuality. It is easy to say that this is “just a joke,” but it is more than that because of the subject matter this “joke” chose to attack. In the media, in current political debate, in our communities, gender equality is repeatedly brushed aside as frivolous and comical. When public figures like Rush Limbaugh feel comfortable enough to publicly call a woman a slut, and when well-educated students do not immediately see an issue with placing a symbol of sexual shame on a fellow student’s private residence, there is a serious problem. This act proved that even on our own campuses, if a woman expresses her sexuality in any way, it is somehow thought to be acceptable to call this “wrong” and label her a “slut.” These acts of degradation are taken too lightheartedly. This incident was not simply a joke; it was a way of publicly shaming and condemning the residents of this house, many of whom the organizers have never met, much less know enough to judge. 

The Bev Scavvy organizers made a mistake that is all too easy and all too common to make. For many participants, compliance with this act came far too easily. I want to encourage readers to continue to question the meaning of their actions on a daily basis – it is an exercise from which we can all benefit. 

Neither I nor other members of my house want Bev Scavvy to discontinue. I believe that this can be an opportunity for improvement within our community and I was encouraged throughout last Saturday evening by many participants who, upon hearing that we were not notified of this clue beforehand, immediately refused to complete the task. For those participants who did place an “A” on our house and now realize the full implications of that action and wish to make a meaningful statement that encourages respectful treatment of women, I encourage you to participate in the Claremont SlutWalk, happening April 21 beginning at Jacqua Quad at Scripps. Clearly, discussion concerning these issues needs to be generated within our community, and if this is the event needed to spark those discussions, I am glad that it happened. 


Molly Fassler

Scripps College ‘14

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