The aim of this article is to explain to the SLU community some of my experiences with disrespect, sexism, and harassment as a Java Staff member. On December 3, Caroline Rose was playing at the Java Barn, and as usual, pre-show was met with house bonding, salsa munching, and celebratory Devo for Bjarne’s birthday. Towards the end of the show things took a turn, and I ended up being injured due to three people’s lack of respect for my authority and the Java venue.
But this most recent ignominy is nothing new to my experience as a staff member at Java. The position has been riddled with experiences of sexism and disrespect, since I began working at Java last spring. Every time someone at Java ignores me, tells me that “You cannot tell me what to do,” non-consensually and intentionally touches me while I am in the barrier, laughs when I tell them they need to put their drink in a cup, blows their Juul cloud in my face when I tell them to go outside, I am reminded that I am inferior and am not taken seriously as a woman.
My position as a white, not straight, and educated woman has provided me with a distinct lens through which I see and interpret the world. I am aware and conscious of my oppression and inferiority in society (even at SLU, despite the goals of educating young people). Despite the awareness that I am continuing to develop surrounding my position in society as a woman, the weekly reminder of inferiority hurts like hell. Java is my favorite place on campus, but it is also a place where I am reminded that my opinions, experiences, and authority are not taken seriously in society or at the university that I chose to attend.
The two times that I chose to disclose my experiences working at Java to a professor of mine, he/she asked me why I chose to live and work at such an awful place. The first incident I told them about was when a young man from out of town told me, as I was kicking him out for harrassment, “I can touch whoever I want to – I mean – I would never, like, rape someone, but if I saw a nice ass, I would not hesitate to slap it.” For about three weeks after he said this to me, the words played over and over in my head. That person plainly explained to me that I do not have any autonomy over my body, and that he had the ability to violate me, or any woman, simply for being a woman.
The second incident that I told my professor about was when I told three men to get down from an unstable bookshelf. I told them that it was dangerous and that someone could get hurt, but they laughed and adjusted to a different position on the shelf. Then the bookshelf and the three men came crashing down onto me. This is only one very symbolic experience where I felt literally beneath you and immobile because of you. And now, I have reminders of your power, my lack of power, and the ways in which yes, your privilege, can physically hurt me. My back is sore and weak, my hips are bruised from hitting the ground, my thigh is unrecognizable – bigger than usual, and blue, purple, yellow, and red – and my ankles have distinct marks from the weight of the shelves. What hurts more than my body is the continuous and repeated reinforcement that my authority as a staff member, as a person, as a woman, will not be taken seriously.
So, I understand my professor’s question, but I did not have an answer for it at the time. I still may not have an answer, but I am working on finding a balance between the joy and excitement I feel when I am at Java, and the pain and disrespect that I experience in the same venue.
This article is not written with malice or targets in mind, but attempts to highlight the ongoing issues that women with authority face at universities as well as in ‘the real world.’ These experiences are mine and are limited to one place, but they can attempt to represent the impacts of power relations on a woman’s everyday experiences. The doctor told me that the bruises will heal in about a month from now, so I get to be reminded every single day what happened. As you can hopefully imagine, that makes me indescribably angry.
The people I mentioned above are not the problem, but a part of the problem as well as a part of my awful experiences at Java. My goal is not to make individuals feel bad about hurting me, but to help people try and understand how my position as a woman provides me with different experiences than men. There are only so many things that the thirteen members of our house can do during a Java show, and our wellbeing should not be jeopardized due to attendees’ entitlement and disrespect. Next semester is a new one with so many possibilities, among them being the possibility of respectful attendants at Java. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to listen to music and have a good time. So, why be a dick?