Cemetery of Ignorance

by Emily Gregorio

We are in the midst of a beautiful month for Canisius College—Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual assault is a serious concern for both men and women on college campuses. It is inspiring to see Canisius open up to such a difficult topic and show compassion to people who have suffered. Last Friday, I was genuinely moved by the article written by Kristen Warner, “I’m not a rapist, I don’t need sexual assault awareness,” which I encourage everyone to read. She reminded me that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault and that thinking before you speak or act is essential.

This week, Students for Life have placed anti-abortion crosses in front of Christ the King Chapel.

To be clear: I am a woman, I am a feminist, I am not Catholic, I have never had an abortion, and I am not expecting this campus to be fully on one side of this issue.

As a Jesuit institution, Canisius has a duty to uphold magisterial teachings, which do in fact include those concerning abortion. Does this duty assert the right for campus clubs to impose these views onto the campus? I think not. We are— in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month— attempting to create an environment where students of all experiences feel welcome and safe. Anyone who has had an abortion is now being publicly shamed with crosses. These crosses need to be removed and never re-erected. Would you feel welcome on campus if something you did was being publicly criticized? Say a woman on campus had an abortion and was emotionally traumatized by the experience. These crosses have now created an unwarranted trigger. Furthermore, what if a woman on campus was a victim of sexual assault, became pregnant, and had an abortion? These crosses have undermined Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Would you feel safe knowing people have banned together, providing a religious display against your life choices? We have shown support for women who have endured sexual violence, but then claimed their experience is no longer of value if they have had an abortion.

Say, now, you are a woman not unlike me who is neither bound to the magisterium nor the experience of having an abortion. It may be easy to walk past these crosses and think nothing of them. It could even be easy to walk past them and suppress the rage. It should not be easy.

Before I explain why it should not be easy to walk past these atrocities, I would like to take a second to address this generation’s view of feminism.

With the advent of anti-feminist Twitter accounts, such as the nine dedicated specifically to “meninists” (men for men’s rights), and the creation of the word “feminazi” itself (extreme feminists), saying you are a feminist in this generation seems to elicit eye rolling and repressed gagging. Why? Feminism is about gender equality. Feminism is an engaged discussion. It’s thinking critically about the world around you. Feminism is about trying to better everyone’s life and appreciating everyone as individuals. If it was not for feminism, women would not have the right to vote, work, own property, or even obtain an education (which remains a concern in areas of the world).

Now, if you are walking past these crosses unbothered I want you to take a second to stand in front of them. I want you to think about what these crosses represent for women’s rights. I want you to think about how these crosses may be harmful, even oppressive, to all women on campus. I will not give you the answers to these questions as the purpose is to think critically and to form your own opinion. Besides, my bias is a bit too thick. If you are thinking that it should be of no concern as everyone is entitled to their opinion, you have not thought hard enough.

Returning back to Students for Life, I would like to clarify that I do not think this club should be condemned. I think the members of this club especially need the critical thinking exercise, and they need to think more critically about women in Catholicism. Students for Life should not be censored, as this would hinder the possibility of discussion. Instead, Students for Life need to think before they act. Why crosses? There are plenty of other shapes they could have chosen, but they cowardly chose to rely on a power structure from the Catholic undertone of Canisius. Why a “Cemetery of the Innocents”? Are victims of sexual assault not innocent? Be cautious. If they are truly pro-life, they should be capable of coming up with ways to show this that don’t include shaming women, perpetuating oppression, and sucking up to a magisterium of men to support a self-righteous cemetery.

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