Today, Zags for Life, a “pro-life” organization, affiliated with the Department of Mission and Ministry, created a rhetorically violent depiction which impeded menstruating persons of the Gonzaga community access to education and their workplaces, and further, denied them a safe educational environment free from gender-based harassment.
The Zags for Life organization received official authorization to place “x” number of pink crosses on Foley Lawn, with signs that read “Planned Parenthood kills ‘x’ number of people a day.” This rhetorical violence was marketed on Zagtivities and occurred from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For the five busiest hours of this Wednesday, the menstruating persons of the Gonzaga community were subjected to school sanctioned harassment via rhetorically violent propaganda. “Zag for Life’s” message was unmistakable: menstruating persons who access health care in compliance with federal law are murderers or are complicit in murder.
October is both breast cancer awareness month and domestic violence awareness month. People who menstruate are both more likely to be survivors of breast cancer and domestic violence. The choice to color the crosses pink was an eerily, unmistakable rhetorical choice that drew the battlelines loud and clear: their qualm was with women. We acknowledge women are not the only people who menstruate. You would have to ask Zags for Life if they acknowledge the same.
Students and faculty members are free to hold their own personal political views and express them whenever they wish so long as they do not infringe on the rights of other students. It should not be contradictory to assert that, the university is not allowed to sanction an organization of our peers to stand in one of the busiest junctures on campus, where nearly everyone walks, and call menstruating persons murderers.
Every student has a right to go to school without being falsely accused of murder. Even if they menstruate.
How are menstruating persons to receive equal access to education while being told that if they express their bodily autonomy, it is murder?
Such a disturbing assertion creates an undue, unreasonable risk of menstruating persons being traumatized due to the rhetorical violence of Zags for Life.
If there are students on this campus that have recieved abortions in compliance with federal law, they are not murderers under any jurisdiction recognized by this university. It is no one’s business why they received reproductive health care. They should not be ostracized by this university or it’s students because they had access to safe, legal health care. To suggest otherwise discriminates against them on the basis of their sex.
Here, bias occurred at multiple other intersections. Zags for Life’s preposterous claim situates itself within larger societal implications of the debate over bodily autonomy and the dignity of the human person; which automatically invoke contemporary discourses around race and ethnicity, class, gender identity and sexual assault.
It is well documented that the socioeconomically disadvantaged do not have the same access to reproductive health care. This incident had the potential to be triggering to socio-economically disadvantaged students who may know someone who had to desperately to receive an abortion.
Further, it is well documented, this barrier often occurs along lines of race and ethnicity. The presence of all white students and clergy attempting to constrain a student’s bodily autonomy is deeply problematic.
Further, the LGBTQIA plus community and women of color are more likely to be sexually assaulted than their white counterparts. What message do we send to marginalized communities by allowing such vile behavior to go unsanctioned?
This incident was a profound disturbance to our academic environment. Multiple students felt compelled to stand in solidarity with menstruating people and marginalized communities affected by today’s unfortunate rhetorical violence, and protest it. Students felt compelled to skip class to be in solidarity. Their compulsion is understandable because their bodies had to become the demonstration, the tangible bodies affected.
There is no formal means for our voices to be heard on campus in response to the Zags for Life club. A pro-choice, sex education club is forbidden, despite the university’s allegedly neutral position on abortion. These are both clubs which would provide concerned students meaningful ways to participate in the contemporary discourse around the dignity of the human person. Moreover, if Zags for Life has affiliation with the university the pro-choice and sex education clubs must as well.
This school sanctioned activity must be declared an incident of bias and independently investigated as a potential structural, systemic violation of Title IX. Following such investigation, we demand appropriate redress, including the break of end of affiliation of the university with Zags for Life.
This type of profoundly inappropriate behavior by Zags for Life must not be allowed to occur again.