Clowns and Female Fear

With the increase in chatter over the emergence of clowns across the country, it is important to do some reflecting on how it impacts females on college campuses.

The first sighting occurred in Greenville, South Carolina where reports stated clowns were trying to lure children into the woods.  The event sparked a clown terrorizing movement across the U.S. and became particularly popular on college campuses.  The phenomenon plays on the commonly shared fear of clowns, taking a once comical character and perceiving it as menacing.  To fight back against the trend, clown hunting has become a sport of sorts where groups will go out, either unarmed or armed, and search for people in clown costumes.  Their objective is to scare the clowns who are trying to scare them. By reflecting the fear back to the source, people are simply fostering a society filled with alarm.  Is it really necessary to be enveloped in panic over costumed jokers?

On Augie’s campus, Public Safety combated the issue by sending a school wide email urging students to report any sightings.  Chief Tom Phillis also warns, “Be mindful about participating in what you may consider a harmless prank. Others may not perceive it in the same way, and you may cause undue distress for members of our campus community”.  His statement gets to the heart of the issue behind frightening pranks.  There are serious emotional repercussions behind any encroachment on someone’s safety.  While some people were quick to laugh off the uncanny nature of clowns stalking in the night others noted the unnecessary frustration of not feeling safe while walking on campus.

This fear is not a new feeling for most women.  Sidewalks are menacing every night, with or without clowns.  We have to deal with “undue stress” any time we have to walk alone.  Pepper spray weighs down the key chains of women on campus, serving as a reminder of how we must adapt to live as females.  We are taught to be weary of doing anything by ourselves.  We learned safety tricks like walking with keys between fingers, knowing it might not be enough to fight off an attacker.  Don’t forget S.I.N.G. (solar plexus, instep, nose, groin) from Miss Congeniality.  Women are perceived as vulnerable.  Once the clowns disappear, the fear that has been cultivated in women will remain.

It’s time to start thinking about how raising our women to constantly have survival instinct fear is detrimental to the growth of females everywhere.  The problem can’t be fixed by arranging a group of people to go “attacker” hunting because threats towards women aren’t always dressed as clowns.  We need to combat the issue systematically.  Provide a social environment where women don’t have to hide themselves away to feel safe.

While the clown happenings are not positive events, they have provided a platform for an open discussion on individual safety.  Everyone, regardless of gender, is impacted by this breach in security.  People can experience the apprehension that lives within women and use it to reform the way our society deals with gender dynamics.

The social buzz seems to have worn down on Augustana’s campus as of late, but as Halloween approaches, the possibility of a resurgence of clown activity is very possible.  Remember, if you see any clown sightings call Public Safety at 309-794-7711.


Stay safe and please spark constructive conversations about the injustices you feel.