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Gossip, Good or Bad?

On a small campus, it is always important to think about how you talk about people. Gossip is many people’s pastime of choice, but for others, it can leave a significant impact on their mental health or their reputation. People with fragile self-esteem (almost all of us sometimes) are susceptible to others’ judgment. However, I often think about when it is a good time to listen to others’ gossip: times when it could help keep you safe. 

Sexual misconduct is unfortunately a reality on all college campuses. Try as they might, if they really do try, college administrations cannot effectively police men (who are the offenders in most cases) who think they have a societally-ordained right to have access to women and their bodies. In many schools, or at least from what I can conjecture, colleges rarely punish reported offenders, even offenders who are reported MULTIPLE TIMES. In court, accumulating enough evidence from multiple sources ought to be enough to justify retribution for a criminal. However, perhaps because they are concerned with their reputations, certain institutions dance around real, effective punishment such as a no-contact order or expulsion.

So, what are women to do, with people like this allowed to continue attending and graduating from these institutions with them? Sometimes forced to take multiple classes with offenders? The best defense we have is looking out for each other. This means using our double-edged sword: gossip. For example, someone approached me at a party and my older friends ushered me away, explaining that I should avoid him at all costs. I struggle with the responsibility I impose on myself, knowing what I know. Though I take no pleasure in saying negative things about other people, I feel concern, empathy, and a sense of duty to protect all women from people I know to be dangerous. If I cannot be friends with every girl, I can at least pass my concerns and information on to my friends, so they can use caution and in turn caution others. Though you can never predict when something bad will happen, knowledge is powerful, and knowledge passed on from another’s experience or even hearsay can protect you. The world is terrifying and if women do not stand together, if they use the tool of gossip against each other, then it is not helping us where we might need it most.