Respectful Difference Across Campus: What This Means To Her Campus Kenyon

What does Respectful Difference mean to you?

In the past week, this question has been circulating Kenyon’s campus and alumni circles across the globe, as well as spreading to other schools, such as Oberlin, through nominations. The “#RespectfulDifference” movement has surfaced in light of recent offensive and immature interchanges on Yik Yak, an anonymous twitter-esque iPhone app, regarding women, Crozier, Take Back the Night, and other organizations. However, the movement’s scope extends much further than just this recent uproar over Yik Yak.

After speaking with a professor who has taught at Kenyon since 1992, it is clear that this is not the first time that there has been a seemingly out of the blue backlash at Crozier or Take Back the Night. Cycles of discontent occur with any sensitive subject when people refuse to listen to both sides. While the hashtag "#IStandWithSurvivors" that has surfaced in response to this uproar is incredibly empowering, its opposite would literally be "#IStandWithRapists." This hashtag oversimplifies the issue: this is not a black and white situation of standing with or against survivors. There is a deeper issue on our campus of learning to stand with everyone, to listen to everyone, to include everyone in a dialogue that they may or may not completely understand.

The only way to foster learning is to experience a range of differing views. As a prestigious liberal arts institution, Kenyon must work to achieve our goal of a culture of listening. We will learn nothing of value about the strange and fascinating world we live in if we cannot also learn to listen to others. While we may not agree with their opinions, we still must learn to accept them as people. In any friendship or relationship, it is clear that there is a difference between loving somebody and agreeing with them. Can we extend this love to strangers, as well? Exposure to differing views is an education; if we decide we always know best and immediately shut down the opinions of others without open discussion, our entire decision to pursue higher education is invalidated.

For us at Her Campus Kenyon, Respectful Difference means that every voice deserves to be heard. One initial trait to the disturbing interchanges that spurred this movement was harsh overgeneralization and stereotyping of campus groups. Her Campus realizes we are an organization full of what some people see as contradictions. Our banners are pink and purple, and we offer you weekly articles on the latest beauty trends and “cuties.” Still, many women who write for Her Campus globally self identify as feminists and seek to bring attention to culturally normative misogyny and women’s issues. It is our ingrained belief that it is possible to be both “girly” and feminist: how we may dress or fix our hair does not belie our natural right to equality with men. This is an issue addressed in many feminist texts and movements, and often presents itself in society when women wonder whether or not they can identify as feminist. Just as every other organization on campus faces its own stereotype, this is one that Her Campus faces. The first step to breaking down these stereotypes is discussion. We must see each other as people, not tropes. We must respectfully differ from each other.