Reported assault forces us to confront injustice on campus

As a white woman at Calvin, I walk through the majority of my days unaware of the gender and racial aspects of my identity. I didn’t have to fight to be admitted here on the basis of my gender. I have been blessed to have female supervisors and mentors touch nearly every inch of my life as a Calvin student. And as a communication major, women make up the majority of my peers and professors. 

But when VP Visser sent that email, I suddenly became aware of my female identity. 

I became aware of the fact that my female housemates ride the bus by themselves every day. I became aware of the fact that while my classes in communication are made up of mostly women, my classes in other departments are mostly male. I became aware of the short walk from the library doors to my car in the CFAC parking lot at 10 PM as my heart nearly beat out of my chest with anxiety. 

On Sunday afternoon, I opened the package from my Wednesday night order. I pulled out a small cylinder. Pepper spray. Bright pink, of course, because even retailers know that women are their primary consumers. When my housemate asked me if I was happy with it, my answer was that I was mad, mad that this is the world we live in, one where I now carry a weapon next to my car key. Not because I want to, but because I have to for my own safety and, most importantly, peace of mind. 

That night I became more aware that the injustices of the world affect our campus too, but I also became even more conscious of the fact that the women (and men) that make up this campus and this community are strong and relentless in their fight for justice. And that we serve the God of justice — that the injustices that make me mad, anger him even more. 

I wish I could exist in a world where I didn’t have to be aware of the fact that my gender made me at risk for danger. I wish my identity didn’t stir up fear in my chest as I walk across campus. 

As a society, we have come a long way in moving towards gender equality — the fact that I can walk out of the library at 10 PM after studying for my exam in higher education is evidence of that. But we are nowhere near done. My experience, as a white woman, is just one experience. Other women haven’t just had to fear, but have had to deal with the very things that I fear. And even these experiences don’t touch on the experiences of other minorities, such as racial minorities and those in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

The injustices that women face on this campus, in this city, and all around the world are not okay. They are not of God. This is not shalom. And it’s on all of us, yes, all of us, to seek justice.