Campus Carry is not a Feminist Policy – A blog by Aya Seidemann
On August 1st, 1966, a student at the University of Texas at Austin walked to the top of the university’s highest building and began sniping people walking below, killing sixteen and injuring thirty-two. This incident became the first mass college shooting in United States history (Kingkade). On August 1st, 2016, fifty years to the day after that first shooting, a law allowing guns to be taken into college buildings will go into effect across the state. As a student at the University of Texas at Austin, I find this dark irony revolting. And as a feminist, I find the policy misogynistic and that it reinforces the hegemonic masculinity already in place in the Texas political system.
First of all, some background information: In June of this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill S.B. 11 into law. This law, also called campus carry, made it legal for license holders to have their concealed handguns on their persons in public places on all university campuses (Prazan). This includes classrooms, lecture halls, private offices, on-campus dorms, and more. While all public universities are forced to be compliant with this law, it is up to the discretion of the university to decide specific “reasonable” rules on how to implement it (Fenves). The passing of the law has been met with very strong feeling from people on either side of the campus carry debate.
Students and faculty alike have come together to protest S.B. 11. Petitions have been signed, protest and public hearings have been held, a Gun-Free UT (University of Texas) group has been formed, and people have taken to social media to show their discontent with the new policy. One of the main concerns of the gun control lobbyists is that allowing guns in classrooms will prohibit free speech. The classroom is supposed to be a zone where students from all different ranks of life who may have never been in the same room otherwise can meet and discuss opinions and sometimes controversial issues. Professors work hard to create an environment where students feel safe to talk freely and openly, yet the introduction of guns into classrooms could raise fear among students. They might become less willing to debate and disagree with other students, since if another other student had a gun and was angry enough, he or she could literally pull out the gun and shoot someone. While this may sound ridiculous, if you take the track record the United States has for campus shootings this does not seem so implausible anymore. This insertion of fear into the classroom would especially apply to people who may not be of the same political alignment as the majority, or people who are of a different race, religion, sexuality, et cetera, as most other people in the class. In a southern, Republican, mostly white state of Texas, these people would include people of racial minorities, feminist, people in the LGBT community, and people on the political left (Ura and Daniel). Lisa Moore, a Women’s and Gender Studies professor at the University of Texas, spoke of her fear that “students, after witnessing an emotionally charged disruption in class, would [not] return knowing one of their classmates might be armed” (Kingkade). As the sign held by a woman at a campus carry protest said, she supports Gun-Free UT because “as a queer teacher I need to create a space where my queer students and I feel safe“ (Facebook). Flicking through the pictures on the Gun-Free UT Facebook page, it warms my heart to see such a large array of people from all walks of life coming together to stand for something they all believe in. The intersectionality is unbelievable – there are people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and more, all wearing the bright orange “Gun-Free UT” shirts. The choice of the color orange is also gendered in itself, as it is a color not normally associated with male nor female. Therefore I find the anti-campus carry movement to be a feminist one.
Some campus carry proponents, however, believe that the law is especially good for women. In a blog post by a student at Texas Chrisian University, she explains that
The female body is incredible, but the physical make-up… is not designed to fight off a male perpetrator. This is where firearms become the great equalizer. Until… women’s physical capabilities drastically evolve, gun ownership among women fills the void of physical inequalities between genders. Revoking this right turns it into a gender issue, and not giving women tools that could equalize them during an attack could even be described as discrimination (Longoria).
Where do I begin. Her assumption that women are not “designed” to fight off men is sexist and assumes that all women are built the same way and all men are built the same way, which is simply not true. And even if it were, Longoria’s words are hypocritical. If a woman truly is weaker and is caught by surprise at an attack, having a gun on her increases the chance that the attacker will be able to take said gun from her and use it against her. What I feel like pro-campus carry people neglect to remember is that while the law makes it easier for a potential victim to be protected, it also makes it easier for the potential offender to be armed. Not having guns on campus in the first place increases the chance of keeping them both “potential” victims and offenders instead of actual victims and offenders.
In addition, the thing with surprise attacks is that the attacker knows the attack is coming. The person attacked does not. If both people can easily access guns, the one prepared will have a faster reaction time to pull out the gun than the one caught off guard. Or an attacker could even walk up with a gun already pulled out, in which case having a handgun in a bag would be useless as the attacker would be watching the other person’s moves and see them reaching into their bag. It is not “evening the playing field” when both sides are given the same benefit, it is simply making matters more dangerous. Being allowed to carry a gun on campus would be useless in this case.
But this is only in regard to the most commonly thought of stranger-lurking-for-unsuspecting-girl-in-the-bushes type of attack, when in fact “over 80% of sexual assault perpetrators are known to their victims” (Schorn). In this case, would a girl always be expected to take a gun with her on dates, where over half of college rapes take place, expecting that the person whom she agreed to go on a date with may rape her? And what if the date includes drinking alcohol? Even a licensed handgun owner is not allowed to carry a firearm while intoxicated, so even if she had a gun she would not be allowed to take it with her anyhow, creating a contradiction in Longoria’s reasoning. Once again, having more lax gun restrictions would be useless.
This same argument can be applied to homicide of men killing women. In a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center, it was noted that in 2013 “fifteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers” in the United States, and most of these involved an argument between the victim and the offender (VPC). Also, firearms were the weapon used more commonly than all other methods of killing combined (VPC). If restrictions on who can own guns were stronger, these fights may have ended in something other than the murder of the woman.
What Longoria and other “feminist” anti-gun-control people are saying is that guns will help raise women to the level of men. I find this extremely sexist. It makes the woman sound weak and vulnerable to guns, when in fact all bodies are vulnerable to guns, no matter the gender. Research has shown that “you have a better chance of stepping on an attacker’s instep, swinging your head back and breaking their nose, than swiveling around, pulling a gun out of a holster and shooting someone ” (Talamo). So women actually have a higher chance of surviving a surprise attack without a gun.
The marketing of guns is gendered in itself. Guns are portrayed as masculine, powerful, violent objects meant to protect the poor, helpless woman. People that are pro-guns feel threatened by gun regulations on firearms because it challenges the gun-wielding notions “of hyper-masculinity with the elements… of control, domination over others and the environment, competitiveness, autonomy, rugged individualism, strength, toughness, forcefulness, decisiveness, and, of course, never having to ask for help or assistance” (Blumenfeld). People who are against gun regulations are therefore simply reinforcing the patriarchal society of the United States.
Though some pro-gun and pro-campus carry people may like to call themselves feminists, I think their beliefs are contradictory with the fundamental belief of feminism: that all people are equal regardless of gender. So in conclusion, I believe that restricting the campus carry law across the universities in Texas would not only keep women more safe but all people more free and safe.
Kingkade, Tyler. “Guns On Campus Bill Passes In Texas, But Gun Activists Are Not Happy.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Prazan, Phil. “Anti-campus Carry Protesters Rally at UT-Austin.” KXANcom. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
Fenves, Gregory L. “Campus Carry Working Group Announced.” 20 Aug. 2015. E-mail.
Ura, Alexa, and Annie Daniel. “See Demographics Shift by Texas County, by Alexa Ura and Annie Daniel.” The Texas Tribune. N.p., 25 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“Gun-Free UT.” Facebook. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
Longoria, Lydia. “Campus Carry Is a Feminist Issue, by Lydia Longoria.”TribTalk. The Texas Tribune, 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
Schorn, Susan. “Bitchslap: A Column About Women and Fighting.”McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. N.p., 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2013 Homicide Data. Publication. N.p.: Violence Policy Center, 2015. Print.
Talamo, Alexa Lex. “Are Women Safer With Guns Around.” Shreveport Times. N.p., 17 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.
Blumenfeld, Warren. “Patriarchy, Toxic Hyper-Masculinity, & Firearms -.” The Good Men Project. N.p., 08 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
My name is Aya Seidemann and I am a fourth year student pursuing a B.S. in Maths and a B.A. in Theatre. While I am a student at the University of Texas, I spent the first semester of my final year studying abroad at University College Dublin. I had an amazing semester in Ireland and especially enjoyed the community at UCD. I love nature, hiking, theatre, books, and a good cup of tea.