Documenting microagressions: on the @femco_overheard_at_williams Instagram

A week after the launch of the Feminist Collective’s new Instagram accounts, a member of the board told us about negative comments she had heard about one of our pages. This year, in addition to the new @williamsfemco handle, where we post information about our weekly meetings, we also created another account, a finsta if you will, under the handle @femco_overheard_at_williams.

Through anonymous submissions, this account posts racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, hypermasculine, etc., statements said by fellow Williams students that are experienced or overheard on campus. The aforementioned board member received a critique that this account was painting the College in an “overly negative light.” Yet this opinion misses the urgency and necessity of revealing these types of comments that occur on a daily basis at Williams.

To those that still don’t understand why exposing and bringing to light hurtful and harmful statements that are both overheard and said to specific people on this campus, we invite you to browse through our account.

If you do, you will find someone saying to a woman of color: “Do you mind hooking up with my friend too? He still hasn’t gotten his brown girl card.” You will find someone, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the absolute devastation it brought to countless people and families in the Caribbean, complaining about how they won’t be able to go sailing in the Virgin Islands, because they don’t think “they’ll rebuild the resort in time.” You’ll find the statement “I’m pretty lenient about rape.”

Hopefully, as we did, you will not only feel revolted and disturbed by these words, but also apprehensive and scared about having these sentiments present on campus. If not, then you are also part of the problem.

We as board members of the Feminist Collective are horrified by the bulk and content of the submissions we are getting, but also hope that this will inspire students to take action about microaggressions and call out their friends, classmates and teammates. We are horrified because of the sheer audacity, cruelty, ignorance and apathy that characterize the statements posted on our account, but we are also encouraged by the fact that that these offensive words are being exposed to the public in a manner that is critical, constructive and potentially transformative. The purpose of this account is threefold: First, to provide an outlet for and recognition of the inappropriate and the horrendous things that are said to the women, queer, trans, black and brown bodies on this campus; second, to subvert the myth that this campus is a safe and welcoming place for everyone and third, to establish a precedent that these behaviors are inexcusable, offensive and will not be normalized.

Although many would argue otherwise, we never expose the identities of those whose words fill our account. To those that recognize your words from browsing, we hope that you acknowledge the ways in which your words and ideas are affecting and harming individuals on this campus. And to anyone who sees this account as shedding a negative light on the College, we want you to know that we do not relish the existence of this account. In a perfect world, this account would not be necessary, but until then, while racist, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-semitic, xenophobic, etc., statements are still being made and not being acknowledged and criticized, this pages serves as a space to call out, call in and shed a light on what really makes the College a negative place.

Rachel Jones ’18 is a women’s, gender and sexuality studies and africana studies major from New Haven, Conn. She lives in Lambert. Olivia Goodheart ’19 is a political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies major from Lorane, OR. She lives in Currier. Eman Ali ’20 is from Coral Gables, FL. She lives in Gladden. Maddie Grant ’18 is a geosciences major from New York, N.Y. She lives in Lambert.