Editor’s Note: Emily was our 2016 Moxie Scholar at Women AdvaNCe. She continues to be a valued part of our community and we celebrate her confidence and drive in pursuing this. We’ll be checking back with her after she cuts her hair.
By Emily Hagstrom
It’s eight pm, and I’m curled up in bed in my Airbnb in Northern France scrolling through the Facebook Feed of the advocacy nonprofits I follow back home. Spoiler alert: Things aren’t looking so good. Know Your IX (a survivor based organization dedicated to harassment and violence free schools) and the National Women’s Law Center (a women’s advocacy organization based in Washington, DC) display post after post about what looks to be a week from hell (July 10-14).
The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, decided to meet with Men’s Rights Activist Groups, giving groups that perpetuate harmful and statistically wrong myths about issues like gender based violence a national platform to influence violence prevention and response policy in schools. This is beyond not good. These groups invalidate survivors and make the following claims (against all statistical evidence): that rape is overreported, that women lie about rape and domestic violence, and that when gender based violence happens, it’s the survivor’s fault. They’re not the folks you want helping decide how survivors should be treated.
And let’s not forget a statement from the acting secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education that “90%” of rape “accusations” on college campuses come from young women who were drunk, broke up with their boyfriends, or just simply regretted the situation. (For some context, the best research in the world suggests that rape is underreported—certainly not over-reported. For further information on this, check out the Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s blog series on rape myths here.)
If you’re like me, upon hearing about all this for the first time (whether that’s now or weeks ago when all this actually went down), you were probably a flurry of angry react emojis, caps lock, and “???????????????”. But then, you were probably thinking, there has to be more to life than angry react emojis, caps lock, and “???????????????”
To give a little more context on where my headspace was on this somewhat fateful night, this is the first time I have ever been out of the country in my life. Ever. I am so, incredibly thankful to UNC Chapel Hill and the Phillips Travel Scholarship for bringing me here and allowing me to do my research in such a fulfilling and hands-on way. I truly would not want to be anywhere else.
But, y’all, this is the first time I’ve been out of the country in my life. I’ve always been somewhere in North Carolina ready to react when horrible things like this happen. And now—I felt helpless. And also antsy. I am horrible at sitting still.
A glass of wine later, I see a post from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center about something called Punk Cuts to End Rape—a challenge for folks to shear their hair in exchange for donations—and I’m thinking, “Oh, wow, those people are so brave!”
And then in an instant I’m thinking, “What if I were that brave?” It’s worth noting here that I am deeply attached to my hair, so the decision to participate in Punk Cuts may or may not have taken a little bit of prayer, hours of convincing from friends, and a couple more glasses of wine. But in the end, I remembered a pretty basic fact of life: Hair grows.
And honestly, who cares what my hair looks like? I’m so tired of this idea that there’s some Pretty Tax folks have to pay for getting to exist in public. If I cut it all off, it feels like I’m fighting rape culture even more by refusing to conform to some ridiculous societal norm that says women should be dainty, feminine, and constantly pleasing to men. It might not seem like a big deal, but that, in and of itself, is pretty liberating.
So that, in a nutshell, is my story—why I’m participating in Punk Cuts to End Rape. You can come out to The Shearing on August 25th from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am at The Station in Carrboro if you want to be a part of an amazing night full of fun, dancing, and supporting the work of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.
Last but not least, if you can, please donate to my fundraising page. (I’ve set a ridiculously high goal of $2,000 which may or may not be unachievable.) You can find it at this link. To make the giving even more fun, highest bidder gets to decide what I do with my fair.
If you’re like me, and you’re feeling helpless in the face of everything going on, this is a great way to support local efforts in your community. The Orange County Rape Crisis Center does truly incredible work, like teach kids in county schools about consent and healthy relationships, conduct screenings for and teach how to recognize child sexual violence, and of course provide incredible response services for people of all backgrounds who may need support following an assault. This work is incredibly important–especially because every 98 seconds, someone in the United States commits sexual assault.