In this series, Flyby Staff Writer Olivia M. Munk identifies, dissects, and discusses ideas, articles, and opinions found in popular media and popular culture. She's here to inform you and to make you think—about what's out there, what it means to us, and what it might mean for you.
WHAT IT IS
According to the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), Vassar College gives new meaning to the term "liberal" arts. The religious organization (frequently referred to as a hate group) has dubbed the private college in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. an "Ivy League Whorehouse" and is set to protest there tomorrow (February 28). An announcement on the WBC's website, tactfully entitled "godhatesfags.com," proclaims that the group will protest the school for being "champions of whoredom" and having partaken in a "fag agenda."
WHY IT CAUGHT OUR ATTENTION
The WBC may fight their battles with nasty name-calling and picket lines, but college students have one of the most impervious weapons known to the 21st century: social media. Current students, alumni, and LGBTQ allies worldwide have taken to the internet to defend the liberal arts "whorehouse," referring to it as such themselves in an attempt to lighten the otherwise rather grim situation. Even though the protest isn't set to happen until Thursday, online media outlets took note of the commotion following its announcement earlier this month. Buzzfeed published 22 of the best tweets and statuses made in response to the WBC's announcement. My personal favorite: "Finally realizing that the Latin on my diploma reads 'Ivy League Whorehouse.'"
Enterprising Vassar alum Josh De Leeuw took the opportunity to solicit donations for The Trevor Project with a goal of $4,500—$100 for every minute the WBC plans to protest. At time of writing this article, the Crowdrise page had garnered more than $92,000. The Trevor Project, which draws its title from a 1998 short film, provides crisis intervention services for LGBTQ teens around the country.
Recent instances of intolerance at Vassar, a former women's college that is generally considered to be a very tolerant school, have inspired students to fight back against the WBC's intolerance with a vengeance. In December, incidents of overt sexism and racist graffiti shook administrators and students alike, sparking "Teach-Ins" and committees to facilitate open conversations about the incidents.
"Everyone is frankly very excited for this [WBC] event," said Vassar sophomore Claire Ashley. "I actually found out about it as soon as Facebook started going crazy with the news that the WBC had added Vassar to their protest agenda, because a friend of mine busted into my room. In light of recent racist and sexist occurrences on campus, it seems like the Vassar community is especially anxious to unite against a hate group like the WBC."
The WBC also protested Harvard Hillel in 2010, prompting a "Surprise Absurdity Protest," a counter-protest in which students made ridiculous signs to signal that they found the WBC's message and actions to be irrelevant and pointless.