My friend Nate just tweeted:
@wendy_b Can we get a blog post about the past 72 hours? I want to know your perspective on everything that happened.and I thought it might be good to take a step back and do some reflection. The past 72 hours really have been a whirlwind, and for a lot of reasons.
— Nathan Dallon (@NathanDallon) March 9, 2015
On Friday I flew out from Salt Lake, on my way to the Big Ten wrestling championships. I was scheduled to have a quick layover in Chicago before arriving in Columbus, but our flight was seriously delayed leaving Salt Lake. (As we touched down in Chicago, my would-be connecting flight took off.) I spent the flight online, trying to connect with United's customer service through Twitter so I would have an alternate route to Columbus when I deplaned. Almost exactly 24 hours later, I would be using social media in a much larger way.
I was lucky enough to make it on a standby flight to Columbus, got my car 2 minutes before the rental window closed, checked into my hotel, and finally fell asleep--exhausted--around 2 a.m. local time.
Saturday, I arrived at St. John Arena just as wrestling began. Matt had a bye the first round, but the morning was filled with plenty of great matches, cheering, and excitement. Matt won his first match, and we left for the midday break in high spirits. My aunt and uncle, a family friend, my dad, and I all piled into one car and headed out for lunch. While we were driving, I got this text from Erin in my group conversation with her and Suzzanne:
I think I speak for Suzzanne when I say we were both appalled and immediately felt Erin's same sense of disbelief that (a) this shirt existed and (b) someone would wear it in public. We all yelled about it for awhile, then I asked "Mind if I tweet?" And Erin responded "Go for it."A bit later she followed up with "Let's blow this up." So that's what we did.
Or...tried to do.
This was the first tweet.
I've never been offended by an article of clothing until @tednova sent me a pic of this horrifying @Bluejaybar shirt pic.twitter.com/AenUgmoUZJIt got a whopping two retweets. One was by Suzzanne. The other? Shockingly, Erin.
— Wendy (@wendy_b) March 7, 2015
Meanwhile, we were still texting, and Erin had taken to Facebook. We decided we needed a hashtag. Erin's original Facebook post had indicated that rape isn't a joke and shouldn't be used as a tagline, so that seemed perfect. We revised our posts and began the hashtag #RapeIsNotATagline on Facebook and Twitter. We saw a little more action, but still we bemoaned our lack of influence. We brainstormed, trying to figure out if we had any powerful friends we could reach out to. We knew we were at least being heard by the bar who distributed the shirt when we (and our friends joining the conversation) all got blocked by their twitter account.
Was this making someone (@Bluejaybar) uncomfortable? #rapeisnotatagline pic.twitter.com/2nXQyZrgrr
— SuzzyB (@suzzybear) March 7, 2015
I'm sorry an open dialogue won't even be considered by @Bluejaybar #RapeIsNotATagline pic.twitter.com/d8k72echYk
— Erin Avondet (@tednova) March 7, 2015
This is the response to a serious issue. @Bluejaybar #RapeIsNotATagline pic.twitter.com/xWU35iucHY
— Malia Hite (@smalgina) March 7, 2015
Um I don't even go here @Bluejaybar but I do NOT support those filthy t-shirts you're distributing. #gross #classless pic.twitter.com/FEueq519q0
— Lauren Brown (@theMRS_174) March 7, 2015
Speak out against rape, get blocked by @Bluejaybar. #RapeIsNotATagline pic.twitter.com/hO731hpZPkAround the time that the bar blocked us, we started seeing others close to us make real strides in advancing the conversation. Our friend, Scott (who had not been blocked), saved direct links to tweets from the bar advertising the shirts, a smart move as the question later arose whether the bar even had knowledge of their existence. Our friend, Stephen, reached out to the Omaha World Herald and asked them to contact Erin. Erin's med school classmates organized to move a school function from The Jay, where it was originally scheduled to take place. I saw friends on Facebook sharing the photo, and as the evening drew to a close, I felt encouraged. I felt like people were taking a stand. I felt like this was going somewhere. But I wasn't prepared for where.
— Wendy (@wendy_b) March 7, 2015
Late Saturday night, I left the wrestling tournament with plans to take dinner back to my hotel and get to work. I wanted to email administrators at Creighton and ask them to refrain from doing business with The Jay. I planned to email The Jay directly and express our concerns. Instead, I stayed up until 3 a.m. creating a Twitter account and website, thinking the hashtag was great but we needed a place to summarize the effort.
I woke Sunday morning wondering if I had spent the previous day getting too worked up; maybe I was annoying people with the sheer volume of the tweets I had posted. I got ready and headed to the arena, intent to focus on wrestling. But as I pulled into the parking lot, I heard a Twitter notification come through. It was for the @NotATagline account. It was a tweet from The Jay.* They were listening. And so were others.
I text Suzzanne and Erin. Erin confirmed that The Jay had responded to her and some family members. We quickly saw that people were expressing disappointment by leaving reviews on the bar's Facebook place page. And while so many people began to focus on the bar, we realized we had a great opportunity to broaden the conversation and really focus on the substance of our concerns as summed up in our hashtag. The Jay shut down their social media sites for awhile, and we took the time to redouble our efforts to talk more about the problem of rape culture and less about the bar as a business. The Jay ultimately put their accounts back online and issued this statement. (I think, anyway. I can't view it. I'm still blocked.)
Media outlets, including local news stations, the local newspaper, and a local radio station, began tracking the story yesterday midday, contacting people to try and track down its origin. Most were led to Erin as the original poster of the picture. Some found their way to Suzzanne and me. I might have some of these details wrong, but I think Erin did a brief phone interview that led to the first written story, two on-camera interviews for the news, and another phone interview for the World Herald. She was eloquent and focused and wonderful. She's currently being interviewed for her third tv segment.
This morning, Erin and I appeared via phone on a radio morning show. Within two hours of concluding the interview, @NotATagline's number of followers had doubled.
I think the local media attention has helped us clarify that our point in all of this was not to put The Jay out of business. In fact, this might be a great opportunity for the bar to connect with local resources and do some good. But really, these events have coalesced to start a really important conversation about rape. It's so important to highlight the need for consent. And despite the message on the t-shirt, we are all responsible for that. Parents should educate their children. Those with resources should make them accessible to those needing help. Have you heard about Homeland Security's "If you see something, say something" campaign? What if we applied that idea to situations like this as well? If you see something amiss or dangerous, speak out. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that people are grateful for a voice.
All in all, it's been a tiring, wonderful, eye-opening weekend. This all took place while I tried to focus on my brother taking second place at the most difficult weight class in what is undoubtedly the most difficult conference in the country. There are two things I would say I regret about the weekend. The first is that our focus was maybe initially too much on The Jay as an establishment and not enough about the shirt's actual message. I think we quickly remedied that. The second (and more important) regret is that I wish I would have been more present for the tournament. Even when taking pictures of Matt's matches, I had notifications popping up on my phone distracting me. I'm so proud of Matt and the example he is to me. I hope he knows that, despite my mental absence between matches.
*This tweet was subsequently deleted, but I saved a screenshot if you're interested in its content.