Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Story of SCABS

Happy New Year everyone! In celebration of the New Year I want to tell everyone a little story: the story of SCABS.

SCABS (Students Coordinated Against Bad Stuff) is/was an organization I helped create in the second semester of my senior year. We aimed at poking fun Beloit’s obsession with PCness, which often took an extreme level (which is why most of our members keep their membership a secret, and why I’m telling you this now that I’m done with college). Indeed, the story began with such a bought with political correctness.

Early in the spring semester of 2004, the Alliance (including gay, bisexual, transgender, lesbian and I think one other one) stormed the campus with fliers complaining about the state of the bathrooms on the academic side. (Beloit campus is divided into two sides: residential, where the students live and study at the last minute, and academic, where the students take classes and realize they shouldn’t have procrastinated.) The bathrooms on campus were divided in the conventional way: male and female, complete with the little pictures. While each floor on residential side determines if their bathrooms are to be coed or separated, the academic side is permanently in that separate state (because the whole campus regularly uses the bathrooms).

The issue was, according to the flier, some people don’t define themselves as “male” or “female” and forcing them to label themselves that way damages them. They put off going to the bathroom because they don’t identify with a gender. They face—I believe I’m quoting this right—“horrifying violence” if they try to use one bathroom over the other. The transgendered, the flier says, are suffering because we lack “gender neutral” bathrooms and it’s our duty as students of a progressive liberal arts college to “break the bathroom binary.”

Naturally, there were two questions that floated around campus. One was, “has anyone ever heard of violence against transgender people on this campus?” No one ever had but the flier suggested that it had happened elsewhere and it could happen here. The other question was, “do we even have transgender students on campus.” No one knew of any but the tone of the flier (and later articles in the student newspaper) suggested we might someday.

Now gender neutral bathrooms—single bathrooms that allow male or females—are actually a good idea, with or without transgenders. At the very least, it betters the market of available bathrooms for everyone else. During a ten-minute break for class, I would sometimes find myself waiting in the men’s bathroom while a women’s bathroom stood empty next door.

The head of residential life later said if they approached him and requested the change, he would have altered some of the bathrooms (the single ones) as all it would require is changing some signs. But the Alliance persisted, as if there was a flurry of people on campus conspiring against them, and they papered the campus later that week. They wanted all bathrooms changed. Their dogmatic persistence and vehement attitude drove me to sarcastically counter with my own flier I made that weekend.

Students Against Sad Stuff (SASS) put out brochures organized in the same way as Alliance’s initial attempts this time rallying around the slogan, “Sanitize the Seat Situation.” We create a breeding ground for germs because men and women use the toilet seat differently. (Men often keep it up, much to women’s disapproval.) For most people, this isn’t a problem but for the “germ-adverse,” they face horrifying violence because of how they view sanitation. Thus we should remove toilet seats in some stalls and glue them down in others to counter the problem.

After its introduction, I told some friends about SASS and we ran with it to create SCABS. A few weeks later, an independent organization (random propaganda) poked fun at the Alliance with a flier of their own, saying their proposal would promote rape. After they found the campus didn’t think this was funny, random propaganda claimed they were trying to bring up a legitimate concern. Few bought it.

SCABS took this as an opportunity to poke some more fun at the campus. We introduced our first (and my favorite) flier: PC Isn’t PC. For your viewing pleasure, I provide a copy below.

"PC" Isn't PC

There has been recent concern on campus of the use of what’s politically correct, particularly in reference to gender neutral bathrooms and rape.

But people miss the big picture: the term “politically correct” itself isn’t politically correct. By stating something is “correct” suggests one idea is better, smarter or superior to others and that makes people feel bad.

Here are some PC facts.
-People are genuinely concerned about their mental and physical health because of PC labeling.
-Legions are faced with the threat of horrifying violence every time they challenge the established oppression of PC norms.
-Millions are beaten every day.
-Zero action has taken place to stop PCness from hurting people, obviously the work of Republican insurgents.
-People who use the term “PC” and disagree with us are evil, eat babies and vote for George W. Bush.
-This issue causes people to feel less good about themselves.

In keeping with our tradition that nothing bad should ever happen to anyone ever, Students Coordinated Against Bad Stuff (SCABS) offers the phrase “Ideologically Neutral” to combat the horrifying mental and physical violence PC terminology encourages.

Obviously, what we call something is more important than other issues in the world. This is what we should spend our time discussing.

btyb Students Coordinated Against Bad Stuff (SCABS), formerly known as Students Against Sad Stuff (SASS)

I can't exactly remember what happened to the issue after that, but I know that as of last semester I didn't see one gender-neutral bathroom on academic side. One can only hope that SCABS chapters will appear in college campuses all over the country.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Well, if I don't forget, I might just start a similar org. here at UCSD, David. But, I am pretty busy, so don't hold your breath.