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Break Ground

Project Overview

A Whitman College publication that speaks out against sexual violence and rape culture through poetry, prose, art and narrative.

Identifying the Problem

An increase in the intensity of political discourse concerning women’s rights and women’s bodies. awakened in Alice an acute awareness of her body as contested territory for politicians. She also observed that feminist beliefs and activity at her college were not as widely supported as she would have liked. While she was initially excited when her school newspaper ran an article about the problems with her college’s policy on sexual assault—which generated conversation among the students—Alice was disappointed that such an important dialogue was occurring on the newspaper's website, where virulent, misogynist responses were commonplace.

Creating A Solution

As a visible, confident senior woman on campus, Alice wanted to tell her story. She believed that making a "zine" (a small circulation, self-published work) dedicated to sexual violence and gendered experiences could help the campus address the fact that all of its members are a part of and complicit in a society where sexual violence (particularly against women) occurs far too often.

Alice began soliciting art, poetry, prose, personal narratives - anything she could print - from members of the Whitman community. It was important to Alice that the incoming freshmen each year are exposed to the zine, since the vast majority of cases of sexual assault on college campuses take place in the first weeks of freshman year. Understanding the urgency of the situation, and anticipating the impact her publication could have on the new students, Alice reached an agreement with the Resident Life staff at her college to set aside a copy of the zine for every freshman section on campus.

Alice and her team also compiled a list of over forty campus groups that support the statement: "We stand together against sexual assault and rape and voice our support for individuals who have experienced assault. We challenge the Whitman community to counter the broader culture that enables sexual violence." Several professor allies (one of whom contributed her own story, anonymously) helped to spread the word of Alice’s project to faculty, staff and administrators. Alice even hand-delivered a copy of Break Ground to every administrator.

The release of Break Ground coincided with Whitman College's "Take Back the Night" event, which was an excellent way to amplify the impact of both projects. The response to Break Groundhas been overwhelming. "Many women have contacted me personally, thanking me for bringing their horrific experiences to the public eye," Alice says.

Lessons Learned

Alice stresses that projects like hers are excellent ideas for college campuses. She encourages other students to utilize the resources and networks that are bound to be in place, such as student government financial support and relevant student groups that will be excited to support new projects. Alice admits that applying this project to a non-college community could be a productive challenge, since part of the weight of the publication is that it addresses readers as members of a community. She also understands the importance of collaborating with younger students in order to make her zine an ongoing project.

Get Involved!

Break Ground is now online! Alice would truly appreciate your help in spreading the link.  If you are interested in starting a similar project at your school, she would love to speak with you in more detail about her work!

Funding

As a college publication, the cost of printing Break Ground was covered by The Associated Students of Whitman College. However, Alice knew that a request for $500 or more would require a longer waiting period (especially since it was a first time project), and she wanted to get the zine published and distributed as soon as possible. Therefore, she made the decision to only print 300 copies of the zine, which would cost $495.

In the future, the students in charge of publication will ask for more money so more copies of Break Ground can be distributed. Alice believes that while having an online version of the zine is great,  there's something powerful about having the physical copies floating around campus and finding their way into peoples' dorms and apartments.

The other major resources required for this project were a good graphic design program and someone who knew how to do graphic design. Luckily, two of the people Alice worked with were very good at layout and graphic design, and their expertise helped make the publication look more professional.

Alice spent very little on advertising, since she mostly advertised Break Ground online for free.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2011

Developed by:

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