“To anyone who has ever experienced any form of sexual harassment or assault, me too,” Aleeza Kazmi, junior journalism major and assistant multimedia editor at The Statesman, said to a crowd of students gathered in front of the Student Activities Center.
Kazmi, along with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), organized a #MeToo march during Campus Life Time on Wednesday, giving students an opportunity to add their voices to the national movement supporting survivors of sexual assault.
A crowd of roughly 225 people gathered at the SAC plaza to hear Kazmi speak. Among them, a girl with blue-tipped hair wiped her eyes and a man in the back unwaveringly held up a cardboard sign with both hands that read, “Wanna smash harassment + sexism + abuse?”
Another sign simply read, “#MeToo.”
“It is important to understand this is not a cis-women movement, this is an all people movement,” Kazmi said to “whoos!” from the audience. “Because 1 in every 10 rape victims is a man and 21 percent of transgender, genderqueer and non-conforming college students are sexually assaulted.”
Vice president of FMLA and junior applied mathematics and statistics major David Clark spoke next, reading points from a letter of demands FMLA sent to Stony Brook University. He criticized the university for not living up to its potential as a HeforShe impact champion university, one of only 10 institutions worldwide.
“We applaud President Stanley on his stated commitment to ending sexual harassment and violence,” Clark said, referring to a video the president’s office posted in response to Stony Brook University Hospital settling three cases of sexual harassment. “However, we know that the HeforShe program has often been a shield used by the university to avoid criticism. And we hope that President Stanley’s commitment is backed up with a plan for how to address sexual harassment at Stony Brook.”
Several groups marched with FMLA, including Stony Brook’s Cadence Step Team, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDS), school administrators, staff and Sepa Mujer, a Long Island-based Latina immigrants’ rights organization supporting survivors of domestic violence and other abuses.
“It’s so refreshing to see guys, young men,” said Rommy Aznaran, a community organizer from Sepa Mujer. “One of the guys came over to one of our members and thanked her for speaking up, you know, speaking up for her daughter and speaking up for this event.”
Stephen Hanna, a member of both FMLA and YDS and a senior biochemistry and applied mathematics and statistics major, explained that you don’t have to be a survivor of assault or harassment to support the #MeToo movement. “Feminism is a foundational part of socialism and so we really advocate for women’s rights and really just their ability to be an individual authentically without the oppression or clashing with society,” he said.
Hanna, along with Kazmi and the FMLA president, Mahum Siddiqui, a junior biomedical engineering major, led the marchers in call and response chants.
“My body, my choice!” Kazmi shouted. “Our bodies our choice!” the crowd shouted back.
Many participants, such as junior biology major Elorna Pierre, had experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment.
“I thought [the march] was very powerful, very enriching,” she said. “I’m a survivor of child sexual assault, so knowing that there’s other people here that are protesting for the same thing, knowing that there’s so much support, it really like feels good.”
Another survivor, senior biology and psychology major Jacqueline Cabot, said it was nice to see others standing with the movement.
“I’m a victim of sexual assault, so it’s really important for me, like personally, to be here,” Cabot said. “But it’s also really inspiring to see that there are people like my friend who aren’t, who are willing to support it and willing to show that they’re against bad things.”
One marcher, Amneet Kaur, a sophomore psychology and business major, pointed out the weather, unseasonably warm for the end of February, calling it “a sign from the universe.”
Siddiqui said she was proud of the march’s success. “I think that having bodies out in any number is successful, and I’m super proud of this campus for coming together and showing solidarity over and over again,” she said. “It makes me filled with pride to see this kind of support for sexual violence victims and survivors.”