Meet Gloria Fortuna
She’s studying at Davidson College in North Carolina. Gloria is one of Breakthrough’s 2016-17 Fellows. Gloria is majoring in English and contemplating a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, and is a member of Connor House, a social and service-based organization for women at Davidson.
Gloria, along with our other five Fellows, has been working with Breakthrough since September to challenge the culture of gender-based violence on her campus. As part of her leadership, she took this action at Davidson in March 2017.
As she entered her fellowship at Breakthrough, Gloria couldn’t help but notice the frequency of violent and derogatory language on her campus. Oftentimes, violent language is used to talk about things that are minor, or even altogether unrelated to gender-based violence (such as a difficult exam or a tough sports game). This language is normalized in social situations when it is laughed at, not called out by peers, and repeatedly ingrained in social interactions. The actual violence being described is conflated with the everyday, making gender-based violence a social norm and bridging the gap between what is unacceptable and what is acceptable in the community.
Gloria created an exhibition around this violent language, aiming to demonstrate the way in which words can become harmful when they are used in contexts that normalize and minimize the violence that is actually being described (phrases like “I just got fucked in the ass by that test,” for example). This action is not about political correctness or policing language, but rather about thinking about the meaning and power of specific, commonly used words on campus.
Gloria hopes this project will help Davidson students see that the intention of the language does not matter, but its impact does. Whether you are using the word “faggy” to describe something you think it is stupid, or to tease someone for being uncool, you are using a word that is fundamentally rooted in a derogatory and discriminatory history. Adding new connotations to a word does not absolve it of its original meaning.
Gloria is staffing the exhibition for three days, along with other members of Connor House, to give more students the opportunity to contribute and create a bigger conversation. Keep an eye on this space for updates and a toolkit to recreate Gloria’s action on your campus!