Bulldogs for Life recently took to Butler University’s sidewalks, but not with chants and picket signs in broad daylight.
These protestors were strangely silent, using chalk to scrawl their opinions on sidewalks by night.
This attempt to bring a heady social-issue discussion to the forefront is commendable, but it ultimately fails to raise consciousness.
Several factors render chalking an ineffective form of protest.
Generally, the aim of any protest is to force the community to listen to the concerns of those rallying.
Disruption is a key component of grabbing a community’s attention.
The concerns posed by protestors can easily be ignored unless the action directly cuts into or disrupts the community.
Chalking doesn’t force the passerby to recognize the humanity and concerns of those demonstrating.
In fact, people can literally walk all over the contentions both sides have raised.
Also, the anonymity provided by chalking means no one is held accountable for what is written.
This lack of accountability can lead to unhelpful, polarized discussion.
This is illustrated by the chalk-back of unidentified pro-choice individuals.
These vigilante chalkers wrote pro-choice quips and reactions to Bulldogs for Life’s statements.
Unfortunately, the action has led to the misconception that Demia: Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance is responsible for these reactions, intensifying the campus debate.
Although Demia is pro-choice, it did not chalk back and discouraged members from doing so, said Kate Langdon, Demia executive board member.
“Some members felt it was Demia’s duty to chalk back,” she said, “but we realized the likelihood that a chalk-back would only increase hostilities between the two views and organizations.”
Also, the full complexity of the issue cannot be boiled down to a basic talking point or one-sentence quip.
Ultimately, chalking limits meaningful discussion about abortion or any other issue instead of opening the field for future conversation.
Despite the limitations of chalking, Elizabeth Pieta, president of Bulldogs for Life, sees its benefits.
“I think it takes more than chalking to change someone’s mind about abortion, but (chalking) does start the campus conversation on the topic,” Pieta said.
Bulldogs for Life has the right to chalk, but this should be done in conjunction with more effective actions, events and protests.
Demia and Bulldogs for Life could host public forums and debates for students to hear fuller arguments from both pro-life and pro-choice students.
They could organize rallies where action is disruptive.
They could form actual protests where words are backed up by presence and accountability.
These different forms of political and social action will benefit the groups invested in these issues by raising awareness in more conducive manners.
Butler’s campus will also be all the better for this change in political climate because legitimate, open discussion will begin.