BY PJ RAVAL
On August 1st, 2016, the “campus carry” law went into effect in the state of Texas, allowing concealed handguns on university campuses. As someone teaching in the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), I along with other faculty and staff was immediately concerned about safety in the classroom and on campus more generally- especially for those of us who belong to marginalized communities and who are often already the targets of harassment and gun violence. Campus carry was pushed through the Texas legislature with zero support from ANY of the public education institutions in Texas, making many of us wonder, who exactly is this law for?
The first day of school brought about visible public opposition from faculty and staff, a few even resigning in protest. As filmmakers, Ellen Sprio and I wanted to use our skills of non-fiction storytelling to protest this controversial law. But, there had already been many conversations about gun violence, and many people had already decided their positions, feeling confident in being on whatever side of the line they had drawn in the sand. However, being on a university campus, one cannot overlook the presence of young people, many of them starting to understand politics and their positions in the world, including how they feel about guns on campus. One such Chinese-American UT Austin student, Jessica Jin, used irreverence to change the conversation and highlight the hypocrisy of Texas laws that allow the presence of handguns on campus but not sex toys, namely dildos. Jessica realized campus carry was an example of Texas legislators accepting and promoting the culture of gun violence while rejecting the culture of sexual awareness. The good ol’ boys were still running the show and Jessica had had enough. #CocksNotGlocks was born.
In true millennial fashion, Jessica turned to social media and launched a “dildo protest” Facebook event. On the first day of school, she was joined by a team of young student women who successfully handed out over 3,000 dildoes as a rallying cry to end the presence of firearms on campus. Students were encouraged to strap them onto their backpacks and let people feel uncomfortable, as a reminder of what could be true dangers: concealed guns on campus. Suddenly launched into the media spotlight, Jessica faced public scrutiny, trolling, and even backlash from within the gun violence prevention communities, when she attempted to “reach across the aisle” with an open-carry activist. Jessica’s story is that of the birth of a millennial activist, but also of the friendships, mistakes, and public growing pains experienced when creating a movement. For me, Jessica is a true inspiration. Underestimated and written off as a young, Asian American woman, Jessica destroys the model minority myth and shows what is possible when one person decides to take action. From one late-night decision with a laptop, in a bedroom, a movement can be born and led by the next generation. As Jessica says in the film, "It's 2020, we have a tyrant as president. And it's going to be women... who are flipping the script". I agree and am thankful Jessica is here to lead the way.
JESSICA JIN. Photo Credit: Matt Valentine