Most students are familiar with the campus aphorism “Consent is Mac.” However, they may be less familiar with the student-led campaign behind the phrase, which is part of the Health and Wellness Center. One of the organizers, Shannon Mahedy ’17, summarized the role of Consent is Mac, saying, “It’s a student-led campaign that started eleven years ago and it’s supposed to focus on the prevention aspects of sexual violence on campus because we have a really holistic approach, but we’re focused on shifting campus culture… The Health and Wellness Center sponsors us to promote various event surrounding consent at Macalester.” Consent is Mac is part of the larger program of sexual violence prevention at Macalester that “involves a comprehensive and multi-sectoral effort to create a culture of consent on campus, in order to combat rape culture and to prevent sexual violence on our campus,” Mahedy said. Programs like This Matters @ Mac, SEXY Training and Green Dot Bystander Intervention are just a few parts of Macalester’s sexual violence prevention model.
The iconic symbol of Consent is Mac is the T-shirt give away every semester, where students can sign a pledge to practice consent and get a complimentary t-shirt. This year, there was a change to the T-shirt designs from the traditional red to a teal-green color. The text on the back of the new design reads. “Consent is Mac (n.): sparking conversations on campus and in our relationships” and “Consent (v.): a process between sexual partners that is affirmative, uncoerced, and based on equal power dynamics.” This change came about because of the Green Dot Bystander Intervention, with the color red signifying an act of violence and green representing allyship and resistance to violence.
According to the Macalester website, “A Green Dot is any action that reduces the risk of violence in the moment, supports a survivor or creates a culture less tolerant of power-based personal violence.” Gabrielle Rivera ’17, another student organizer of Consent is Mac, clarified: “Signing the pledge is a way to draw people in and draw people into the more substantive events we have.” By signing the pledge, one makes a symbolic gesture promising to practice consent and hopefully engage more deeply in the meaning of consent.
Mahedy added, “Recently, our main goal has been to broaden the audience of these events and to make sure we bring in speakers that reflect the wants and needs of the campus community.” Some of the events and speakers that Consent is Mac has facilitated are the “Lunch with…” Series, which has been a place to discuss contraceptives with Dr. Steph Walters, or how to be an Ally to a Survivor with Liz Schneider Bateman, one of the mental health counselors in the Health and Wellness Center. Consent is Mac also hosted the “I <3 the Female Orgasm” this past semester. The campaign even has a Tumblr page: consentismac.tumblr.com.
Hallie Kircher-Henning ’19, another student organizer, summarized Consent is Mac’s overall approach: “We facilitate these events, get feedback and spark conversations.” Mahedy added that the campaign is “trying to expand it so it’s not just about defining consent, but it’s about defining and dismantling rape culture on a microlevel.” The organizers also hope to spark discussion about the diverse and nuanced ways that people of different identities experience sexual violence. The T-shirt giveaway and the pledge signing is intended to only be the beginning a conversation about consent.
Cristina Martin ’20 has signed the pledge, and does practice consent, but feels that the shirt has not affected the way that she practices consent. Martin does not wear it with the intention of spreading awareness, but rather because it was free and is comfortable. However, even if students are not consciously wearing the shirts to promote a culture of consent, it is the hope of Consent is Mac that the pervasiveness of the shirts on campus will promote change. Abby McEvers ’19 signed the pledge and while she does not think more about consent because of the shirt and pledge, the conversation and attention to consent on campus “made me realize that consent is important to a larger community than I thought it was.” said McEvers.
Mahedy explained the statement of “Consent is Mac” saying that they are not claiming“that everyone at Mac practices consent, but rather that we value consent as a community.” However, the use of the phrase “Consent is Mac” and wearing the T-shirts is the extent to which some students practice consent and is the subject of some critique. Susan Stalter ’18 said that the phrase, “Consent is Mac”, “is definitely a slogan that everyone knows and gets referenced in jokes.” However, Stalter was not aware that there was an organization behind the slogan.
Kasia Majewski ’19 said that Consent is Mac has done a wonderful job popularizing their message, but that “many of the students who have become involved have done so without truly taking in the meaning. It’s so easy for a social movement to become a trend instead of a cause the supporters are truly invested in and show through their actions – thus I see Mac students wearing the iconic Consent is Mac t-shirts, but not hesitating to touch other students in unwelcome and non-consensual ways while wasted at the next Kagin.”
Mahedy said that purpose of the T-shirts is that the campaign “wants consent to be very visible having the T-shirts is one small part, and consent is at least in their brain.” At the end of the day, it is on the shoulders of the student body to dismantle rape culture on campus. This is a much more complex process than signing a pledge or wearing a shirt. However, Consent is Mac has successfully begun a conversation about consent and states consent as a value of the Macalester community.