On Asia McGowan: Why We Need Feminism in Community Colleges


Asia McGowan


Asia McGowan, a 20-year-old student at Henry Ford Community College
outside Detroit was shot and killed on campus by a man who’d stalked her via YouTube and Facebook. Among other things, her 28-year-old murderer had posted his own YouTube videos that degraded black women. After point-blank shooting McGowan in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center, the man turned the gun on himself.

I teach writing at Henry Ford Community College. While I didn’t know McGowan, I’ve consumed the varied reports on her sad story with an avidity fueled by the students I do know.

Henry Ford is a community of an astonishing diversity of age, race, ethnicity, religion, and orientation. Most students are what most progressives would call "under-resourced." Many are training for new careers outside the auto-industry. Some of my composition students are studying writing in their third or fourth language. There are musicians and rappers in my classroom; there are health professionals and firefighters, immigrants and lawyers. They are many things at once.

It is because of them that McGowan’s death makes me think hard on how feminism and domestic violence advocates have shamefully neglected the people at community colleges.

Feminists rightly celebrate the campus culture of activism visible in V-Day, Take Back the Night rallies, centers for sexual assault prevention and LGBT services, gender studies departments, and much more. Campus feminism has radically transformed the student experience. At my alma mater, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the demystification of domestic and sexual violence began immediately at freshmen orientation. I knew where to go if I’d been stalked or assaulted. I knew I could get free condoms and STI testing from the campus health center. V-Day and Take Back the Night changed my perspective for how control fits into too many romantic relationships–and how that control is absolutely violent.

There is more to be done, of course, but all of this is good. So why
aren’t feminist resources for domestic violence and stalking available
at community colleges?

At Henry Ford Community College, there is no center for survivors of assault and violence, no feminist rallies and activism, no awareness campaigns that I’m aware of, nothing of the support systems that are taken for granted at the University of Michigan (which is less than an hour away from Henry Ford). The community college’s Focus on Women services are tailored to the academic and financial needs of female students. While Henry Ford does offer day care for students (a project that Michigan would do well to learn from), it lacks in any kind of support for students who, like McGowan, are terrorized.

Why not? Why must I even ask the question? Surely these students are just as deserving.

While Henry Ford offers grief counseling to the campus community and a message from the president, why isn’t it putting McGowan’s death in context and offering students practical tools for dealing with stalking and domestic violence? It’s true that Henry Ford suffers from severe under-funding, even more so than many of its community college counterparts in the area. Still, it should point students to other resources–such as the local Planned Parenthood and Serenity Services–via print and online tools, as well as campus events and tabling.

Meanwhile, feminists need to pay much, much more attention to community college students. Feminism’s "oversight" thus far implies a horrifying negligence of people without a certain level of income or educational pedigree. Rather than rest on our laurels for the vibrant campus activism at "traditional" schools, we must ally with the student, staffs, and faculty at community colleges–supporting them in awareness campaigns and practical strategies for fueling feminism on campus.

Let me be clear: This isn’t about ideology-spreading. It is about ensuring that community college students have the same life-saving resources that we prioritize at other colleges.

Because Asia McGowan should be alive right now.

One more thing: Please consider donating to the HFCC Foundation-Asia McGowan Memorial Fund to defray McGowan’s funeral expenses. Send contributions to the following address: HFCC Foundation, 5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI  48128-1491.

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  • emily-douglas

    Thank you, Anna, for this thoughtful — and very informed — perspective. What a very painful thing to have happened. I was totally unaware in the gap in services for women at community colleges. It’s also true, as you say, though, that Henry Ford’s president had a cost-free opportunity to address gender-based violence in his messages about McGowan’s death. Why wouldn’t he? Maybe because it would highlight how much work needs to be done and how many services are missing on campus.

  • invalid-0

    I agree with much of what you’re saying, but when you say “Feminists should …” and Feminism’s ‘oversight’ neglects …”, you’re ascribing a monolithic-ness to feminism and its supporters that isn’t there—as if it were a private organization of some sort. Who exactly are you calling out to here?

    I’m aware of how mainstream feminism tends to be an upper-class white crowd, but that’s never stopped other segments of society from organizing for the support of their own women. (It does become an issue when you start talking about these different feminist factions cooperating, but that’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax.)

    The questions I would be asking are, “Why aren’t students at Henry Ford taking the initiative to organize and bring about a conversation about sex/gender on campus?” “Do they need resources to help make that happen?” and so on.

    (In addition to what steps the administration has taken, and can take further, of course.)

  • anna-clark

    You’re right, Anonymous, I think the language I used made it sound like there is a complete and total distinction between “feminists” (i.e. people who advocate for the rights of women in the face of gender inequalities) and community college students.

    I intended to call out the off-campus feminists who seem to be blind to what’s happening at “non-traditional” schools while celebrating the successes at four-year schools–and to suggest that partnering with community college students/staff/admin is crucial to ensuring those successes are widespread. You’re absolutely right about the first questions that need to be asked before any kind of “partnering” happens.

    Personally, I’m curious to see what new creative models emerge from a different kind of campus environment …

  • invalid-0

    “Feminism’s “oversight” thus far implies a horrifying negligence of people without a certain level of income or educational pedigree.”

    I’ll chalk this rather offensive statement up to your grief, anger, and inexperience.

    Anna, “feminists” are individuals, much like yourself. These individuals often work at feminist organizations that have websites describing their mission and work. They have phone numbers and email addresses. I’m no mindreader, but I’m willing to be there’s not a feminist alive whose blood wouldn’t boil upon learning of this murder. So if you want a particular feminist organization to be more involved on your campus, call or email one of these feminists and talk to her or him about getting involved. Unless things have changed radically in the past ten years, that’s how it works.

    For example, I would think either your local or state Planned Parenthood affiliate could work with your school to put together an orientation program – so long as you did the legwork to make it happen. No organization wants to barge blindly onto a campus without having been invited by students and/or faculty. If you and members of your community show interest in a particular organization, they will come.

    I would guess some of the reasons why your school doesn’t have more feminist activism is that a higher percentage of your students have to work one or more jobs, have family to take care of, and/or don’t live in one central location like a dorm – thus they have less time and opportunity to engage in activism, and leadership is more difficult to exercise (it is easier to organize students dorm by dorm than those who are dispersed).

    Generally, its best for students to organize themselves, but given these factors perhaps you need to play a larger role in getting things started. What have you done to bring feminist activities and services to campus? Step up to the plate, focus your anger, and be the change you need.

    In fact – not to give out assignments or anything – but starting right here, I’m sure Emily and the brilliant staff of RH Reality Check would be willing to give you all sorts of advice and assistance. Feminists do want to help Anna – I mean, this is what we *do.*

  • invalid-0

    Sorry about the horrendous formatting, there.

  • invalid-0

    With women already pushing the sixty percent ratio in college, is more feminism what we need? Do we really want to continue an anti-male collegiate culture? Feminism has already declared war against masculinity at college campuses.

    My first week at Syracuse I was called a ‘potential’ rapist by a Women’s Studies Professor conducting a date rape seminar. I’ve dealt with nasty feminist groups regugitating false statistics to suggest all men are wife beaters, rapists, and pedophiles.

    If someone chooses the feminist lifestyle, fine, just don’t shove it down my throat. The author is sadly misguided if she doesn’t think feminism isn’t ‘ideology-spreading’. The entire movement is based on extreme Marxism.

  • invalid-0

    Hi Anna,
    Great article, great points. I hope you send copies of this article to influential people and organizations at your school!!

  • http://peacocksandlilies.com/ invalid-0

    …for your failure to organize on your campus? Why do women strike out at other women for what men do to women? There’s a lot wrong with feminism today, and what’s wrong starts with the way women attack each other. There is no conspiracy to provide feminist services to students with more resources, as you seem to suggest here.

    I realize you’re probably grieving, but I do hope you learn something here about your own ability to contribute to activism in your own environment. No one is stopping you from stepping up.

  • invalid-0

    Well I’m sure your intentions are well and good, and in fact much of what you say would be very good to do, I don’t think it is the main lesson to be gained from this incident.

    I interacted with Anthony Powell on YouTube on a few occasions. It would have been one or two years ago. This man was deeply disturbed. I actually predicted around that time that someday, he would do something violent. Much of what he said and did in videos was scary. If it hadn’t been poor Asia McGowan, I honestly think he would have done something to someone else.

    As someone who plans on going into a mental health profession, I think the real lesson to be learned here is the same one that we seem to fail again and again to learn after something like this happens: people with dangerous mental illnesses and especially a record of hateful public statements need to be carefully monitored and treated. Law enforcement also needs to keep tabs on those who frequently engage in online hate speech. He seemed very dangerous to me long before this happened and other people reported him to various agencies, apparently.

    Tony wasn’t unknown. His strange behavior and hatred for a variety of people were seen by thousands.

    • http://car-japan.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      Someone has remembered certain suspicious enough phrase which has heard from lips “guilty” though has not reported on it, someone absolutely another has once paid the big attention to «strange behaviour» the arrested person though anything has told to nobody…

  • invalid-0

    I’ve taken a Woman’s Studies course that took place under the guise of science and psychology but turned out to be nothing but a radical ideology that denigrated men. I could not believe that a political ideology was being taught in our science department. I was truly hurt by what they said in that room. At the tender age of 19 I took on a new view of women and it was not for the better. I took this course to be the voice of women. Again I was deeply offended,hurt and became mistrustful of women.

  • invalid-0

    I’ve taken a Woman’s Studies course that … turned out to be nothing but a radical ideology that denigrated men.

    Or, more precisely, analyzed and critiqued the superior position that men typically occupy in Western societies. Feels pretty weird to have your gender be on the receiving end of criticism, doesn’t it? Women have been in that position for only, oh, a millenium or three.

    I was truly hurt by what they said in that room.

    Ahh, poor baby, did the mean ol’ women deconstruct your male privilege?

    At the tender age of 19 I took on a new view of women and it was not for the better.

    Before: Women = pretty things to look at and have sex with

    After: Women = human beings with brains who probably don’t want to have sex with me

    Again I was deeply offended,hurt and became mistrustful of women.

    Yeah, you just can’t trust a woman who thinks for herself.

  • invalid-0

    Hey ladies, did you know most criminals come from single mother headed, single mother households?

    If you girls are so worried about lowering the crime rate in your woman firster world view, why don’t you help preserve traditional marriage?

  • invalid-0

    Hey, the reason why men dominate the world, is because we have since time began.

    If it wasn’t for men inventing things, we would both be living in highly organized caves. 98% of inventions come from men, the same today, as it was yesterday!

    What is the matter woman firsters? Do you have too much time on your hands now? Where are all the reinventions of the wheel? ladies? (crickets)

    Feminism was created to help empower the government. Create the need to empower the central government, and to get women out of the house, because you can’t tax a housewife and homemaker.

  • invalid-0

    We were to busy taking care of you and all the children,making bread, churning butter, sewing cleaning changing diapers, all the dirty meaningless no pay jobs no appreciation jobs and then the hubby comes home “wheres my dinner” no even hello honey or thank you for taking care of all my children and cleaning MY house. If he does not like what we say we get beaten to a bloody pulp then the children hiding upstairs in the loft see everything and grow up the same.
    I mean what are you expecting? More slaps on the back? Good job you are GOD like. What is it you want besides blood sweat and tears. Get over yourselves.
    I am sure there were women inventors,poets,scientist etc., they were just ignored like we are today STILL. 75 cents to the dollar yep thats fair wouldn’t you say Mr. Patriarchal person?
    That Gov. stuff and women is bogus.

  • invalid-0

    If he was intent on killing someone, MAN OR WOMAN, I am sure he would have done so. Having some sort of training about how he should treat women better would obviously not have stopped him from killing himself and another person. It is obvious that this is a MENTAL CONDITION he suffered from, not a lack of sensitivity training.

  • invalid-0

    Hey Pee Vee,

    Did you know that cites are important when one makes blanket statements, particularly regarding a specific social condition?

  • http://www.iwf.org/news/show/20889.html invalid-0

    Yes, you are right inequalities have existed between men and women for a very long time. However, your statistics are wrong.

    —‘The definition of full time work is 35 hours per week, and not all 52 weeks a year. Since more men work 40+ hours and 52 weeks a year, voila, women make less than men do.

    In fact, workers who average 44 or more hours per week earn an average of 100% more than workers who average only 40 hours per week. Men in full-time jobs tend to work 4 to 10 more hours more per week than women in full-time jobs.

  • sayna

    With women already pushing the sixty percent ratio in college, is more feminism what we need?


    Do we really want to continue an anti-male collegiate culture? Feminism has already declared war against masculinity at college campuses.

    Please read up on something before you try and tell people what you think it means.

    1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
    2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women

    A simple dictionary search would have set you straight.

    My first week at Syracuse I was called a ‘potential’ rapist by a Women’s Studies Professor conducting a date rape seminar.

    Hmm… When you come here insisting that feminism is an evil anti-male conspiracy, I wonder how likely it is that you say stuff like that in real life…

    I’ve dealt with nasty feminist groups regugitating false statistics to suggest all men are wife beaters, rapists, and pedophiles.

    Odd how I, a proud feminist, have been reading feminist literature and listening to feminist groups for years now and have heard no such thing.

    If someone chooses the feminist lifestyle, fine, just don’t shove it down my throat.

    Sweetie, feminism is about treating women as equals. If you don’t want to live by that “lifestyle” you are treating them as second-class citizens.

    The entire movement is based on extreme Marxism.

    I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t have bothered with this one!

  • invalid-0

    If we are housewives with children or not or married and working part time . Men are still not doing half of the house chores regardless and women only recieve 78 cents to ever mans dollar. That is a fact! It has been 45 years since the equal pay law was passed 45 years! Men are payed more for the same job as a woman that is a fact.

  • http://www.iwf.org/news/show/20889.html invalid-0

    Yes, if both partners are working full-time (equal hours away from home) then of course they should both do half of the housework.

  • http://www.afterellen.com invalid-0

    Here you go.
    “Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families,according to a new study released Thursday. Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University tracked a sample of 6,000 males aged 14-22 from 1979-93.
    They found that those boys whose fathers were absent from the
    household had DOUBLE the odds of being incarcerated – even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant” See http://www.infobeat.com/storie/cgi/story.cgi?id=2555648262-e68

    (from http://www.divorcereform.org)

  • invalid-0

    “A recent study of 25,000 incarcerated juveniles made by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 72 percent of them came from broken homes. Seventy-four percent of the nation’s children live with two parents, 26 percent with one parent. A child growing up in a single-parent home (usually female-headed) is seven times as likely to be a delinquent.
    Statistics from the Los Angeles Times, 19 September, 1988. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 179”

    just in case you want some more.

  • invalid-0

    Actually, gayandlovingit, I was disputing the “traditional marriage” angle. Please take my word that Pee Vee considers Dad-breadwinner/Mom-full-time homemaker model as the standard for “traditional marriage.” (Pee Vee is actually well known around the blogosphere.)

    My point is that there is no evidence that children raised in loving gay and lesbian relationships are more likely to turn out to be criminals, nor is there any evidence that modern two wage-earner families are more likely to produce criminals, or that criminals result when Mom is the primary breadwinner.

    Instead of the term “traditional marriage,” I suggest “two-parent household.”

  • invalid-0

    And I just read a report here on RH that in one state there has been a rise in domestic violence. Up to 70% of women and children who are in shelters! You wonder why these men are violent. Monkey see monkey do! What are these men teaching their sons and daughters? That it is ok to beat your wife if you are mad about something. These men probably learned this from their fathers. So there you go. Did they happen to mention Violence and violent behavior?

  • invalid-0

    Well Pee Vee, since spouting unverifiable theory is your riff, permit me to point out that current theories attribute the early development of agriculture to women. Language? Google “motherese.” Textiles? Medicine? Hey, did you know the fingerprints found on the earliest known pottery shards are believed to belong to females?

    I could, with as much credibility, suggest that without the initial labors and discoveries of women, civilization would never have taken shape, and we’d all be members of roving bands of hunter-gatherers.

  • invalid-0

    You Write:

    “-noun 1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. 2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women” —-

    While I agree that was the original motive of feminism, today the movement is more about misandry, victimization, and privileges at the expense of men. You engage in communal blame and generally don’t see men as individuals. Most feminists I’ve encountered have no concept of accountability because its so much easier to blame patriarchy.

    Throughout my college years I’ve dealt with hypersensitive Women Studies majors who only see the worse in men.

  • invalid-0

    I think it would be great if there was more activism on campuses like these, but I don’t think that it would have stopped this sickening situation from happening. Awareness of myriad social issues didn’t stop the Virginia Tech massacre, and I don’t think it would be the case any more or less here.

  • sayna

    Gee shucks Mister, you sure know a heckuva lot more about what I believe than I do!


    Seriously, though: Go talk to some actual feminists. Don’t just talk, listen. If you come on as condescening as you are now, assuming you know more about feminism than the feminists themselves do, of course you’re going to make them angry and you’re going to be tuned out or shot down.

  • invalid-0

    I dated a Women’s Studies major for a brief time. She wasn’t a bad person but she was easily offended — by everything! Her inner circle of friends behaved like a cult. I don’t believe feminists hate men, they just hate the way we are. Granted, my experience with the feminist culture is limited but my perception of them are based on personal experiences. I will say this, I find them very intelligent but maybe too smart for their own good.

  • http://www.Jignarania.com invalid-0

    This just shows how downhill YouTube’s gone.

  • sayna

    A lot of people involved in the/a social justice movement(s) and people interested in things like sociology are offended by things that most people aren’t. It’s because they look beyond the supposed humor or benigness of something and look at the larger implications. Like what it means in our culture, what the underlying message is. A lot of people just don’t get that and think that they’re hypersensitive and have no sense of humor.

    I will say this, I find them very intelligent but maybe too smart for their own good.

    …Ouch. For a moment there you were making sense… now you’re looking like all the other antifeminists who just have a problem with women having power.

  • invalid-0

    Don’t turn this into a feminism thing. It was a tragedy, and the fact that you are using it to fuel your agenda is disgusting.

  • invalid-0

    Another stereotype perpetuated by a feminist. If someone doesn’t agree with your ideology, they must feel insecure by a woman’s intellect. Its ironic considering my experience with feminism suggests their intimated by men, especially male sexuality. This is why most feminists live in a perennial rape hysteria.

    I suspect a prerequisite for a Women’s Studies degree is extreme insecurity. They need other woman to validate their competence in order to build self esteem. Its fascinating how this leads to sisterhood. Feeling connected with other women is based on victimization and contempt for male behaviour. I see this ‘sisterhood’ at work. A group of women collaborating by the water cooler commenting on how rotten men are.

    My short relationship with a feminist taught me a valuable lesson. Never date a woman who has no self worth.

  • invalid-0

    for either sex. People with no self esteem have a difficult time in life in general. Two halves do not make a whole when it comes to relationships. Sad there is a lot of broken people in the world.

  • http://www.sersontology.com invalid-0

    I have been posting videos to YouTube for over 3 years. Anthony Powell was in part influenced to make some of his videos by another black male vlogger who goes by the name of SergeantWilliePete, or SWP. He is a ardent anti-feminist black woman basher who tries to titillate his audience with tags and titles about inter-racial sex. Most of Anthony Powells videos about black women were carbon copies of sentiments echoed in SWP videos.
    I am not blaming SWP, or even YouTube for Asia’s death. The fact that she was Anthony’s classmate was tragic co-incidence.
    What I am saying is this, women need to be aware of the dangers associated with putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations (i.e. alone in a classroom with a jilted suitor).
    Anthony Powell had many issues, religious and sexual conflicts amongst them. Yes, this was a tragic exception, but in the future it will become moar commonplace.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/us/fidelis invalid-0

    I agree with the author of this article. McGowan’s death should have been prevented with more groups on campus focused on safe sex, women’s safety, domestic abuse awareness, and other organizations that make people feel safer. Pushing a feminist movement at a campus may not be the answer, but creating awareness and knowledge through reputable organizations can always help.

  • http://www.schikk-de invalid-0

    Well, I read your article and was really shocked about.

    First I want to notice if someone would stalk me at facebook or youtube I would logg off and sign out. – But it is a tragic story about Asia! :-(

    So we could be glad to have “feminists” who inform young people about their rights and let them know how to behaviour.

    Greetings, Ramona