Saturday, September 19, 2020

Gun girl prods debate on campuses

If you’ve seen any recent debates about gun control or gender neutral bathrooms, it’s likely you’ve heard of Kaitlin Bennett—otherwise known online as Gun Girl.

Bennett first went viral in 2018 when her senior photos, depicting her carrying an AR-10 around her college campus, were hit with media backlash.

“You have no reason to have that anywhere near an institution like @KentState and I firmly believe that by having photos like this taken where you’re slapping their rules in the face you’re the worst kind of gun advocate,” Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOC6681) said below her Twitter photo.

Since then, she’s gained an audience and a platform to voice her conservative opinions. Bennett began working with the YouTube channel Liberty Hangout and the Infowars host Alex Jones. She started filming interviews on topics such as gender neutral bathrooms and gun control at various rallies and college campuses.

When clips of her interviews with college students went viral on Twitter, Bennett found herself under media backlash for the second time. However, this hasn’t damaged her platform at all. In fact, Bennett seemed to gain more support under the criticism. According to Socialblade, a platform to track the growth of YouTube channels, on Jan. 21, 2019, Liberty Hangout had a total of 1,270 subscribers.

Merely a week later, the subscriber count had skyrocketed to 22,862 on Jan. 28.

In April, Kaitlin Bennett uploaded a video of her being escorted out of a Bernie Sanders’ rally and claimed that they had violated her 1st Amendment rights. This could imply that she takes her journalism seriously and wanted to listen in on the Democratic side as well as the conservative. However, the rally was a private event, issuing them full privilege to dismiss anyone present.

The Sanders campaign admitted that asking Bennett to leave was because of Bennett’s affiliation with Infowars, a conservative show and, in their words, “a white-supremacist platform” that spews hate speech. Bennett was only there to provide satirical content about Democrats, obvious through her YouTube channel.

Recently, Bennett has also made her opinion known about gender neutral bathrooms on college campuses by talking to students at Kent State and the University of Kentucky. In one of her videos, “College Students Have No Morals,” she questions college students about urinals in women’s restrooms and pads in men’s restrooms.

When one student told her a woman using a urinal in a women’s bathroom must identify as a woman, Bennett sarcastically said, “Don’t question anything about men walking into women’s restrooms, ever. They’re just there because they’re women, not predators, no.”

This suggests she believes transgender women who use the women’s restroom must actually be male predators. This is a common fear and misconception among cisgender women, to potentially be put into danger when transgender women are allowed to use their bathrooms.

According to Time magazine, “…while there are some past examples of heterosexual men dressing up like women to gain access to women’s spaces, there’s no record of that behavior increasing when there’s an LGBT non-discrimination law on the books.”
Many colleges across the US, like Plattsburgh State, have taken steps to become more inclusive to their students. Introducing gender neutral bathrooms is one step in this process.

Bennett’s videos have proven that most college students are fine with the inclusion, and some are in total support of it.
“I think that is a really good idea. That way no one would feel left out,” Nidhi Borad, a freshmen business major, said.

As our definition of gender changes, introducing gender neutral bathrooms allows comfortability. But if most colleges and their students support these changes, why is Bennett still allowed on these campuses, potentially intruding on students’ learning environment?

According to Borad, it’s for the same reason that colleges are introducing these new inclusive measures.

“There might be some followers of her that might get offended if she is stopped on campus,” Borad said.
Bennett’s beliefs, like everyone else’s, are protected on college grounds. It could be perceived as hypocritical if the colleges only discredit Bennett’s opinions.

However, Bennett’s attitude when discussing these topics makes viewers wonder if her content should be taken as real journalism. Many of her videos often have titles such as, “College Students Have No Morals,” “Women Against Women’s Rights,” and “Liberals Are Hypocrites.”

Her beliefs are clearly very conservative, but is it ethical for her to press her beliefs onto those she interviews?

In the Liberty Hangout video, “College Students Have No Morals,” Bennett frequently phrases her questions to mock those who disagree with her. For example, she’ll suggest a biology lesson to those who agree that men have periods or women use urinals. Her beliefs about gender are centered on biology, conflicting the progressive gender spectrum that is starting to become commonly known.

Bennett’s sarcasm and pointed questions are intended to get a rise out of those she interviews. It appears as if she’s not trying to gather data or give college students a voice, but rather make fun of liberals. Her videos serve as entertainment for conservatives with no intention of exploring difficult topics among student populations.

However, there are moments where Bennett appears to take the topic seriously. At a rally for gun control, Bennett filmed the video titled, “Not All Dems Are Bad,” where she discusses the topic with a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat. There is not a single moment in this video where she mocks them or attempts to make them look bad, not even during moments where they share jokes. Bennett remains professional and asks concise questions on the topic, which is a far cry from her attitude in her previous videos.

“I think she films these videos for a reaction. The titles with ‘owns’ and ‘Australian lefty’ suggest that there’s a mixture of satire and comedy in it,” English major Brooke Desautels said.

Whether or not Bennett considers herself a journalist, it is clear that her controversial videos have given her traction. Media criticisms have only given her more power and a stronger platform to voice her beliefs. In this new age of the Internet, it doesn’t matter if your audience supports you or despises you, you still have an audience.

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