On Monday the 28th of October, the Center for Women’s Studies hosted Jackson Katz, a well known anti-sexist activist,who gave a great lecture on men's involvement in sexual assault that I wish a lot more people could have attended. Katz talked about sexual violence against women and how up till today, sexual assault has been seen as a women’s issue which gives a lot of men an excuse not to care about or give sexual assault the attention it deserves. Not until men start to see that sexual violence is an issue that affects them too as the key perpetrators of sexual violence, only then will change occur. Katz went on to talk about how sexual violence is all about power dynamics and because this notion of being powerful tends to get to men’s minds, thoughtful dialogue between the sexes does not take place. Men should stand as allies for women and this dialogue should not be a battle of the sexes. It's a naive and problematic way of thinking and continually perpetrates sexual violence.
Katz went on to talk about how we have done a lot of awareness creation about sexual assault and it’s high time we moved on to action! This is the part I loved the most! There’s a tonne of information out there about sexual assault that many of us are aware of but the bigger question is, what are we doing about it? Blaming the victim? This does not get you anywhere. The question that should be asked is: Why is it that men are assaulting women? Why is rape such a prevalent problem? These are the kinds of questions we ought to be asking and not: What was the woman wearing? Was she sober or drunk? Was she giving off signs that she was interested? NO. That needs to stop. More men need to understand the meaning of consent. Only when she gives you that YES is when you should proceed with your actions but if not, let it go and perhaps try again next time. You never know what luck you just might have. This point can never be stressed enough.
Therefore, what role can you and I play in ending sexual assault here on our campus or even elsewhere in our other communities?
In college, change needs to happen at an institutional level. Yes, students may create awareness on the campus with clubs, activities and events but this usually attracts the same crowd, those that are interested in this kinda stuff. So, in order to attract groups of people that are either unaware or not so interested, such talks like Katz’ lecture and even workshops should be incorporated into the students’ curriculum. How can one graduate from a prestigious institution claiming to be learned but unaware of what feminism really is, and not the uninformed definition that it’s all about women bashing men. NO! Students ought to know better than that. Once these feminism classes have been incorporated into the students’ curriculum, then shall we see action being taken by more and more people.
At an individual level, in whatever social circles we belong to, we ought to stop those derogatory and demeaning stuff our friends say and respectfully call them out on that kind of language. They’ll then be more aware of what they say and eventually stop.
So, there you go-you can start with those few suggestions and together we shall create change within the community!
-Gloria Kebirungi '15