The Men in Action Project presented an interactive discussion of the “Continuum of Harm,” covering how today’s society perpetuates violence against women, this past Friday afternoon in Brandywine Hall.
The continuum consists of a chart ranging from not harmful to women, zero percent, to very harmful to women, 100 percent. Men in Action posed a series of situations meant to be ambiguously worded. Through discussion, the group got to rank each situation under the continuum. Out of ten different situations, some were ranked at 100 percent immediately while others were more throughly discussed and their ranks debated.
One situation revolved around theme parties that occur on many college campuses. These theme parties often include “hoe” in the title, like CEOs and Business Hoes or Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes. One male audience member said women go to the parties knowing what the theme is and while some may be offended, he asked how harmful can it be to the women if they accept it. A female audience member responded saying there is something wrong with the fact that girls are going to college and are okay with dressing like a hoe. Another female audience member said theme parties indicate high positions for men, like a CEO, while women are labeled as hoes.
Other situations included a man yelling at his girlfriend for talking to another man, referring to one’s girlfriend as “my bitch,” catcalling, and stranger and acquaintance rape. One audience member linked one situation, blaming a woman for being raped or assaulted, to the recent news story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Canadian teen who committed suicide after pictures of her alleged rape by four boys went viral and Parsons was continuously bullied by her peers.
While much of the discussion was based on the opinions of the audience, Men in Action gave important information, including that out of rapes reported, 85 to 90 percent are acquaintance rape, while only 10 to 15 percent are stranger rape. Additionally, Men in Action pointed out most risk reduction techniques, including never walking alone or at night, are aimed towards stranger rape even though acquaintance rape is more common. Men in Action hopes to change risk reduction into primary prevention, fixing the problem at its original source by changing the culture and climate surrounding societal views and treatment of women.
Men in Action ended their presentation by going over bystander strategies. The group said the “best way to combat [this behavior] is to be an active bystander.” These strategies include reminding someone that their girlfriend, mother, or sister may be talked about in this way, or using humor, often sarcasm, to reduce tension, or using clarification to ask a person why they referred to someone in a derogatory way.
Sophomore Colleen Curry, who attended the event with a friend, thought the program “was very nice overall.” She said she thought Men in Action made the program “very entertaining by not just stating facts but having everyone participate in an open discussion.” Curry said she did learn important information like how to help and be an active bystander to change the way people talk to and about women.
Men in Action consists of Josh Bill, Malik Muhammad, Nick Silveri-Hiller, who all work at the Women’s Center at West Chester as male peer educators. Bill, Muhammad, and Silveri-Hiller adopted the “Continuum of Harm” discussion after attending a program from the Men Can Stop Rape organization last year in Washington D.C.
Men in Action, along with other groups, will present “Phallies: A Masculine Performance,” a program addressing issues including homophobia, bathroom culture, catcalling and others. “Phallacies: A Masculine Performance” will take place on Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in Sykes Theater.
The Women’s Center has the overall goal of helping and advancing women on West Chester’s campus. It offers numerous resources including confidential support, assistance, educational programs, special events and more. The Women’s Center is located on the second floor of Lawrence Hall.
Victoria Holt is a sophomore communication studies major. She can be reached at VH758202@wcupa.edu.