A packed chapel filled with Willamette students of all ages and social groups: this was the setting on Wednesday, April 10 in Cone Chapel at a special community convocation. Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR), an organization from Washington, D.C., was brought to campus by the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) and the Office of Equity and Diversity to talk to students and community members about the current issues surrounding masculinity in today’s society.
MCSR is a group founded in 1997 dedicated to, as one of their representatives said at the convocation, “see what men can do to help end sexual violence.” This is also seen on their website, which states that their mission is to “mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.”
In an attempt to create a campus-wide conversation, a few Willamette community members were invited to talk in front of the crowd about their experiences with masculinity. Kelley Strawn, a professor of sociology, talked to the crowd and said that it’s important to “recognize that people are equal and should be treated as such.”
This was a reoccuring theme as other faculty members and students recalled their experiences with masculinity throughout their lives. From coming out to accepting teammates, learning about men’s expected roles in history class and understanding that it’s okay to be vulnerable, each speaker shared their story so that others would be able to navigate the world around them in a better way. The crowd was then invited to pair up and share about instances of good and bad masculinity in their lives. From sharing personal experiences, or sharing those of immediate friends and family members, Willamette students were able to have a better understanding of the way masculinity affects people in their everyday lives.
One attendee, Ryleigh Norgrove (‘21) said, “It was great to see our community engaging in discussion about sexual violence issues and thinking through everyday solutions. The Men Can Stop Rape event was very impactful for those in the room, and let all types of students talk in a comfortable space about issues they faced in regards to their own masculinity.”
This was something echoed by another student, Jack Hanscom (‘22), who said that, by going to the event, he “learned that it’s always very important to listen to others before you speak,” and that it’s “beneficial to really be attentive to people’s stories while also considering how you can learn from them.”
Sexual Health Activism and Prevention Education (SHAPE), a student group within the GRAC, was instrumental in planning MCSR. Student coordinator Daphne Van Veen-Koch (‘19) brought the group to campus because she wanted to see students approach prevention against sexual violence with a more collective approach. “In this attempt I had the goal to shift the efforts of addressing sexual violence from pockets of the WU community to the entire campus,” she said.
Van Veen-Koch also said that she sees this discussion helping the WU community.
“Sexual violence is a really difficult topic to discuss. However, it’s absence or discomfort in discussions may be part of why it is so rampant,” she said. “Full disclosure, sexual violence is also very personal, so I understand and respect those who do not wish to discuss it. There’s nothing wrong with that either. However, I do see SHAPE’s efforts thus far as a way to keep sexual violence part of the conversation.”
By helping to promote campus conversations like this in conjunction with organizations like Men Can Stop Rape, Van Veen-Koch hopes to continue these conversations in the future on campus. However, she is in search of a coordinator for next year as she will be graduating in May, and is currently attempting to fund this important position or have this work be counted as an internship credit.
Lastly, since the topic of consent was brought up in conversation at the end of the event, Van Veen-Koch wanted to inform the WU community that SHAPE will also hosting a consent workshop in the Montag Den from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 25.