Dear men of Gordon College,
It must end. The sexual harassment, emotional abuse, shameless assaults, and outright rape that you commit on and off this campus is unacceptable. It is imperative that each and every one of you understand the disastrous and lasting effects of your subtle jokes, your degrading actions and your deafening silence.
I can already hear the masculine naysayers: “You’re just a social justice warrior caught up in your mission.”, “It’s a problem, but not really at a Christian college.”, or “I’m not a sexist! I’ve never hurt a woman.” For just a few minutes, I implore you to set aside your hasty defensiveness and read what I have to say.
Honestly, I understand your desire to vindicate yourself. For a long time, I wanted to believe that my lifestyle was part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And I understand: as a man, navigating the fight for gender equality can sometimes hurt. Yet I guarantee you that the pain you experience from discussing sexism pales in comparison to the scars you have left on the women in your life.
Let’s begin by stepping back from our current cultural context and examining the whole of human history. For many millennia, men have controlled governments, churches, organizations and families. Entire societies have been predicated on the belief that men are superior to women in their ability to think, act and execute. This is what we call a patriarchy.
Men flock to power; once they have obtained it, they abuse their power by subjugating women both emotionally and physically. But unlike other oppressive institutions, this disgusting tendency was not relegated to primordial eras with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Well into the 21st century, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Hybels, Donald Trump and your best friend have abused women in their lives.
I cannot understand how you still believe that you are not complicit in the destruction of women’s dignity. How can you deny the rampant and apparent abuse that permeates the campus, the office, the church and the home? How can you believe that women are lying, when they have nothing to gain but embarrassment?
If you believe in a future that truly enables all people to flourish, you must accept the reality that you do and say things that hurt women. As a man, there are implicit and explicit ways in which you destroy the integrity and identity of the females in your life. You might ask, “how does it really happen?”
You speak words that degrade a woman’s competency. She asks your opinion of minimum wage laws for food service workers. You launch into an explanation about how minimum wage law works. She mentions how low scoring the Super Bowl was this year. You vocalize your agreement, explaining to her why their defensive game was so strong. Some like to call this “mansplaining.”
Can you imagine the opposite of this? You present an idea during a board meeting run by a woman. She refuses to validate your concept until a woman presents the same idea. While by itself, this exchange may not hurt you, the implicit doubt of your competence would suppress your confidence.
Your words and thoughts have a real and recognizable impact on the way that you think about women. “Locker room” talk is a protest of the weak used in an attempt to justify unacceptable conversations. Rather than rating girls with your buddies, talk about their character. Instead of checking out a girl’s ass, look at her face, smile and greet her.
If a girl doesn’t smile back at you, don’t think twice about it. Why do we say that women who don’t smile are bitches, but guys who don’t smile are tough?
Your thoughts and words devastate women’s confidence and insult their competence. But it isn’t just that; your actions advance the wrongdoing all the same.
Why do you feel that it is acceptable to catcall a woman? How would you feel if a controlling and dominant stranger whooped and hollered at your good looks? Catcalling is not a compliment.
Why do you feel that it is acceptable to follow a woman? How would you feel if someone you barely knew followed you wherever you went? Stalking is disgusting and wrong.
Why do you try to isolate a girl who you like so that you can hang out alone? How would you feel if you were alone with someone more powerful and you had no control over what happened? Sexual harassment is offensive and scary.
Why do you feel that it is okay to “go a little further” with your girlfriend, without even asking? How would you feel if someone lorded their power over you and made nonconsensual physical advances? Sexual assault in a relationship is still sexual assault.
Why do you think that you can push your genitalia upon a drunk girl? How would you feel if you were wasted and somebody violated your physical and sexual privacy? Rape is never okay, regardless of what she is wearing or what is in her system.
Men of Gordon College, we must end it. We have the power and privilege to destroy the patriarchy, sexism and abuse that is rampant on this campus. Stop believing that you aren’t part of the problem. You are. Every day, you have thoughts that advance the system; every week, you have conversations that oppress women; every month you make decisions that disfigure their dignity. Instead of living in denial, recognize that changing your behavior is the only way to become part of the solution.
Consider the effects of everything you do. Refuse to be silent. Protest when a friend tells you that a girl’s ass is a nine. Respect your girlfriend’s wish to do nothing more than kiss. And for God’s sake, slug the man who tries to rape a drunk girl at a party.
You cannot be on the fence; either you are for or against the equality of women. Talk with your friends about how you can end rape culture. Speak out or move out of the way. A just and right community can only exist in the wake of your decision to change.
Each guy on this campus can work to end this sexist culture.
Do you still believe that you are not part of the problem? You’re wrong. Yes, I am writing to you, the man who believes that his actions do not have consequences. Yes, I am writing to you, the brother who argues that toxic masculinity is a myth. Yes, I am writing to you, the boy who tells his friends they’re acting like a girl and means it as an insult. Yes, I am writing to you, the freshman who was popular in high school and believes that is a license to harass women. Yes, I am writing to you, the homophobic who teases an effeminate friend by calling them gay in an attempt to insult their masculinity.
We can spend the whole day passively suggesting that it should end. But I implore you, look in the mirror. With one voice may we, the male students, faculty and administration proclaim: “We will end it.”