Anti-Sexist activist to speak at school

With the pervasiveness of discussion about sexual misconduct on campus during the past few semesters, much of the conversation has focused on the victims and the perpetrators. Few people, however, have focused on the bystanders in these situations. In his visit to campus on Wednesday, though, guest lecturer and anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz will present strategies and techniques to be an effective bystander in sexist or misogynistic scenarios.

A former collegiate football player, Katz has worked extensively with groups, such as college football teams and the military, to discuss such issues and ways to handle these issues. Creator of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Model, Katz specializes in bystander intervention workshops and presented a TED Talk, entitled “Violence and Silence,” on the subject this past February.

“We thought he would be a good person to bring to campus in a completely non-divisive, community kind of way — especially after the spring,” Brennan Klein ’14, one of the students heavily involved in Katz’s coming, said.

Klein, along with Eve DiMagno ’15, Callen Rain ’15, and Jason Hua ’15, began discussions about getting Katz to speak on campus last spring after watching his TED Talk.

“We all watched his TED Talk, and he was really passionate and powerful when he delivered it,” Klein said.  “It was a lecture that you can’t walk away from and not be affected by.”

These students, together with Coordinator of Student Activities Mike Elias, organized the event on their own. With the support of the President’s office, Associate Dean of Diversity Lili Rodrigez’s office, Assistant Dean for Residential Life Rachel Head’s office, CAPS/Worth, the psychology department, the history department, the education department, the gender and sexuality studies department, the Title IX office, the Lang Center and the Women’s Resource Center, discussions continued over the summer on how to have Katz effectively send a message to the college community.

Katz will run two events.  The first, a closed event, will be a workshop with 82 student leaders on campus.  These leaders include Residential Advisors, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representatives, members from Intercultural Center groups, Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention members, and Student Council leaders.  The college’s athletic teams were each also invited to send a couple of representatives to the workshop.

“The intention was that the representatives would go and get this bystander training, and they would bring it back to their groups,” Elias said.  “We’re inviting a lot of voices to this conversation.”

The second event will be a public lecture at 8:00 p.m. in the Lang Concert Hall.

“I expect and hope that a lot of students and faculty come to the extent that he’s going to present strategies that he thinks are effective in group settings in which you’re afraid to call someone out for something like misogyny or sexual misconduct,” Klein said.  “He’ll talk about how to actually go about being a bystander in that situation and intervening in a not didactic way.  I think getting a foot in the door is huge in terms of having people reflect on their own lives and what they can do.”

For DiMagno, Katz is more than just an expert in the field; he is also a voice that the college has not considered thus far.

“His approach is very much that we talk about [sexual violence] as a women’s issue, but it’s not,” she said.  “It’s a men’s issue.  This is not just a problem for women; this is also a problem for men.  He focuses on men’s violence.  He talks about interrupting that culture, challenging each other on a small scale.  And I think that’s just a different approach, because it’s a very, ‘Here’s what you can do’ idea, […] which I think has been floating around more recently but that I haven’t seen take center stage.”

Hua agrees that Katz’s perspective is an important yet overshadowed one.

“I think Jackson can bring a fresh view on the issues of gender violence and discrimination that were raised last spring, from the male perspective,” he said.  “Jackson’s work focuses on the characteristics and behaviors that make up a healthy masculinity and what men, being in a position of privilege, can do to prevent gender-based violence.  Which is a lot more nuanced than just ‘don’t rape anyone.’”

For Hua, Elias and Klein, Katz’s coming is a way to facilitate further conversation on the issues that arose last spring.  Because of this, Elias told Katz that this topic has been the focus of constant discussion on campus recently.

“We’re really looking for him to be a catalyst to continue this conversation on a large scale,” Elias said.  “We’re hoping that he can start to bridge some larger conversation among the community.”

Although Klein agrees that Katz’s workshop and lecture will be essential to continuing last spring’s discussion in a productive way, he does not think that Wednesday’s events alone will be the solution.

“This isn’t a vaccine for campus unrest, but if everyone involved in this tension goes to the event, it gives everyone a common ground to figure out how to move forward in a responsible and compassionate way,” he said.  “If it can be a platform for discussion, that is very beneficial.”

While Katz’s relevance to the college is undeniable, DiMagno does not see his coming as a direct response to any specific event on campus that has transpired.

“A lot of things happen in reaction to crisis here,” she said.  “When we were thinking about [Katz’s coming], the idea was to bring this in not as a response to a crisis, but to […] provide a new perspective and a new voice. […] I’m hoping that people who haven’t been listening will hear this and say, ‘This does apply to me, and it is a problem, and now I have concrete things to do.’”

Consistent with the idea that anyone can be a bystander in everyday situations, DiMagno, as well as Rain and Hua, feel like what Katz has to offer extends to more than just the people who have been most heavily engrossed in the campus conversation this far.

“By being a part of this community, we all have a responsibility to prevent sexual violence,” Rain said. “Unfortunately, I believe that many of us don’t always know what that responsibility looks like in practice and what behaviors we can change to avoid perpetuating a serious problem.”

Hua agreed. “His work is relevant to everyone on campus, especially as a call to action for men to be proactive and examine the way we conduct ourselves and the behaviors we engage in on a day-to-day basis.”

The Phoenix