Thinking about gender

I would like to take a moment to thank Patrick Brown, director of Student Life and the Davis Center, for his timely letter to the men of UVM. I believe that more men in leadership positions, such as Brown should speak out on the issues surrounding gender violence, and that men have a responsibility and an opportunity to end all forms of violence in the UVM community. As is evident in Brown’s letter, sexual assault continues to be the pink elephant in the room that men rarely; if ever, discuss. Speaking about such issues may jeopardize our status as “one of the guys.” Men are encouraged, however, to talk endlessly about sports, hot women and music. Yet, as a group, many of us are silent on the impact that we as men have on the women of this community. In my position as Men’s Outreach Coordinator, I have had the privilege to engage in conversations with a diverse group of men. I have found UVM men to be intelligent, sensitive and very enlightened on varying subjects. These men have spoken honestly and openly about gender violence and sexual assault. That knowledge has not, however, manifested into action as they are reluctant to publicly address men’s violence toward women. Similar to Mr. Brown, my purpose in writing this letter is not to criticize men but to encourage them to begin to publicly and honestly address issues related to gender violence. In this regard, I encourage men to “step up” and consciously work toward dismantling a community that created 95 new reports of rape (as reported by the Women’s Center’s Victim’s advocate) during the last academic year. Some men reading this letter may decide the topic does not pertain to you since you have never raped or sexually assaulted a woman. Please consider the following: Have you ever made disparaging comments about women (when you were with your male friends) that you would not say in front of women? If the answer is yes, then I ask that you consider the extent to which you may unknowingly participate in a system that objectifies and demeans women. In closing, I encourage men reading this letter to become as familiar with the issue of gender-based and sexual violence as you are with sports and other topics that interest you. I encourage you to then take action to change the system. Finally, I invite and en?courage men and women to attend some or all of the activities of Men’s Awareness Week during the week of Nov. 5-7 and to support UVM’s efforts to end men’s violence against women. Please contact me for additional information regarding these events: [email protected] Respectfully, Keith E. SmithMen’s Outreach Coordinator