Jackson Katz, an author and filmmaker who created a gender violence prevention and education program used by the American military and sports organizations, strode away from the lectern on stage to address a nearly packed Mayser gymnasium.
“I’m going to say some really provocative things in the short time we have here together,” Katz warned the audience. “We have some really big problems in our society and all over the world, and we can’t sugarcoat it.”
Katz’s prelude to his talk, “More Than a Few Good Men: American Manhood and Violence Against Women,” was to prepare the audience at the Feb. 8 Common Hour, a community discussion conducted every Thursday classes are in session.
He spoke frankly about gender issues – violence, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment; about the leadership women have brought to these issues, and why men must join the leadership ranks because they are not just the perpetrators, but also the victims.
“I don’t accept the premise that these are women’s issues that good men help out with. These are men’s issues first and foremost, and we need a whole lot more from men than we’ve been getting on these matters,” Katz said.
Men show leadership on these issues by addressing sexual abuse and violence when they see it, he said, instead of choosing not to get involved, which he called the bystander approach. “If you don’t say anything, you’re complicit,” Katz said.
The Common Hour lecture, which F&M’s Department of Athletics helped sponsor and mandated that athletes attend, is part of the “Consent and Sex Education Week” programming, organized by the Diplomatic Congress, F&M's student governing body.
“Women’s leadership on domestic violence movements and related movements have been utterly transformative over the past generation or two,” Katz said. “And it’s affected not just the lives of women and girls, but men and boys in profoundly positive ways.”
Katz used a hammer to hit home his points. “Men have been raping women and children and other men for thousands of years,” he said. “Overwhelmingly, men are perpetrators of sexual assault, but men are also the victims.”
Men are not comfortable in this society discussing men as victims of sexual assault – not just girls, but boys, too, suffer the trauma of seeing their fathers beating their mothers, Katz said.
Feminists, Katz said, started the conversation about men as victims of sexual assault. “Feminist women in the 1970s … were the first people to talk about men as victims and boys as victims of sexual assault,” he said. “But you’re much more likely to hear those women referred to as “'feminazis who hate men.'”
Calling gender issues women’s issues is “a big part of the problem,” Katz said. “It gives men an excuse not to pay attention.”
This failure to engage is reinforced by how things are worded, he said.
“Here are some of the ways that language keeps hidden men’s accountability and responsibility,” he said. “You hear people ask things like 'How many women were raped on college campuses last year?’ rather than ‘How many men raped women on college campuses last year?’”
“Even the term ‘violence against women’ is problematic," he added. "What’s missing from the term ‘violence against women?’ Men -- in other words, the person doing it.”
“Gender justice and gender equality are one of the great unmet needs of the human species,” Katz said. “If Franklin & Marshall students want to go into the world and do important things, one of those important things is to work for gender justice.”