The Collegian
Thursday, August 06, 2020

Influencing cultural change on campus

Richmond College '09

Last weekend, I was talking to someone told me a story about a female's sexual endeavors. I had the opportunity to further add to the story, recalling other gossip I had heard about the girl. Then I thought about the infamous e-mail and the resulting controversy. I chose to keep my mouth shut -- why further smear this girl's reputation for humorous purposes?

Change needs to occur on this campus -- but it won't happen through excessive disciplinary punishment, nor accusing fraternities of being institutions committed to the degradation of women. Change needs to come by redefining what is "cool" and "acceptable" in our community and culture.

The administration needs to be aware that it cannot change college culture overnight. I applaud administrators' efforts to attract gender equality clubs, invite guest speakers and make resources available to students committed to such causes. But disciplinary actions, monitoring fraternity e-mails and other means that attempt to control college culture are the wrong ways to try to bring change. Change will only come from within college culture, not from external attempts to control it. If the administration enacts too much regulation of gender speech, then its efforts will backfire, and male students will use degrading language even more as a means of rebelling against authority. Sure, men might not make degrading comments in e-mails, but it'll happen even more in situations the administration cannot influence. Nobody likes to be told what to do -- but what can go wrong when concerned parties make positive suggestions?

Richmond men need to separate reality and culture. Most guys who speak degradingly about women listen to rap music that suggests f--- bitches get $ (a sad change from the love for women shown by Tupac, rap's fallen prophet. Listen to "Keep Ya Head Up" if you don't believe me). University of Richmond students are all smart enough to realize that men are just as, and usually more, sexually active than women on campus, and to call a woman a "slut" is to hold a double standard on sexuality. If all women are sluts, then most men are huge sluts. At the same time, women should be aware of double standards such as criticizing the language of men for slogans like "Save Boobies" when there are other campus organizations that have "Protect Your Sac" printed on their shirts (something a girl wore in D-Hall today).

Richmond women should try to be constructive and not angry. Writing angry articles that accuse fraternities of being gangs of primitive men who enjoy force-feeding women alcohol in an effort to take advantage of them creates further tension between groups. I understand that a person would be angry about the e-mail that was written, but don't call for the author's head on a stick and pressure the university to suspend the kid. The suggested suspension of "Roscoe Jenkins" made this an issue of freedom of speech and not gender mentalities. The key to changing this culture is not to fight it, but to influence it. Please recognize the difference between degrading language and other language.

An opinion piece in The Collegian last week criticized my fraternity's "Save Boobies" Derby Days campaign to raise funding for breast cancer research. "Save Boobies" was used to get the attention of passers-by in the Commons. It was created by two female survivors of breast cancer. We used this slogan not to degrade women, but to effectively get donations. We ended up raising over $5,000 in cash from the donations in the Commons and over $18,000 in Spidercard donations. There was also no "coercing" of sororities to participate in Derby Days. I'm fairly certain sororities enjoy the events that we take the time to organize for them. We organize events to raise money for breast cancer research, not to raise money for our fraternity. I bring this up just to make it clear that Derby Days' purpose is not to degrade women into competing in our events, but rather for our organizations to have a great time raising money for a good cause.

I wanted to make this clear about Derby Days partially because my fraternity's reputation has been called into question, but even more so because I am concerned with the direction that the gender equality initiative could take. Cultural change won't happen by trying to control e-mail content or getting defensive at the slightest suggestion of a female body part. Change needs to happen from within the culture. Men need to be aware of the effects of their language and recognize the difference between entertainment and reality. Women should try to be constructive rather than overly defensive.

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