The number of students who turned out to see noted writer, filmmaker and gender violence educator Jackson Katz speak to campus was so large, that those in attendance filled not only Harbarch Theatre, where the event was taking place, but also Kresge Recital Hall, which had the lecture wired in on closed-circuit television.
The hundreds there heard Katz deliver a speech entitled “More than a Few Good Men“, which calls upon men to recognize that traditional “women’s issues” such as sexual assault and domestic violence are men’s issues as well. He challenged men to break down social norms that tolerate such behavior.
He opened by hailing progress made not only in the field of gender equality, but also those of race and sexual orientation. But he warned listeners that complacency is not an option. “The idea that we’ve passed these hurdles … is nonsense and ignorance on parade. We have a long way to go.”
Men, he argued, have allowed themselves to believe that as long as they are not active perpetrators of inappropriate behaviors, they are entitled to ignore issues such as gender violence. Even the very way the issues are worded (“violence against women” instead of “violence men commit against women”), according to Katz, encourages male passivity.
“Saying ‘I’m not a rapist’ is not particularly impressive,” Katz said.
This is reinforced by male culture that belittles men who take a stand on gender equality, Katz said. He specifically pointed to the demonization that the word “feminist” has suffered from (“one of the great propaganda successes in Western cultural history”) as a symptom of this, a remark met with vocal approval from those gathered in Harbach.
His alternative is the so-called Bystander Approach, which aims to place social costs on those who perpetrate gender inequality or violence, especially within all-male settings. This approach is noted for avoiding more traditional methods of preventing sexual assault, which either treat all males as potential perpetrators or place the burden on females to avoid risky situations.
An interesting feature of his lecture was his frequent breaks for questions or comments from the audience after every major portion of his talk. Some students asked for clarification or advice on what they could do, while others discussed personal experiences.
He ended the lecture with a number of film clips, including some from his own documentary.