A man's issue too
At Grand Valley State University, one in every four women will be a victim of sexual violence or assault during their time as a student, according to the Women’s Center. A newly approved student organization is working to help counter this trend.
Men In Action is a campus group that is focused on educating students about the topic of sexual violence, assault and a male’s responsibility in helping in its prevention. The organization also teaches men to advocate as well as educate on the issue.
“We’re a group of men interested in helping figure out how males can help end gender-based violence,” said Santiago Gayton, a member of Men in Action and the fraternity and sorority life coordinator at GVSU. “We want to help from the male perspective. It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s a men’s issue, too.”
The organization’s latest event was a screening of the film “My Masculinity Helps.” The film showcases and explores the role of African-American men as educators and supporters in the prevention of sexual violence. The movie shared narratives of different teens and adults and their views regarding sexual violence, the objectification of women and the stereotypes men face.
“We grow up with the saying ‘be a man,’ but that statement says there’s an exact way to be one. There are as many ways to be a man as there are men,” said Kyle Martin, advisory board member for Men In Action. “There’s a responsibility to use male privilege to educate other men because it’s a societal issue.”
After viewing the film, a comprehensive discussion followed as students in attendance shared their reactions to the movie as well as their views on the issue of sexual violence.
“I think it comes back to an all-encompassing idea of responsibility. It’s on us to hold ourselves responsible for our sayings and our actions,” said GVSU sophomore Trenton Allen, who attended the event. “It’s one thing to say, ‘it’s part of the culture’ or ‘I was raised this way.’ We need to realize that it is something we can overcome.”
Another student in attendance agreed that sexual assault is a men’s issue, too, and added that women can help them to realize it.
“When someone says something to you, it’s easier to laugh it off than to stand up and say, ‘I don’t like what you said.’ But the more times women say it’s not acceptable, the more boys can realize it, too,” said senior Belinda Thomas.
Though the group is still new to the university, it is quickly becoming a valuable asset. Its efforts to educate and prevent sexual violence complements the work being done by the GVSU Women’s Center, said Theresa Rowland, the VAWA grant coordinator.
“It’s definitely helpful to have men talking with other men on this topic,” Rowland said. “To step into this work, which is difficult, it’s helpful to see other men doing that. This isn’t women’s work; it’s everybody’s work.”
Men in Action strives to teach and educate on two complementary ideals: a male’s influence and responsibility in inhibiting sexual and gender-based violence, as well as teaching men to advocate and tutor in a counter-narrative to the common definition and portrayal of masculinity.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m not a rapist,’ but it’s another thing to be an anti-rapist,” said MarcQus Wright, a Men in Action member and the director of the Educational Support Program at GVSU. “To be anti means you are actually fighting the system of oppression. To be anti means you’re standing up for this kind of work and that you’re standing up for women.”
Men in Action meets Thursdays at 1 p.m. outside the LGBT Resource Center and welcomes all students who are interested. For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/mia.