Dear Amherst College Men and Women,
The Men’s Project is a group dedicated to sexual responsibility and respect that strives to give men a voice in the conversation against sexual violence on campus. We hope to educate, inspire and organize the men on campus to make masculinity in romantic and sexual contexts synonymous with support and respect rather than culpability.
I started this group because I am a feminist. I hope that the word “feminist” does not hold negative connotations for you, because for me it is an extremely simple concept. I will steal Don McPherson’s words to explain what I mean: “I am an environmentalist because I love, respect and value the environment. I am a feminist because I love, respect and value women.”
But you do not have to be a feminist to support the Men’s Initiative. Whole communities— men and women — are affected by rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. How are men affected? First, every man has a woman in his life who he loves, whether it be a spouse, a friend, a mother, a sister, or a grandmother. So we need to acknowledge that a woman who is disrespected, degraded, assaulted, harassed, and raped could just as easily be the woman you love most.
Second, by keeping ourselves out of conversations about sexual violence, we do nothing to change the negative view that we as men are not to be trusted. So why do we continue to stay silent? Discussions of rape typically take place after an incident has occurred. When men are importuned into these discussions, we enter defensively, kicking and screaming. And why wouldn’t we? If Jack rapes Jill, men are automatically in Jack’s shoes. Thus our response is, “I’m not Jack so what are you coming after me for?” But we do not have to stand in Jack’s shoes and be viewed as culpable of anything. Yes, men commit 98% of rapes, but most men are not rapists. By involving ourselves in conversations surrounding sexual assault, we as men can be viewed as allies and not as perpetrators. The Men’s Initiative aims to inspire each man to carry himself through the world in a respectful, aware manner.
In the time it takes you to read this blurb — maybe three minutes or so — three American women have been raped and five more have been sexually assaulted. These statistics are unacceptable. We have a responsibility to change a culture that facilitates this behavior. But cultural shifts do not occur without individual change. Please listen to the stories of women you know and love, and add your voice to theirs.
You are all the role models around campus who can make this project work. I cannot sing, or play football, baseball, lacrosse, or most other sports. I cannot do math, or speak other languages, or play the violin, and I definitely cannot dance. But you can. Most people on campus don’t know me. But they know you, and you can reach them.
I am graduating in a month, so it is on each of you to maintain and improve this initiative over the long haul. Please support the Men’s Initiative on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/298133396923682/.
Jareb Gleckel ’12, The Amherst College Men’s Initiative