Ted Bunch, the co-founder of the national men’s organization “A Call to Men,” introduced the concept of the “man box,” the set of ingredients that make up a man, during a presentation Tuesday night. “A Call to Men” is a national men’s organization that addresses domestic and sexual violence.
Despite its name, the event was open to both men and women, although much of the conversation was directed toward members of fraternities. The event was co-sponsored by No Zebras, Girls 4 Good, Student Government, the Association of Greek Letter Organizations (AGLO) and the Interfraternity Council (IFC).
“You know how plants thrive in light, well domestic violence survives in darkness,” Bunch said. “The more you shine light on it the smaller it gets.”
The speech allowed the audience to participate by answering questions or filling in the blank with “common sense” phrases. One question asked the audience to fill in the phrase, “you throw like a …” with the word girl.
The “man box” exercise resulted in examples of where this male box begins to form.
Audience members were asked to shout out ideas. Some said that a man is tough, opinionated, respectful, detached and powerful but is not weak, flexible or sensitive.
Using word clouds, which are a clusters of words used to describe an object or idea, Bunch explained how early gender stereotypes are made.
The first cloud showed that the dominating words were “battle,” “hit,” and “power.” The second word cloud’s dominant words were “friends,” “fun,” and “love.” In the end it was revealed that the word clouds were to describe young boys’ and girls’ toys, respectively.
Bunch said that men should break the stereotype of it not being socially acceptable for men to talk about their feelings by speaking up should they see someone engaging in violent behavior toward women. The conversation stressed the importance of changing norms and having men take responsibility to educate their peers.
IFC president Brad Bradshaw said that this is a step in the right direction for UM’s campus.
“This is an issue that faces everybody – not just fraternities. From a fraternity-centric perspective, however, it’s about how young guys view manhood,” Bradshaw said. “We’re hoping to make a statement that says, ‘Being a man is not about being cool or feeling powerful. It’s about being responsible and showing respect.’ Those are the values our fraternities were founded on and they’re as true now as they were back then.”
Two different studies have found that fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault in comparison to other college men, according to oneinfourusa.org.
“This event will put us on the forefront nationally to say that we’re going to do our best to put an end to this,” said Justin Goldsman, the president of AGLO, an organization that includes all 31 sororities and fraternities on UM’s campus. “It’s something that most schools haven’t done.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, it is estimated that the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions may be between 20% and 25% over the course of a college career.
“I thought Greek life needed a good motivational speaker as a wakeup call to a big national issue,” said junior Jacob Levy, a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. “It’s not an issue that I’ve dealt with but it’s something I have been made more aware of now.”
Amelia Abe, president of Girls 4 Good, an organization that aims to find solutions for gender inequalities, found the event beneficial.
“I hope that it starts a conversation more than anything, and I hope that people see even if you don’t personally commit sexual violence against women it’s going to take everyone to make a change,” Abe said.
The sponsoring organizations say they are discussing follow-up events to continue promoting change.
“A lot of times in the past when there are multiple orgs, it throws things off and takes away the sincerity,” Goldsman said. “To see so many of these organizations actually stand up and say ‘we care about this cause’ made it more inspiring and monumental.”