Sexual assault: A women's issue
To The Editors:
The V-Day Bowdoin College 2004 Committee would like to express our general disappointment with the Orient's coverage of the first annual Red Shirt Campaign. We were overwhelmed by the level of participation and the respect and sensitivity that the community displayed for the campaign. In its coverage, the Orient failed to report on the difficult issues made visible by the campaign. Rather than express concern for the pervasiveness of sexual assault and domestic violence, it focused on the lack of male participation.
The Orient has chosen to define V-Day and BWA as exclusively concerned with "'feminist' and 'women's' issues because males typically do not take part." The V-Day organization would like to clarify: sexual assault and domestic violence are women's issue. because women make up the majority of victims of sexual assault. However, while this is primarily a women's issue, men are affected by these problems. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of men are victims of sexual assault and all men have women in their lives that must face the threat of being a potential victim. The number of men wearing a red shirt last week reminded us that men in our community are concerned with this issue.
Part of the V-Day mission is to break the silence around issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. We try to encourage communities to celebrate rather than silence women. Too often these crimes go unreported, because women are afraid to speak up about these issues. Additionally, healing and empowerment in the face of such atrocities has been hindered, as women are rarely encouraged to speak about their bodies and sexuality in a positive way. V-Day is about using creative energy to give women and men the language to address these issues and about empowering communities to work toward change.
The Orient ended its editorial by calling on V-Day to change our tactics to make more men feel comfortable. Men's participation will be helpful and appreciated; obviously a collective effort is necessary for change. There are opportunities for all community members to be involved in V-Day. Although we recognize the importance of men, we will not be discouraged by a lack of male presence in our organization. Women's empowerment does not require male legitimization but it is also does not rely, deliberately, on the exclusion of men. We hope that men who find V-Day exclusive and threatening will recognize that the celebration of women and the vocalization of their stories is essential to stopping violence.
If men or women feel uncomfortable with the message and methods of V-Day, we hope that they will explore their resistance and move toward a productive dialogue. Men are essential to stopping violence against women, but it is not V-Day's responsibility to make men feel comfortable with these issues. We commend the Bowdoin men who participated, and we challenge the entire community to join us in this fight to stop violence against women and girls around the world. Please contact Barbara (email@example.com) or Kristin (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
V-Day Bowdoin College 2004
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