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Dr. Jackson Katz on Men, Women, Sex and Violence

Renowned educator delivers keynote lecture on sexual assault, administrators respond

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Renowned educator and pioneering activist Dr. Jackson Katz dellivered his lecture entitled “Men, Women, Sex and Violence” in the Henry Student Center Ballroom on March 27. Katz was the keynote speaker for “It’s On Us Week,” a week-long event dedicated to discussing sexual violence.

Renowned educator and pioneering activist Dr. Jackson Katz dellivered his lecture entitled “Men, Women, Sex and Violence” in the Henry Student Center Ballroom on March 27. Katz was the keynote speaker for “It’s On Us Week,” a week-long event dedicated to discussing sexual violence.

The Beacon/ Jesse Chalnick

The Beacon/ Jesse Chalnick

Renowned educator and pioneering activist Dr. Jackson Katz dellivered his lecture entitled “Men, Women, Sex and Violence” in the Henry Student Center Ballroom on March 27. Katz was the keynote speaker for “It’s On Us Week,” a week-long event dedicated to discussing sexual violence.

Toni Pennello, Asst. News Editor

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On March 27, Dr. Jackson Katz delivered a keynote address entitled “Men, Women, Sex and Violence” in the Henry Student Center Ballroom. The address kicked off “It’s On Us Week,” a week-long event organized by Wilkes administrators which highlighted issues of sexual violence, made possible by a grant from The Department of Education.

Katz is an educator, author, filmmaker and cultural theorist who is internationally known for his pioneering work and activism surrounding issues of gender, race and violence. He is known for his TED Talk, “Violence Against Women – It’s a Men’s Issue,” which has been viewed more than three million times.

Katz also co-founded Mentors in Violence Prevention, one of the oldest and most influential gender violence prevention programs in North America, which works with athletes and the military. The program pioneered the “bystander” approach to combating sexual violence.

He is also the author of The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How all Men Can Help, and Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity, both critically acclaimed.

Katz visited Wilkes to deliver a lecture dealing with bystander intervention and men’s roles in ending sexual assault.

Gretchen Yeninas, associate dean of student affairs, indicated that the lecture was important because Wilkes is not immune from the issues of sexual violence. Part of her job, she said, is to deal with Title IX cases such as reported sexual assaults.

“Unfortunately I’ve seen a number of them in the year and a half that I’ve been in this position… violence against women… Sometimes it’s men against men… it’s obviously happening,” she said.

“While the majority of students are kind and good to one another, and look out for one another, every once in awhile something happens, and it may not be intentional necessarily, but there’s still some education that needs to be done around this topic, so I do see it as very important.”

The bystander intervention approach that Katz and his colleagues pioneered is favored by Dr. Phillip Ruthkosky, dean of student affairs, and is the approach used in the video shown to students in every First Year Foundations class, called “Colonels Don’t Stand By.”

“If we as a society have the opportunity to make a difference, it absolutely needs to be driven by students,” Ruthkosky said.  “…(F)olks like me, deans and administrators, we have a role to play and a leadership role as well, but students have the opportunity to really make an impact and stand up.”

Ruthkosky explained that the role of students was most important since, although he could educate them about bystander intervention, he nor other administrators are likely to be in the situation to actually stop an assault.

“You start thinking about where these assaults are taking place at colleges in particular, it tends to be with acquaintances in very familiar environments… not all the time, but more often than not there’s somebody in that scenario who had the opportunity to see something or hear something that might have made a difference,” Ruthkosky said.

The lecture was opened by remarks from Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hart, who discussed the goals of “It’s On Us” Week and thanked members of the Wilkes administration as well as Katz and attendees.

Hart’s introduction was followed by a speech from President Patrick F. Leahy.

“There are so many reasons why I am proud to be the president of this University. One of the ones chief among those is the way in which we tackle the issues of sexual violence here. We are at the forefront of responding to sexual violence with our ‘Colonels Don’t Stand By’ program,” Leahy said.

Katz was introduced by Ruthkosky.

When asked why Katz was chosen to deliver the keynote lecture, Hart stated “We wanted to bring someone that was dynamic, and that would really make a strong opening remark for our week of awareness.”

The event was well attended. Members of the community along with faculty and students nearly filled the ballroom.

“I was glad to see as many students there as there were,” said Yeninas. She pointed out that many students attended the lecture in groups, either with classmates in a course which covers relevant material or with their teammates, their coaches strongly encouraging their attendance.

“I’m sure that some were maybe coerced to be there, but I’m glad that they came and I hope they got something out of it too,” Yeninas said. “Maybe some people looked disinterested because they weren’t sure why they were there, but I really hope that by the end they really did get something out of it,” Yeninas said.

At the lecture, Katz began with an anecdote about a negative experience he had while giving a presentation to a group of police officers. He had asked if anyone would mind if he moved away from the podium, to which one officer replied, “yeah, it’ll make you an easier target.”

Katz mentioned that he did not feel that hostility coming from the group in the ballroom, but that he also hadn’t said much yet.

“I’m going to say some things that are pretty provocative, and deliberately so, because we’ve got some big problems in our society, and we have some big problems in the world,” he said.

Katz began by introducing the notion of a paradigm shift in the way that people think of the issues of sexual assault.

“… They’ve been previously seen as women’s issues that some good men help out with…  I don’t accept that, and in fact, I’m going to argue that these are men’s issues first and foremost.”

Katz began illustrating this in the context of domestic violence. He asserted that although children who live in a home where domestic violence is common are referred to as “witnesses,” he believes that this is a misnomer – and that those children are in fact also victims of the domestic violence.

This lumps in a lot of boys growing up in those environments and men who grow up suffering the outcomes of their victimization. Katz added that those boys are more likely to end up engaging in criminal activity and ending up incarcerated.

Katz also cited a statistic regarding domestic violence related to mass shootings, an occurrence he finds “pathetically common” in the United States.

“Over the past decade, 57% of mass shootings had a domestic violence connection, which is to say that either the shooter was either the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence,” Katz said. “You would think that we would talk about domestic violence if we want to have a thoughtful discussion about mass shootings – and yet it rarely happens in the mainstream.”

Katz brought up the fact that women and feminist theorists have been discussing these issues since the 1970s, but that they still have yet to be mainstream thoughts.

Yeninas related this to her own experience with the Victim’s Resource Center, which she has been a part of for almost 20 years. The center opened in 1974, and began as a grassroots organization called the Luzerne County Women Organized Against Rape.

“I know that the conversation has obviously been ongoing, and it’s nice that a man is up there talking about this because it has been a lot of women, and they’re still fighting the good fight, so to speak, but we need some help in some ways too,” Yeninas said.

The reason why women need that help from men, Katz would say, partially stems from the defensiveness that many men show in the face of discussions of sexual assault.

“I think one of the roles that men can play in this work is we can say some things that sometimes women can’t say, and, more accurately, we can be heard saying some things that women sometimes can’t be heard saying.”

Katz said this in the context of passive language used to describe gender violence, such as saying “violence against women” rather than “men’s violence against women,” with the gendered words being variable and interchangeable. He said that this passive language takes away the accountability from perpetrators, but that active language is what makes many men uncomfortable as they feel they are being implicated based on their gender.

“That is how power works,” Katz added. His approach is to “invite” men to join the discussion rather than “indict” them.

Katz asserted that bystander intervention is very challenging, and takes courage and leadership. While stepping in prior to a potential assault is important, he stressed the importance of facing the issues at a base level.

Drawing a pyramid shape, he indicated that stopping an assault directly before it happens is at the tip, while the part of the pyramid with the greater area holds all of the attitudes that lead to the assault in the first place. Therefore, the most work to be done in the area of sexual violence lies in the sexism that pervades society.

“Don’t we know that attitudes influence actions? Don’t we know it’s naive to think that incidents that happen in this society… somehow they come out of nowhere? How ignorant can we be?” He said. Katz therefore encouraged students to step in when they hear their peers using sexist language and making sexist jokes, saying that silence in those situations indicates “consent and complicity” toward the attitudes.

“Of course they come out of somewhere. They come out of belief systems. And belief systems get nurtured and sustained in those very kinds of conversations,” he added.

Katz along with Yeninas and Ruthkosky agree that there is a long way to go before the issue of sexual violence on college campuses is far from over. Ruthkosky thinks one of the factors stunting the process is arguing over statistics.

“You’ve heard the statistic that 1 in 5 college women are victims of an attempted or completed assault… and this could range all the way from inappropriate touching all the way up to rape,” he said. “You have a lot of critics of that number… several studies have shown that result, but a lot of individuals say that it’s exaggerated… my response is,let’s say it was 1 in 10, or 1 in 15 or 1 in 20… are you comfortable with 1 out of every 20 females? I’m not.

“We know that it’s happening way too often and the best way to I think approach that is to have students feel a sense of ownership and a sense of community… a sense that it’s on you as students to communicate better, to educate each other about what consent means, to look out for each other in any way possible and however you’re comfortable and I think that is what will make the most positive impact and the biggest difference.”

domestic violence related to mass shootings, an occurrence he finds “pathetically common” in the United States.

“Over the past decade, 57 percent of mass shootings had a domestic violence connection, which is to say that either the shooter was either the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence,” Katz said. “You would think that we would talk about domestic violence if we want to have a thoughtful discussion about mass shootings – and yet it rarely happens in the mainstream.”

Katz brought up the fact that women and feminist theorists have been discussing these issues since the 1970s, but that they still have yet to be mainstream thoughts.

Yeninas related this to her own experience with the Victim’s Resource Center, which she has been a part of for almost 20 years. The center opened in 1974, and began as a grassroots organization called the Luzerne County Women Organized Against Rape.

“I know that the conversation has obviously been ongoing, and it’s nice that a man is up there talking about this because it has been a lot of women, and they’re still fighting the good fight, so to speak, but we need some help in some ways too,” Yeninas said.

The reason why women need that help from men, Katz would say, partially stems from the defensiveness that many men show in the face of discussions of sexual assault.

“I think one of the roles that men can play in this work is we can say some things that sometimes women can’t say, and, more accurately, we can be heard saying some things that women sometimes can’t be heard saying.”

Katz said this in the context of passive language used to describe gender violence, such as saying “violence against women” rather than “men’s violence against women,” with the gendered words being variable and interchangeable. He said that this passive language takes away the accountability from perpetrators, but that active language is what makes many men uncomfortable as they feel they are being implicated based on their gender.

“That is how power works,” Katz added. His approach is to “invite” men to join the discussion rather than “indict” them.

Katz asserted that bystander intervention is very challenging and takes courage and leadership. While stepping in prior to a potential assault is important, he stressed the importance of facing the issues at a base level.

Drawing a pyramid shape, he indicated that stopping an assault directly before it happens is at the tip, while the part of the pyramid with the greater area holds all of the attitudes that lead to the assault in the first place. Therefore, the most work to be done in the area of sexual violence lies in the sexism that pervades society.

“Don’t we know that attitudes influence actions? Don’t we know it’s naive to think that incidents that happen in this society… somehow they come out of nowhere? How ignorant can we be?” he said. Katz therefore encouraged students to step in when they hear their peers using sexist language and making sexist jokes, saying that silence in those situations indicates “consent and complicity” toward those attitudes.

“Of course they come out of somewhere. They come out of belief systems. And belief systems get nurtured and sustained in those very kinds of conversations,” he added.

Katz, along with Yeninas and Ruthkosky, agree that there is a long way to go in combatting the issue of sexual violence on college campuses. Ruthkosky thinks one of the factors stunting the process is arguing over statistics.

“You’ve heard the statistic that one in five college women are victims of an attempted or completed assault… and this could range all the way from inappropriate touching all the way up to rape,” he said. “You have a lot of critics of that number… several studies have shown that result, but a lot of individuals say that it’s exaggerated… my response is, let’s say it was one in 10, or one in 15 or one in 20… are you comfortable with one out of every 20 females? I’m not.

“We know that it’s happening way too often and the best way to I think approach that is to have students feel a sense of ownership and a sense of community… a sense that it’s on you as students to communicate better, to educate each other about what consent means, to look out for each other in any way possible and however you’re comfortable and I think that is what will make the most positive impact and the biggest difference.”

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Dr. Jackson Katz on Men, Women, Sex and Violence