Rowan University Men’s Action Network (RU-MAN) met this past week to discuss the patriarchy and physical and sexual violence toward women in anticipation of the upcoming Sexual Violence Prevention Week.
The group consists of self-identified men who meet for lunch and typically explore the concept of masculinity and the problems that arise from narrow definitions of manhood.
Gardy Guiteau, director of social justice, inclusion, and conflict resolution initiatives, headed the meeting and began by listing several values by which the group abides: “the golden rule, transparency and an openness to vulnerability.”
The main thrust of the meeting involved dissecting passages from Allan G. Johnson’s “The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy.”
In his work, Johnson discusses the entrenchment of the patriarchy throughout most societies, defining it as a system that is “male-identified, male-dominated and male-centered.”
Guiteau instructed those present to point to examples of the patriarchy. Mentioned was the domination of Hollywood by male directors, a group of individuals who tell stories about women from a male perspective. When asked to list famous female directors, only one was named: Ava DuVernay.
“Male traits of being in charge, or a boss, are seen as good,” Guiteau said. “As soon as a woman does it, she’s bossy.”
Recent police violence was also explored in relation to the patriarchy, with the police described as a powerful group that fears not being in control.
While the discussion began with a focus on the patriarchy within Hollywood and bureaucratic institutions, it branched off to include an analysis of abusive relationships.
Junior computer science major Sri Datla touched on the role of control and fear in power dynamics, saying, “the more secure you are with yourself, the less you need to be in control.”
Added Guiteau: “You have to view yourself as separate from something else to control it.”
At one point, the contradictory notion that an all-male group meets in an attempt to alleviate problems caused by the patriarchy was brought up.
Junior Africana Studies major, G Williams-Samuels felt that having men and women discuss these issues separately, then convene, was a good idea.
“A lot of men don’t necessarily understand or have a base knowledge of certain issues women deal with, so if you can kind of get guys together to reach an understanding first, I think it would be better than throwing men and women together and having us go at each other.”
To end the meeting, Guiteau passed out cards that listed various rape and sexual assault statistics. One such statistic stated that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
“Talk and myths about rape are seen as real,” Guiteau said, reasoning that educating students on the actual statistics is an effective way to assuage these myths.
As part of Sexual Violence Prevention Week, RU-MAN will participate in the upcoming Take Back the Night event on Tuesday, April 4.
“What we plan on doing is having a table for Take Back the Night, where we will be giving out information about sexual violence and sexual abuse,” Williams-Samuels said. “Take Back the Night focuses on empowering women to stand up and speak out against things like sexual assault.”
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