Katz Talks About Sexual Violence

22 February 2002

By Stentor Danielson
Managing Editor

Jackson Katz, one of America's leading male activists against sexual violence, delivered a Brown Bag Lunch talk and an evening lecture on Tuesday. Katz was brought to Colgate as part of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which concludes today.

Both of Katz's talks focused on how the male role in sexual violence is often ignored. He said that this is often done through language that focuses attention away from the perpetrators of sexual violence, which are overwhelmingly men, and belittles those who speak out against it.

"I have a big problem with calling them women's issues," Katz said, because that label gives men an excuse to ignore problems like rape.

Less than one percent of all rapes are committed by women, Katz said. Men and boys commit 90 percent of all interpersonal violence, according to the FBI, which Katz described as "hardly a radical feminist organization."

Katz said that when people hear the word "gender," they think of women, much like "sexual orientation" makes people think of gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgendered people and "race" makes people think of blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and so on. The dominant groups -- men, heterosexuals and whites -- are improperly excluded from these categories.

"Men are every bit as gendered as women," Katz said.

At the evening lecture, Katz divided the Love Auditorium blackboard in half, labeling each with the symbol of one gender. He asked audience members to list things that they did in their daily lives to avoid being the victim of sexual violence. The female side filled up, but the male side remained empty.

"I hope the visual symbol of inequality and unfairness sticks with you-especially guys," Katz said.

At the Brown Bag, Katz explained how the use of the passive voice in discussing sexual violence eliminates male perpetrators from the picture. He showed how "John beat Mary" becomes "Mary was beaten by John" and finally "Mary was beaten," dropping John out of the sentence.

Katz compared the term "male basher," used to describe women who speak out against sexual violence, to the linguistic propaganda in George Orwell's novel 1984. He said that the word "bash" means "to strike or to hit," which is the very action the women described as "male bashers" are speaking out against.

"The anti-violence activists are the violent ones?" Katz asked.

Katz asked the audience to list names that men speaking out against violence are called. He said that words like "pussy" and "queer" are used to question the man's sexuality or manhood. After being called a homosexual because of his activism, Katz said he realized "they were saying that because we care about women, we want to have sex with men."

Other names, such as "wimp" and "wuss," implied weakness. Because standing up against sexual violence is so hard, Katz said "the people who are being called wimps are stronger than the people who are calling them wimps."

Katz emphasized that men should be concerned about sexual violence against women because they have sisters, mothers, girlfriends and other women they care about who may be affected. "If we can get men to feel passionate about these issues, we are more likely to get men to act."

Katz has organized programs to prevent sexual violence that target athletic teams (including the New England Patriots) and the United States Marines because he hopes to foster some male leadership on the issue.

Katz said that people in the future will see the late 20th century as a time of great gender transformation in society.

"I thought he had a good message," sophomore Morgan Stepp said.

"I thought it was good that outside people came and saw it," senior Tiffany Edstrom added.

Katz was the first man to earn a Women's Studies minor at Harvard University.

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