Rape culture discussed at community dinner hosted by SpeakUP

Rachel Milio, Staff Writer

Members of the University gathered for the semester’s second community dinner on Oct. 30 in Larison Dining Hall. September’s discussion on the destigmatization of mental health was hosted by University organization Active Minds. This month’s event was hosted by Speak UP and focused on the media portrayal of issues such as domestic abuse, stalking, and victim blaming.

Speak UP is a peer education group as explained by Jordan Ferrari ’20. The group is responsible for programs involving prevention, education, and awareness of issues involving relationship violence and sexual misconduct.

Community dinners encourage discussion between people from different areas of campus, placing upperclassmen at tables with first-years and faculty. At the October dinner, attendees watched a variety of video clips representing the media depiction of domestic violence and misconduct.

These clips included a TED Talk by educator Jackson Katz, who discussed the linguistics of discussion around gender and how “the use of the passive voice has a political effect.” In his opinion, the language used by the media when referring to victims of assault or abuse “shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women.”

“I found the TED Talk very revealing,” Massimo Lombardo of the Italian Department said. “We need to shift the focus away from the victim and towards the perpetrator.”

“The language used to describe victims of sexual violence is problematic,” Julia Oshrin ’19 said. “It shifted the woman into an object in the sentence, rather than a subject.”

At the community dinner, participants also watched the music video for the 2010 song “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna.

While the song had success in the pop charts when it was released, many were surprised by its meaning. “I listened to this song when I was little, and looking at how the lyrics and video glorify domestic abuse is shocking,” Liz Lagerback ’22 said. “It shows how young we are when toxic relationships become normalized.” Lagerback also found the song’s message “especially weird, considering Rihanna’s history with domestic abuse.”

“Verbal abuse can be just as bad. Just because no one punched you doesn’t mean it’s not abusive,” Liesel Ferguson ’19 said.

The last video shown was Sugarland’s song “Stuck Like Glue,” also released in 2010. The music video depicted a comedic portrayal of the stalking and kidnapping of a man by a woman, a portrayal which some, including Chandler Houldin ’20, found problematic. “Stalking isn’t a topic talked about as much, and this music video makes it look like a fun thing. It’s important to bring to light how stalking is defined and represented,” Houldin said.

At the end of the event, participants reflected on their opportunity to discuss the topic and the elements they had noted. “It’s a lot more common to hear people say their pronouns when they introduce themselves,” Oshrin said.

Lombardo found the event helpful and informative. “I could be a part of the problem,” he said, “so I wanted to know how to be a part of the solution.”

Speak UP can be contacted at [email protected] or 570.577.3574 for any questions about future events or becoming involved in the organization. Applications to be a Speak UP peer are due on Nov. 5.

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