Sexual harassment and the subtle ways it is perpetuated were the subject of a roundtable discussion yesterday sponsored by several student activist groups. The focus of the talk was how sexism is experienced on campus and actions students can take to stop it.
“Even if we name billions of incidents of sexual harrassment, for each one there would be millions more that are just taken for granted,” said LSA sophomore Agnes Aleobua.
Sexism is a product of the small things that surround people every day, participants said, citing offenders ranging from T-shirts to local publications.
One major source of subtle sexual harassment, many said, is the Greek system. T-shirts given to inductees of the campus chapter of Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity were among the ways they said fraternities promote sexism. The shirt features a drawing of sperm racing toward an egg and the slogan “Only the Strong Survive.”
“To have those male and female symbols it reinforces the male aggressiveness and female submissiveness gender roles and perpetuates sexual harassment,” said LSA junior Audrey Lance.
Other participants agreed, saying the shirts marketed the fraternities as sexist organizations. Another example of fraternity sexism, they said, was a banner for the campus chapter of the Chi Psi fraternity with a picture of a Playboy bunny on it.
Several fraternity members attended the discussion, which was sponsored in part by the Interfraternity Council. They told the group that members of the Greek system had no intention to be sexist and considered the shirts and banner to be advertising materials using familiar images to promote their organizations.
But IFC Executive Vice President Justin Bright, an LSA senior, said fraternities are responsible for some sexist mentality on campus. “I do think we”re at the root of the problem. I really encourage you to challenge us. Push us in the right direction rather than kick us while we”re down,” he said.
Skewed coverage of fraternity issues in campus publications are also a source of sexual harassment, speakers said.
The Michigan Daily “publishes articles about the rape at Beta that are so victim-blaming it”s incredible,” said Lance. She referred to articles reporting that two Delta Delta Delta sorority pledges were allegedly raped at Beta Theta Pi. Lance took issue with one story quoting sorority members admitting they should have been more aware of their surroundings at the party where the rapes occurred, saying such a statement promoted the stereotype that women are responsible for being harassed.
LSA sophomore and Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center member Suzanne Munday suggested mandatory sexism workshops for student organizations.
“If you require all groups registered with the University to go through these kind of workshops we would have a more well-educated campus on this issue,” she said.
A resolution expressing the major points made at the discussion was written by Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary member Jessica Curtin, a Rackham student, and accepted unanimously.