Today was probably one of my favorite days of service so far. We started off at Haven discussing intersexuality, privilege, gender based violence, and gender stereotypes. My favorite activity of the day was the gender stereotype list. We listed off stereotypical aspects of being a man or being a woman. We asked questions along the line of “what is a typical profession for a man/woman? What do men/woman usually drink? What sorts of hobbies do men/women enjoy? How are men/women supposed to act? What are the worst things you can call a man/woman?”
The two boards filled up within seconds of impulsive shouts from my team members. Whether we felt the need to speak or not, we all knew that these things were true to some extent–for everyone.
The past few days have been pretty rough on me emotionally (shout out to Jocelyn and Alex for cheering me up.) because I keep thinking of the greatness of the weight of the problem my group and I are trying to tackle. The mere fact that we were able to shout out these male/female stereotypes without even thinking really made me realize that this problem of sexual assault and how we perceive how men and women are supposed to be like. It’s incredibly easy to be afraid of the immensity of it all.
Another great part of our day today was talking about privilege. We talked about how every single person has some sort of sense of privilege, no matter how small the factor may be. We also talked about how it is the responsibility of those that do have more privilege than others to unpack notions of racism and other “isms” to other people. There is usefulness in meeting people where they’re at in terms of knowledge. I admit, I have had the tendency to not forwardly address people when they say generally awful things to/about others and myself (this stems from other more personal issues that are very prevalent in my life, I promise..haha.) I realize that passiveness and thoughts such as “What is the point in calling someone out? Obviously if they’re saying these hateful things they’re not intellectual enough to wrap their minds around what is right. Why even waste my breath and try to educate them?” are SERIOUSLY detrimental to this cause. Stopping gendered expectations–which then lead to rape culture and assault–begin with cutting the problem at the root–by taking the time to stand up and give a little lesson on why rape jokes aren’t funny. By being prepared to have a conversation. By challenging yourself as well as others. By just trying to say the right thing.
If there is one thing I learned on this trip, is that staying silent and thinking or watching from afar on my own comfy metaphorical little high horse won’t help anyone or any cause.
We ended our education session with a list of all the things we could possibly do to be proactive in the cause against sexual assault, rape culture, as well as gendered norms. We made a comprehensive list of things we could do at an individual scale, in our communities, for our government, as well as systemically/globally. We ended up with a pretty awesome list of things..as you can see. Through this list and through my incredibly passionate and wonderful peers, I felt genuine solace in our confidence of the enormity of the possible.
Stay tuned for more Haven updates.
Thanks to everyone on this trip for being awesome.