After five years as a UCSB student, I thought I’d seen it all. I was sure I had seen all the assholes and all their asshole moves. But of course, I was wrong.
After spending weeks (as a male member of a coed group) preparing and creating our new Students Stopping Rape Word of the Week posters, I returned to campus to see them destroyed. At first glance I thought that it had been the storm. I was wrong. I was hoping that someone hadn’t ripped them down, that the wind and the rain had somehow torn them, balled them up and thrown them in the garbage. I hoped the wind had sprouted hands so I wouldn’t have had to accept the fact that there were bigots on our campus. That’s right – bigots! Those people that we pretend live somewhere else. You know, our favorite heckling buddies on Del Playa Drive, or those cool fondling-type “gentlemen” at the bars downtown. The bigots that are at the heart of the party.
Now, our bigots don’t wear white hoods – that would be far too courageous. No, on the contrary: these guys, they blend in. They drink and party with the rest of us. They hang out in our houses, hook-up with our friends, they even sit next to us in class. But underneath their “suave” disguise lies a frightened bigot. Someone who thinks it’s funny to call women dumb whores or to grab women’s bodies on the street. Someone who believes rape is mostly a myth that those dumb lesbian bitches are making a big deal out of to taint the image of good men. Someone who tears down signs put up by a group whose sole purpose is to stop rape in our community by sharing information.
I’ve got news for you, UCSB: These men are bigots and it is our fault they haven’t been checked. Where are you cowards? Where did you run off to in your drunken stupor? I dare you infantile Cro-Magnon assholes to come out of hiding and identify yourselves. Stop tearing down signs and act like you are actually learning from the education you’re supposed to be getting. Use your words! Isn’t that what we teach five-year-olds? To use their words?
Those of you reading this column may think I’m out of my mind, that I am an angry extremist. Well, you’re right. But I have become this way because of the people in our community who refuse to take the personal challenge of accepting the realities of sexism and rape. This is our fault, UCSB. It’s our responsibility to prevent bigots from being accepted among us.
As a man, I am constantly amazed at the lack of concern and courage men on our campus show. I mean, I love this school. I love the university, I love I.V., I love the people; but we are so ignorant and apathetic that I am completely humiliated to say I earned my degree here. What the fuck is wrong with us? Three to 10 women are raped each week in our community. And 98 percent of the time it’s by someone they know. This is the truth! How can we all stay quiet? It affects each and every one of us. In this situation, not speaking up is the same as encouraging. If we don’t speak out against men who are bigots and assholes, we allow them to continue believing their behavior is okay. And that behavior leads to rape.
I don’t necessarily believe that the people who destroyed our posters are rapists. That would be foolish. I do believe, however, that their actions speak clearly to the men who would rape, saying, “Go ahead, rape. I don’t really care.”
Here’s the truth, UCSB: most men who rape don’t believe what they are doing is wrong. They don’t believe it’s wrong because they live in a place where blatant bigotry and mistreatment of women is accepted by many of the people around them. While rape is the fault of the man who makes the decision to rape, we cannot continue to blame only the men who commit this crime. It is our community’s fault too, for surrounding them with a culture that doesn’t believe survivors and allows its men to be bigots because “boys will be boys.” Bigotry in any form is not okay. Shouldn’t we expect more from the men in our community? Bigotry towards women is unacceptable and the rest of us should not allow it to continue.
Students Stopping Rape and other student groups, such as Men Against Rape, Take Back the Night and Women’s Commission, spend hours sacrificing their hearts and souls to make our campus aware of the problems that face it. Should the rest of the campus be content to let 40 out of 18,000 students bear the responsibility alone? There are only five full-time members of Men Against Rape.
The posters in front of the Women’s Center and EOP, designed to educate and change our language so people don’t use the word rape as a punch line, were only the beginning in a long list of efforts that must be made to end rape and violence against women. For those of us who don’t have time for more meetings, fine. Just remember that our community is filled with bigots and we all have a responsibility to change that. Don’t accept this culture; it’s dangerous and can be changed if we make an effort to do so. Make UCSB the beginning of a social movement instead of the reason for one.
Oh, and to the bigots who tore down those posters: feel free to call me at the Women’s Center, 893-3778, so we can set up a time for you to contribute positively to your community by replacing the posters you destroyed. I’ll be waiting.
Students Stopping Rape meets every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Women’s Center. Men Against Rape meets every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Women’s Center.
Jeffrey Bucholtz is co-coordinator of Men Against Rape.