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Take Back the Night Week Begins

By Hera A. Abbasi, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

An expert on gender issues spoke about the relationship between masculinity and sexual violence against women last night to launch Take Back the Night Week 2003.

According to organizers, the week of events seeks to raise awareness about sexual violence and includes talks, vigils and a concert.

Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, emphasized the benefits to both sexes when sexual assault against women is reduced.

About 60 people gathered in Emerson Hall to hear the talk.

Kimmel also discussed the changing role of women in America over the last 30-40 years and connected this changing role to attributes of masculinity that men are expected to have.

Helping women “will enable us [men] to have the types of relationships we want to have” said Kimmel.

Kimmel discussed how the fear of sexual assault, which is constantly instilled in women, harms men as well.

“We typically say to women, here is what you have to do reduce your risk,” Kimmel said. “It basically says about men, unless you [women] police yourselves, we men are out of control animals and will be all over you.”

Kimmel called women entering the workplace “the single most obvious transformation of the labor force,” and gender visibility “one of the fundamental basic building blocks of identity” for women.

“Women now feel entitled to [sexual] pleasure,” Kimmel said. “This is relatively new in our society.”

He contrasted the dynamic gender roles played by women over the past few decades with the static conceptions of masculinity.

“Survey after survey suggests that what current male college students define as masculinity has remained the same,” he said.

“No sissy stuff, that’s the number one rule,” he said.

Kimmel also said there was an important role for men to take in preventing sexual violence.

“We’re scared to challenge each other, to stand up to each other,” he said. “Violence against women depends on men’s silence.”

Last night’s event was co-sponsored by the Sigma Chi fraternity.

Take the Back the Night Week is sponsored by about three dozen student groups.

Organizers say they will distribute purple ribbons in front of the Science Center this week to show support for victims of sexual assault.

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