No Means NO. No Assumptions, No Excuses.

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Dave Pinsonneault ’14

*Trigger warning: This piece talks about sexual assault, and blames men 100% for sexual assault committed by men to women.

There is a certain silence here on campus.  It is a silence on the topic of rape and rape culture.  Silence begets tolerance. 

We all know what Providence College nightlife entails.  Every student here knows you can walk down Eaton Street on a Friday or Saturday night and find a house party.  Others might find a bar.  Both are perfectly fine, even enjoyable, to do.  But what often happens at a house party or bar?  It is dark.  There is music.  There is dancing.  Oftentimes, a man will go up to a girl, and begin dancing (disclaimer- it can be any person of any sexual orientation but I want to examine sexism evidenced by male/female interactions).  There are no questions asked.  No introductions have been made.  The guy begins to sweet talk her.  He might get her another drink or whisper something in her ear.  After some time, the man will ask the girl to come back to his room.

If a sexual encounter is to occur, there is one rule that must be followed.  Consent MUST be given before any sexual encounter, and this consent needs to be a hard yes.  A sexual act that occurs without this vocal and emphatic consent is rape. The way a woman has dressed for the evening does not count as consent.  Allowing a man to walk her home or give her a ride does not count as consent.  And going to her room with a man or going to his does not count as consent.  Assumptions should never be made about a woman’s willingness to participate in sex. Period.

Sometimes a man will try to ply a woman with a few drinks.  He might try to wear her down with repetition or persuasion.  He might shame her into submitting because he bought her something or gave her a ride or because he believes he has been led on.  Other times a man might use force.  It may be surprising for you to learn that these are all instances of rape.

It is surprising for many women to learn this as well.  A woman who engages in sexual activity after consuming a lot of alcohol, or after being worn down, or after she feels she owes it to someone, might wake up the next morning feeling ashamed or angry.  Or maybe just confused.  She is unsure what exactly happened the previous night and why.  Maybe she had too much to drink and she feels like what happened, though it makes her deeply uncomfortable and even ashamed, was partly her fault.  The fact is, however, that someone who is intoxicated is not legally considered capable of giving consent.  The woman has been taken advantage of.  But if she does not know that she has been raped, why would she report it?

From 2009 to 2011, only four rapes were reported at Providence College, including incidents on and off campus.  But these statistics belie what I see.  Women are constantly objectified and degraded at PC.  They tolerate men calling out inappropriate things to them when going out at night.  This has been normalized, to some extent, on campus.  Respect is not normalized at Providence College.

Instead, hook-up culture–scenarios like the one I describe above–is normalized.  There is very little communication between people of opposite genders at social events.  There is very little room for the vocal, emphatic YES that constitutes consent, and a whole lot of room for gray area situations to quickly blur into what is legally considered rape.

In fact, I would argue that a rape culture permeates Providence College.  Men often go to parties with the intent of objectifying women.  They want to take women home and they do not necessarily care whom. This has nothing to do with women not respecting themselves, and it has everything to do with men disrespecting women.  In theory, women can also go to these social events objectifying men, and take advantage of them in a way that can also legally be considered rape.  But the vast majority of disturbingly gray situations I have seen play out have men as the perpetrators.  I think that this has a lot to do with these attitudes many men on campus seem to hold about women, which no doubt has a lot to do with how men are told by the media that their worth is linked to their sexual prowess.

There are competing views on how to teach sexual education.  In the Catholic Church, there is no sex until marriage.  We go to a Catholic school, and because of this there is no outlet (on campus) to learn about safe sex and about contraceptives.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, the state will teach on and provide funding for safe sex.  What is missing from both approaches?  Nobody teaches consensual sex.  This is what is missing in the conversation on sexual relations.  There is a perception that consent means a violent no, rather than the opening dialogue to discuss this topic.  This needs to be taught.  It is something that can be utilized by both men and women.  Consensual sex is something that needs to be taught and taken seriously.  If there is no consent, there is no sex.  This is something that is not quite understood on campus. As such, I understand that it can seem like there are many mixed messages surrounding sex.  But it is not really an excuse.  If no one is going to teach us how to give consent, we have to take it upon ourselves to learn.

The recent article in the Cowl discussing self-respect and the way women dress pushed me to write this response.  Let’s be clear: nothing a woman does should convince men that she does not respect herself and should be treated worse because of it.  Respect does not have to be earned, it should already be there.

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Be Vulnerable: I Dare You

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

I will be the first one to admit to it: I am really sucky at being vulnerable. This is partly because of the ingrained prejudices that I have about vulnerability. Think about it. We all want to be smart, attractive, socially adept, happy, and successful, among many other very desirable qualities. Now let’s try adding vulnerability to that list.

Do any of us really desire to be vulnerable?

Hell no.

Vulnerability means being weak. It means failure. It means looking desperate and being the last one picked on the kickball team. It means crying. It involves looking for help. It looks like wearing our hearts on our sleeves and sounds like stuttering.

So should we try to be vulnerable? Do we dare to dare greatly?

Yes, because the wholehearted life is the life worth living.

I am a self-proclaimed Brené Brown disciple. She is an incredible social work researcher and focuses her studies on shame, vulnerability, and perfectionism. Her thoughts are the ones echoed in this post. Her book Daring Greatly is the result of her years of research about vulnerability. I have latched onto her message and consider it my duty to spread the good news. And what is this good news?

We can be free from the bonds of perfectionism and shame by engaging in vulnerability.

The more vulnerable we are, the more susceptible we are to living, as Brené terms, the wholehearted life. We live with our whole selves and not just a quarter of ourselves. Our hearts are invested in people and activities. We jump in. We get messy. We roll up our sleeves. We leave everything on the field. Our hearts are left pounding and our hands are left open. We graciously accept all that life has to offer. We connect. We learn. We grow. We get hurt.

And it is in this way that vulnerability allows us to get swept up in life.

Theodore Roosevelt put it best when he said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So strive to be the man in the arena. Err and come short again and again. Fail while daring greatly. Make room for imperfection. How do we do this? Just a few suggestions: don’t apply the extra layer of mascara. Ask the girl out. Study for the test and fail the test. Apply for the job. Tell your dad you love him. Ask your friend for help. Be wrong out-loud. Try out for the team. Be picked last. Buy the dress. Book the ticket. Laugh when you don’t have time for it. Be faithful. Believe in something. Allow yourself to feel joy. Practice gratitude. Fail and fail and fail. Fail fast. Then clean it up. Then fail again.

Because being perfect is not only impossible, it is absolutely unappealing. It reflects the fears of being unacceptable and unlovable. And if anything leaves a bad taste in our mouths, it should be living in the name of fear.

So join me in this effort. Be vulnerable with me. If we are vulnerable together, then we maximize our chances of connecting with one another and minimize our chances of regret.

Remember that we have to play the game to win the game. And mistakes are just signs that we decided to not sit on the sidelines.

http://brenebrown.com

Dress In A Way That Makes You Feel BEAUTIFUL, CONFIDENT, and COMFORTABLE

LexiThumbnailLexi Moubarak ’15

Needless to say, for an American girl growing up with a very conservative Lebanese father was not easy. What was I allowed to wear out of the house? Definitely not what my friends wore. A short jean skirt was a huge no…unless of course it was accompanied by thick black tights, which always came off in the bathroom at my destination (sorry Dad!). Most of our arguments revolved around what I wanted to wear out of the house. To this day I am criticized by my family’s cultural standards for the way I dress. My dad regularly says things like, “We don’t wear dresses that short” or “Lebanese girls don’t have so many piercings.”

To clarify, my dad is a very loving father who has given me an incredible life. Although his insistence on modesty as a way of fending off rapists frustrates me, my siblings and I giggle lovingly about his ways. For example, my dad often chases me out of the house to check what I am wearing before I can get in my car and drive away. On the other hand though, he does compliment me just as much on how nice I look when I am dressed for church or daily activities. It is only when I pull out those tight short dresses or high heels do I get I reaction. His reasoning: “I don’t want men to look at you and think they can have their way with you.”

Yes, I may draw more attention to myself when I wear less clothing. But guess what… sexual assault and rape DOES NOT only happen when women are dressed in that way. Most times sexual assault happens with someone you know in a place where you are comfortable. I was sexually assaulted wearing jeans and a T-shirt in a school setting. It can happen ANYWHERE and at ANY TIME. Warning women that sexual assault is more likely to occur when they are provocatively dressed is misleading, and doesn’t address the underlying question of why rape and sexual assault of women continues to be a reality around the world.

It is not fair to ask us to change the way that we dress, stay out late, or not wear too much make-up in order “to not be raped”. Especially, because that is not going to guarantee us safety and in my case may even give young girls the impression that they are safe in places like school where modesty is expected and there is no alcohol involved. It is important to realize that when encouraging women to dress modestly that often takes the blame off of men. This implies that if women were to dress more modestly it would be less likely for them to be sexually assaulted. Which in fact is not fair and misleading because it makes women think that somehow it is their fault. We must demand that men learn self-control and respect, and be held to a higher standard of behavior, rather than take a one-sided approach of embracing and perpetuating slut-shaming.

I was blessed to grow up with an older sister who built up my self-confidence. She was always there to tell me how beautiful I am and how I should love myself. This isn’t to say that I am the most confident person with no insecurities. Of course I have insecurities. Every person does. What makes this topic hard is to whom do we blame for our insecurities? The media? Our parents? The pressure to wear certain clothes? These are not questions for which I have answers. But, I do know that when I dress, it is for style. It is for comfort. And it is most certainly for me. There is no way that I am going to tolerate (or ANY WOMAN should tolerate) being harassed or assaulted by a guy, no matter what she is wearing.

Yes, modesty is in my culture. Whatever culture you come from and whatever pressures you are battling – whether it is the pressure to wear more or wear less – my advice to you is to dress in a way in which you feel strong. Although your clothing is one way to express yourself, what matters is who you are on the inside and how that shines through. May you dress in a way that makes you feel BEAUTIFUL, CONFIDENT, AND COMFORTABLE. May you know that you are worthy of love and respect no matter how you dress. And may you know that sexual assault is NEVER OK and you are not to blame. So ladies, if you are feeling confident…. stumble on 😉

 

P.S. This applies for both men and women. Men deserve the respect of women as well because the reality is that men are sexually assaulted and fall under the pressures of wearing certain clothing too.

A Dress Is Not A Yes

Guest Chat

Kelley Garland ’16

Confidence is key; whatever you decide to flaunt out on the weekend or weekday, it is the confidence and composure that makes one “sexy.” If I want to wear jeans and a nice shirt, I will. Hell, if I feel like wearing a tight dress that is considered a little short, so be it. If someone is confident in himself or herself, the outward appearance should not be taken so heavily into consideration. Truth be told, you should not be spending your nights judging what other people are wearing when they are going out. Honestly, who cares what someone wears. The person wearing the outfit is in charge of her own body; she is independent, she knows her comfort level, she makes her own decisions. A girl should not be viewed as easy because of something short and tight; pieces of fabric sewn together do not determine someone’s life story or choices.

I was brought up on the notion that it is what is on the inside that counts, that is where true beauty lives. I do not believe than clothes cause one to stray from their own values. Disapproving of an outfit gives no one the right to make assumptions about the person wearing it. Such assumptions never lead to anything healthy. It is a serious problem that a girl wearing a tight dress, perhaps showing off her legs and some skin, is thought of as a piece of meat. People are under the impression that girls who dress like this are lusting for attention from boys. It is time to stop making assumptions about people based on society’s misappropriated associations between dress and character. Learn who the real person is; stop projecting assumptions on him/her. This applies every day: not just on nights out.

There is a difference between an assumption and an observation. Looking at a girl without a jacket walking down Guzman Hill first week of December, one might see her shivering. You observe her to be cold. On the other hand, you might see her shivering and assume she’s looking for someone to warm her up later on in the night. Now imagine that same girl hearing people making these assumptions about her. Realistically, she might have wanted to wear that outfit because she believed she looked good in it, and felt that a jacket didn’t match or she was afraid to lose it. You might be correct in your observation, but think twice before making an assumption.

Let’s get some things straight. Wearing these articles of clothing does not mean it is a green light for your peers to take advantage of you. Here’s a question: why do women think that they deserve to be taken advantage of because they felt they dressed a certain way? Whether you a wearing a turtleneck or a crop top, no woman deserves to be treated disrespectfully. It is other people who do not respect a woman’s body—grabbing their ass, coming up from behind and biting their necks without any notice. Men need to respect women, and women need to respect themselves.

Not all guys are like this; our wider culture is largely to blame. But the issue is prevalent enough that it raises the question: “if a woman dresses like a ‘slut,’ is she partially to blame if she is assaulted?” Absolutely not. A woman never deserves to be violated, regardless of dress, location, under the influence or not. Women should never have to think, as they are getting ready to go out, “if I wear this, will something horribly life alternating happen tonight? Will I be taken advantage of? Will I be emotionally and physically scarred?”

It is time for us to put an end to misguided assumptions and victim-blaming stereotypes. We might not be able to change all of society, but we can change Providence College’s campus. If someone says no, it means no. If you see someone who needs help, try to help. And if a girl is comfortable and confident wearing something, then let her express herself. An outfit should never invite unwanted actions. A dress is not a yes.

One Year Young: A Friarside Milestone

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

One year ago today, Friarside Chats launched. A small group of new friends and I channeled our mutual frustration with the actions of existing campus media into momentum towards the realization of a mutual vision. We wanted to create a new forum for perspectives otherwise pushed to the fringe by the administration and administratively ordained press highly defensive of its status-quo.

From this altruistic yet defiant spirit, Friarside Chats was born October 6, 2012. With just three writers at launch (our team quickly grew to four), we used Facebook and word of mouth to generate buzz over this experiment in campus media. We wrote about on and off campus issues. We challenged administrative practices the Cowl felt it couldn’t. We wrote not as journalists but as Friars and friends committed to our school and sharing our honest convictions. We explored matters that interested us, though our ever-increasing readership bore witness to the fact that we were not unique in our interests.

Friarside Chats has been criticized essentially for rocking the boat. But I am proud of our body of work and of the dialogue and reform it has played a role in precipitating. Each writer writes freely and independently. Feedback is offered, but no writer is ever forced to alter his or her writing. We don’t always agree on matters; such was never our goal. But it is a wonderful experience to be part of a team of writers with mutually abundant respect for each other. I am confident that each member of our present team of six shares this sentiment.

This project is one year young. To the excitement of many and the chagrin of others, we’re not going anywhere. Internally, much has changed. My own role as blog administrator has been scaled back this semester as I am studying abroad for the entirety of my junior year. Two of our writers have graduated. One Friarside alumna has gone on to become a Capitol Hill staffer in Washington, DC. Another one of our writers is now vice-president of Student Congress.

We observe this milestone by reflecting on our beginnings and refocusing on our unchanged mission. Personally I feel as though we get carried away when we see ourselves as such great agents of change on this campus. The pen is mighty; words have weight. But what is mightier still is this student body when informed by diverse perspectives on relevant issues. We chat, and our Chats become a part of that diversity.

Each campus media outlet offers something unique, and Friarside is unique in offering student commentary independent from administrative review or regulation. This does not make our work better or more vital than other campus media; it simply makes it different. We believe that this matters, and we thank you for believing too.

Thank you for your readership in this first year of Friarside Chats, and here’s to the many great years ahead!

A Message From the Friarfighters

The previously planned demonstration will not be taking place on Saturday. Read why below:

Greetings fellow Friars.

Today is a glorious day. A message from the President of Providence College was released this afternoon, which has declared, effective immediately, that sexual orientation and gender identity is now included in our institution’s non-discrimination policy.

What a victory indeed! We are celebrating the protection of human rights and the substantiation of faith in good will. We have been very pleased with the cooperation this administration has showed so far. They have proven that they are willing to engage with an active student voice.

We were never just hoping for academic freedom: we were fighting for it. And although we will not be demonstrating tomorrow please do not misunderstand this as the end of the fight. The administration responded by the 5:00 deadline, but their response included one third of the answers we sought. We will remain active, watching attentively and seeking the help of all Friars to fight, not hope, to achieve the vision of Providence that is beginning to coalesce into existence.

We wish you a very merry St. Dominic’s weekend.

May Veritas be with you,

-The Friarfighters-

Emanuele Abbrancati
Jeffrey Copland
Matthew Henry Smith
Omar Terrones
Nicholas Wallace
Anna E. Vechi
Kiley Leduc

Faculty Senate Action on Academic Freedom

Check out Faculty Senate Resolution 13-14-00-01 regarding the cancellation of Dr. Corvino’s lecture, academic freedom on campus, and the treatment of faculty by the administration.

“Whereas, the Providence College Administration:

  • cancelled an academic talk with no consultation with the organizer and used a non- existent college policy as justification;
  • publicly asserted that the organizing faculty member knowingly violated the non- existent policy;
  • publicly undermined the academic reputation of another faculty member without any consultation with said member as to her readiness to offer a response in the academic talk;
  • damaged the academic reputation of the college by portraying us as intolerant of our LBGTQQIAA students and unwilling to have an open discussion of these issues on campus;
  • by its actions have called into question academic freedom on this campus.

Resolved, the Faculty Senate demands the following:

  • that the PC Administration publicly retract their decision and restore the academic talk according to the best judgment of the organizer, Dr. Christopher Arroyo, and his sponsors;
  • that the PC Administration publicly apologize to Dr. Corvino;
  • that the Administration abide by the Faculty Handbook statement on academic freedom at Providence College;
  • that the Administration work to restore the academic reputation of Providence College and the reputations of Professors Christopher Arroyo and Dana Dillon.

-Faculty Senate, 10/2/13