Producing Rape Free Campus Cultures: Teaching as Activism

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Inequality, Equality and Difference (April 16-18, NYC) Producing Rape Free Campus Cultures: Teaching as Activism Tal Nitsán, University of British Columbia In 1981 Peggy Sanday challenged the familiar assumption that rape is an inherent tendency of male nature, and demonstrated a correlation between sexual inequality and incidents of rape. Promoting sexual equality is thus central to producing rape free cultures. In this paper I discuss how I translated the knowledge I gained working with the Guatemalan campaign to end violence against women into my teaching in a North American University. I claim that theoretically informed education that places learners’ experience in the center helps student become themselves agents of change. Accordingly, students acquire theoretical knowledge on the relations between gender in/equalities and violence and are asked to put this knowledge into practice, by analyzing several incidents of sexual violence that took place on campus. Based on the complexities reflected in their small discussion groups’ reports, I suggest reframing the issue as gender-based violence (against persons, irrespective of their gender identification) and focusing on how cultural perceptions of femininity and masculinity are constructed, (de)valued, and disciplined. This terminology, I believe, allows wider social participation in transforming the current reality of sexual violence. A recent product of these efforts is a talk series led by several male-identified students, looking to create spaces for students to talk about issues such as masculinities, healthy relationships, privilege, violence, and leadership. By opening these spaces they aim to encourage male-identified students to critically explore their social position and generate a greater awareness of the extensive social harm caused by the reality of sexual inequality.

The paper will be presented as part of the roundtable Activism for Sexual Equality on Campus, featured at the Anthropology on the Ground track.

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