Open Letter to Men

Open Letter to Men By Erik Farley, Associate Dean & Director of Multicultural Student Affairs

As a man on this campus, I am issuing a call to all Denison men: we must contribute to conversations about relationship violence. I call upon men from all socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities to consciously rid our community of this social ill. And I call upon our members to brainstorm practical ways in which we, as men, could end men’s violence against members of our campus and our communities beyond the Hill.

We know that many cultural traditions and images in the media suggest that a “real” man hides his emotions, views sexual experience as a status symbol, and solves problems with aggression. While these traditional ideas of masculinity are not always negative, it is important that we accept other ideas of masculinity as well. Structured dialogues that inspire the courage to question contemporary notions of masculinity, while simultaneously providing the opportunity to see through others’ perspectives, would help us immeasurably.

Prevention starts early. We need to develop innovative ways to teach young men that we have better ways to express negative emotions than exerting physical dominance over others. Denison should be a leader in such initiatives. Increasingly, college campuses are calling upon men to take an active role in prevention measures.

As an alumnus of the Denison and a member of the general faculty, I asks others to join me in rallying men to the call, and to work diligently to heal our fair college on the hill. Men of substance understand that social justice work in the areas of race, class, gender, ageism, and sexual orientation is critical to ending violence. For that reason, we must approach these issues from a number of perspectives, with the intention of changing the ways relationships are cultivated in our community.

A number of viable strategies have been successful in communities like ours. These include:

• Creating role-model opportunities for young men in our community. Work collaboratively with sports teams, school districts and student organizations. (Resources like the Alford Center for Service Learning and the Campus Leadership and Involvement Center can help us get started.)
• Learning how to articulate accurately our emotions. (Counseling Services and one-on-one meetings with professionals from the Division of Student Development, with faculty advisors and mentors provide ready opportunities.)
• Identifying and working with existing prevention programs. (SHARE Advocates and the Center for Women and Gender Action welcome our involvement.)
• Providing safe venues to discuss what it means to be a man. (Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (and other student organizations), the Center for Cross-Cultural Engagement, and Residential Education all offer related opportunities for discourse and programming.)

Denison has this wealth of resources. We need to use them! I challenge each fraternity chapter, athletic team and student organization to not only host courageous conversations about relationship violence and its effects on our campus community, but also devise action plans to creatively respond to this phenomenon with the assistance of their advisors; I serve as an advisor to such an organization, and I welcome these conversations.

M.C. Isler, my maternal grandfather, used to talk with me for hours about the responsibly of men. One quote has always stuck with me, “Erik, I can show you better than I can tell you.” It’s a start for us to be able to explain why relationship violence is wrong, but real change will happen when we show the campus how it’s done.

Jenny Pearlman