Raising Awareness

by Amy Foust | 11/21/01 6:00am

To the Editor:

Dear Mr. Deck, regarding your article "Against White Ribbons" (Nov. 16): I did not send you a white ribbon, but I salute those who did! I interpret the symbol very differently, and I hope you will reconsider the wearing of one.

Not all men are rapists. However, the majority of people who commit sexual assaults are male. Wearing a white ribbon does not identify you as a non-rapist for the purpose of boosting your ego by branding you "good." It identifies you as a man who has considered the epidemic of violence against women in this country and found it abhorrent. That white ribbon does not announce your nobility and guiltlessness to the world. Instead, it signifies your solidarity with women and men who have suffered because of a social structure which allows some men to behave in reprehensible ways. How does society enable those violent men? By perpetuating the myths that rape is somehow natural or inevitable, and that any effort to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault is inherently anti-male, among others.

By open-mindedly thinking and learning about sexual violence and its many incarnations, you reduce the likelihood of becoming a man who commits a sexual crime without even realizing it, by consciously disowning the mythology of rape (I didn't hit her, so it wasn't rape; She didn't say no, so she must have wanted it; She said no, but I know she meant yes; I'm not a rapist, so it's not my problem). Further, by announcing that you have thought about these issues, you (hopefully) serve as a peer leader, encouraging other men to think about them as well.

I am confident that the white ribbon was not meant to insult your manhood. I believe it was an invitation to enhance and develop your manhood, and I hope you will accept. I, too, think it would be wonderful to define "manhood" without reference to violence or opposition to "womanhood."