When I first read the anonymous letter published in The Peel, I was horrified, disgusted, and saddened. But I cannot truthfully say that I was surprised.
Toxic masculinity pervades our campus. It happens when men are comfortable with grinding on another person without first asking, when men routinely say words like “bitch” and “pussy” as insults meant to tear people down, and when men use “I didn’t know” or “I was drunk” as excuses for having sexually assaulted someone. Worst of all, it happens every time one of us sees these situations and does not speak up or act to prevent them.
And this is not some remnant of CMC’s past that still happens to be lingering here. This harmful phenomenon is very much a large and active aspect of our community, and shows painfully few signs of slowing down. This is a CMC in which the only reason for men to socialize is often to get drunk and go “fuck someone”, as if having sex is something you do to, and not with, another person. This is a CMC in which groups of men find it acceptable to be rude to or intimidate individuals who care for our school and are trying to do their jobs. This is a CMC to which men still feel they are entitled, and we have not done enough to change that mentality.
It is very easy to read these examples and think that they do not apply to you because you are a good and decent man. And while that may be true, it still does not give you any excuse to ignore what you see and hear on our campus on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Even for those of us who are still questioning the idea of gender identity, what it means to be a man in America, and whether or not that is something with which we want to identify, we still have a responsibility to shape masculinity in our community. There are plenty of strong women at CMC and in the world around us who are working to challenge these notions of toxic gender norms. But, it cannot and should not be their burden to bear alone.
I am happy and grateful that ASCMC has taken the first steps in beginning the conversations surrounding these topics. But it pains me when maybe only four CMC men attended the first event this semester focused on masculinity at the Claremont Colleges. During the relaxed time period between midterms and finals, when the Vagina Monologues were packed for three days and Claremont women were participating in new and productive discussions surrounding womanhood and feminism, CMC men could not even be bothered to take a couple hours and consider the roles that we, as men, want to have. Those of us who actively care about these issues are not off the hook here either; we must do a better job publicizing these conversations and stressing their importance so as to actually involve all students.
Most of us may only be at CMC for four years, but this time does give us the opportunity to shape the cultural norms of our school for decades to come. And we have to seize it. We cannot let it be normal for first-year students to need to be told to watch out for CMC guys. We not only have to avoid drugging and assaulting our peers, but also have to recognize that this alone is not enough. We have to show that CMC men are respectful and responsible to all those around us, not just to that alum who might give you your next internship. We have to reproach our friends when they are the ones participating in this toxic culture, as difficult as it may be sometimes. Simply put, we have a responsibility to make our campus a welcoming place for everyone and to do all we can to ensure that it stays that way.
To paraphrase Leon Bridges, I don’t want much; I just want us to be better men.