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March 26, 2018 | by  | in Opinion Presidential Address |
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Presidential Address

CW: Sexual violence.

We’ve done a lot of work around sexual assault and harassment lately. We’ve launched the Don’t Guess The Yes campaign, brought Thursdays in Black to our campus in a really creative way, and last week we fully did a march from Law School to Midland Park, outside the Russell McVeagh offices. If you can’t tell already, this is an area VUWSA is quite passionate about. But why?

Sexual assault and harassment might be seen by some as oddly specific issues for us to be investing so many resources in (I’ll quickly reassure you now, we spend just as much time and energy on a raft of other issues), but the reason we have a strong focus on this area is because it is a prominent symptom of a wider cultural issue. The reason sexual assault and harassment occurs in the way it does is because of a larger equity issue within our culture that ultimately forges a path to negative behaviour. This behaviour manifests itself quite strongly within certain parts of our society, whether it be a powerful and intensely hierarchal law firm, a nightclub, or within parts of a university community. The common theme here is that this behaviour occurs in places where there is a power imbalance tipped generally in favour of males.

Pause! Wait! Please keep reading! I am not going to go on a rant about why you need to start identifying as a feminist. My (possibly controversial) advice is to skip past that, and instead think just about the issue, about why this behaviour occurs. Is statistical evidence that reported sexual harassment and assault in our community is largely more often perpetrated by males purely coincidental? Is that catcall really “just a compliment”? Or is it more likely that sometimes, as dudes, we underestimate the power and privilege in our actions, and in our words, and that can have a negative impact on others.

Anyway got a bit academic with this week’s yarn, but give it a think yeah?

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