Major kudos goes out this week to University of Waterloo-based fraternity Sigma Chi for openly addressing (arguably) the biggest issue on Canadian campuses today— sexual assault and rape culture— in their PSA video #BreakTheSilence.
Following almost two years of mounting evidence of a pervasive rape culture across our post-secondary campuses— ahem; Saint Mary’s; McMaster; uOttawa; Dalhousie; and remember this one, Carleton? — and the shocking disregard for and mismanagement of these specific examples by university administrations; well, it’s nice to finally see some pro-active recognition of the issue from a student body, especially from a fraternity.
It’s no secret that fraternities have a lil bit of a bad rap as hubs for promoting sexual assault, reinforcing misogynistic attitudes and perpetuating traditional gender roles. Frat-boy comedies (its own genre!) are often guilty of supplying young people with unrealistic expectations for easy sexual encounters — as though regular conquests were included as part of their first-semester tuition— paving the way for dangerous attitudes about what is acceptable behavior on real college campuses.
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And to be fair, it’s not just fraternities that reinforce these ideas either. As Elle Beaver’s Shelagh wrote last year, “From our first week on campus, we are faced with the harsh realization of our society’s violent culture of sexual assault, rape, and degrading views of women.”
But change from within is hard. Dominic Aquilina, a longtime member of Sigma Chi and a student at UW, admitted that all members of his frat weren’t on board with the idea of the PSA. According to Aquilina, “we’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback in general, although there have been a few cases where people don’t necessarily agree with the message or the way it’s presented.” One of the examples: some members don’t believe that rape culture exists.
“For some reason, a lot of people feel entitled to sexual contact, it’s like if they’re hitting on a girl, they expect them to be receptive automatically and there’s no reason for that,” said Aquilina. “At some point you need to step in and be like, ‘Dude she’s not interested, just leave.'”
With help from sexual studies colleagues at UW and local sexual assault centres in Waterloo, Sigma Chi took a bold step in creating #BreaktheSilence and we at the Beavs are here to say thanks.
Lead by example, gentleman. And never be afraid to keep the conversation going.
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