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Archive for August, 2013

Why Agent of Change

Monday, August 26th, 2013

We developed Agent of Change to meet two basic, important needs. One, we need to reach students. Two, we need to reach them in a way that engages them, that shows how sexual violence affects them and what they can do about it. What better way to engage people than through the oldest form of human communication–a story. What better way to reach large numbers of them than through the newest form–technology.

Agent of Change combines the ancient art of storytelling with the new art of video games and contains the knowledge from our decades of violence prevention education. It’s a story that draws people in because they are a part of it. It’s called gameification, learning through interaction in a virtual world.

But no single method of education is enough to end sexual violence, and Agent of Change is not just an online program. We want to continue the engagement people develop with these issues as they play the game. We use all the traditional methods of outreach but these methods are enhanced because they can start at a deeper level of understanding. We’re also using newer methods, specifically social media. Our daily Facebook interactions and bi-weekly Facebook discussions continue themes of the game. Students can discuss the game further, although it’s not necessary to have been through it to participate.

In order for change to occur, we need to engage students immediately by giving them basic information at the same time that we show them how sexual violence affects them. We need to illustrate how we all do things to either perpetuate the violence or to stop it. We must give them the tools to understand what all the facts mean, and help them understand how everyday language can silence or support survivors. Agent of Change does this. Each individual who enters the game must confront their own beliefs–and biases–as they make choices. They have to think about these issues without consulting someone else, or being silenced by someone else.

I have used a lot of techniques in my years as a sexual violence prevention educator: posters, flyers, sidewalk chalking, info tables, class announcements, radio shows, presentations, and discussions. I have always been particularly committed to talking to people in person. I like to answer questions and ask follow-up questions, to respond to specific concerns, to directly counter misinformation, and to confront harmful attitudes and beliefs.

With all these methods there are limitations, the biggest one being the inability to get to that deeper level of personal engagement. This limitation is obvious with passive programs like posters, but it’s also a problem in presentations. If the group is large, the presentation can be entertaining and thought-provoking but not very interactive. With a small group, the interaction is dependent on who talks, who listens, who has thought about these topics before, who wants to be disruptive, who feels silenced.

In addition to the logistical constraints, there are time constraints. The necessity to cover basics like statistics and resources means there’s no time left to tackle the questions that would move us forward: “What does this mean for me? If I don’t rape, and I don’t know anyone who has been raped, then why do I need to hear this?” Agent of Change solves this problem by making it easily accessible, something that students can do on their own time and in private, so they can participate fully, instead of feeling peer pressure to do or act a certain way.

The first online sexual violence prevention programs ranged from awful to OK but were just screen simulations of what I was doing as an in-person educator. They were didactic, imparting facts and “truths” in about the same amount of time as most live presentations, and without the ability to respond to questions or misinformation. I was against them, and there were no thorough, rigorous evaluations to make me reconsider.

Agent of Change was designed to address all these limitations. What you see now is just the beginning. We will continue to make it better, more engaging and interactive. We have rigorously evaluated the program and the data is positive. We will continuously evaluate, and will make improvements based on those evaluations. This is the future of sexual violence prevention and it will help us move closer to our goal of ending sexual violence.

-Carol Mosely
Director, We End Violence

 

I Know You Want It: Objectification, Music Videos and Consent

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Talk about getting blasted,
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must want to get nasty.

                                                                                                                              “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke, T.I., Pharrell

 

I’ll admit it: I hadn’t heard this song until I watched some of the many parodies of it that have been floating around the internet. I knew that it was the “Song of the Summer,” but I tend to not listen to new music on the radio, and I miss out on most pop music until it becomes passé. After viewing some of the parodies, I knew that in order for me to get the joke, I needed to watch the original. So I did. Then I wished I hadn’t.

The video is, what has sadly become, a pretty typical example from that genre; a lot of nudity, objectification, and questionable lyrics. It was more graphic than most, but still within the realm of what has become normal. So I wasn’t too surprised. However, once I started reading what Robin Thicke was saying about his song, the video and feminism, I lost my cool.

When asked about what “blurred lines” mean in the context of the song,  Thicke answers that he wants to show how “women and men are equals as animals and in power.” Yet, his video shows exactly the opposite.

In the two different versions (one “clean” and one not), women are treated as props: they are all scantily clad (or nude) while the men are fully clothed, the women are controlled by having their hair pulled, one’s back  is used as a track for a toy car, and they are shown in compromising positions as their male video co-stars sing and move around the set like the women are scenery and not people.

As if that wasn’t enough, Robin Thicke has said in a recent interview that his song is “a feminist movement in itself.” I’m extremely curious to hear what branch of feminism he most closely identifies “Blurred Lines” with.

Most troublingly, is that Thicke knows it’s derogatory[1] and thinks the video is a joke about old men cat calling young women. He says that he deliberately chose to be as offensive as possible in both versions. It works. Women are treated as animals that need to be controlled, or they are being disrespected by having smoke blown their faces and being shot up with giant needles without their consent.

By obviously engaging in such behavior, and without showing any repercussions from such, I don’t think he’s successfully making a joke about sexist behavior here. If anything, he’s being rewarded for his bad behavior with support from his peers, Pharrell and T.I. If someone ever needs a visual representation of rape culture, this video is great place to start.

It’s not that I don’t like pop music (full disclosure: I listen to an embarrassing amount of Lady GaGa and Katy Perry), but I do take issue with music and imagery that treats women as objects, or worse yet, for whom consent doesn’t matter because they’re animals. The “I know you want it” line repeated constantly makes that pretty apparent. It seems to me that the ever-present “asking for it” trope isn’t too far off. Thicke’s argument that it’s a part of the feminist movement is really just the gross icing on the rotten cake.

Yet, the thing is so damn catchy. To be honest, I caught myself singing it as I wrote this piece. If there hadn’t been such controversy surrounding the song, I might not have really listened to the lyrics, and would have bounced around to it when I heard it at parties. Now I know better (you do too, by the way). Even if the beat makes me want to nod my head, which it really, really does, I’m not going to engage. When I hear it next, I’m going to turn off the radio, ask to hear something else, or share why I’m not getting my groove on. I won’t condone such an obvious ode to rape culture, and, if you agree, you shouldn’t either.

Thicke says that he’s seen the articles comparing his song to rape culture and that they’re “ridiculous.”[2] Is he joking like he says he is? “Sometimes a bad joke goes a long way,” indeed.

What do you think?  Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

 

 


[1] Robin Thicke on That Banned Video, Collaborating with 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, and His New Film, GQ, May 7, 2013 (Warning: Link contains NSFW autoplay video)

[2] BBC2 Interview, July 8, 2013.

 

Written by Meredith Donin,  Social Media Manager, We End Violence


 

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