I recently came across an excerpt from an essay by a law professor, Catharine A. MacKinnon, entitled “Are Women Human?” in which she says, “If women were human, would our violation be enjoyed by our violators? And, if we were human, when these things happened, would virtually nothing be done about it?”
In thinking about these questions, I came to the startling conclusion that the answers to both are yes. Both internationally and locally, sexual violence is ignored until the last possible moment. Harvey Weinstein, arguably one of the most powerful people in the movie industry, has been assaulting and harassing women for almost 30 years, but has only recently been publicly identified as a perpetrator. Weinstein made a statement blaming his behavior on growing up in a “different era,” and official press releases from The Weinstein Company have denied knowledge of his behavior, despite the fact that his lawyer mentioned a number of harassment settlements during his contract renewal with the company in 2015. Instead of having the board review his file, Weinstein had his lawyer write a letter certifying that the company was not liable for his actions because he was not involved in any legal battles at the time of his contract renewal.
Studies have shown that most sexual predators are repeat offenders, and Weinstein is no exception. He had his assistants call various actresses to set up meetings at restaurants or in hotel rooms, stayed at the same establishments repeatedly and used similar manipulative tactics on his victims. He had a clear pattern: invite actresses to a meal in a hotel, promise them success, invite them to his room and then proceed to expose himself or ask for sexual favors. This steady progression from harmless to harmful served to disorient his victims, which often made them feel as though they were to blame for what happened.
Weinstein’s behavior is horrifying, and it is shockingly similar to the pattern I see repeated on Colgate’s campus every weekend. Female or co-ed hosting is essentially non-existent. A small group of male organizations decide who is able to attend their parties, what is served, where they are held and what music is played. They have a seemingly inexhaustible amount of social capital, which many of them abuse.
Off the top of my head, I could list upwards of five people who have been identified as perpetrators but received no punishment. There were a few distribution emails that detailed notable allegations of assault in campus-owned housing, but the response to these notifications felt limited. The administration did not address these allegations after the original notification email, and events at Greek houses were still widely attended the next weekend. I overheard one student complaining about the reduced number of social events that weekend, saying that other people still wanted to have fun.
I sincerely hope that this piece does not negate the actions of the many students on campus who work hard to improve this place. However, it becomes a sisyphean labor if not everyone is actively involved in creating change. Any disregard for the experiences of one’s peers is obviously problematic, but the complacency of many male students towards these events is absolutely unacceptable. When confronted with knowledge that a member of their brotherhood, team, or club is a perpetrator, the response is often, “Well, we aren’t friends.” If you are a part of an organization that counts sexual assailants as members, you are a part of the problem. There is no grey area here. Survivors may not pursue disciplinary action against the person who hurt them, but that does not excuse the complacency that permeates every corner of this campus.
Change happens slowly at Colgate because students have accepted our socially stagnant and reactionary campus climate. Think of it this way: instead of seeing this “friend” or acquaintance, picture Harvey Weinstein’s ugly mug whenever you think of them. In truth, they are not much different. They both make this community, and this world, a more dangerous place. Ask yourself: do you think your classmates are human and deserve to be treated as such? From where I stand, half of the student body would be met with a resounding no.
Contact Laura Mucha at [email protected]