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Davies: Fraternity men neglect responsibility with absence at Take Back the Night march

Adam Davies, Op-Ed Contributor

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I am tired of hearing feeble excuses from Northwestern fraternity men: the “not all men” line and the “I’m in a good frat” trope. I recognize the emptiness of those words. At the end of the day, Northwestern administrators and fraternity men have not demonstrated they care about or prioritize sexual assault. Thursday was the Take Back the Night march, and although a fair number of Northwestern students attended, there were almost no fraternity members there; yet in recent memory, they always showed up.

On Feb. 8, Interfraternity Council released a statement on Facebook saying its “number one concern is finding ways to support survivors of sexual violence,” and that it was “willing to face (its) own weaknesses and push (itself) to become a progressive and safe community.” The words of many fraternity men and campus administrators echoed those sentiments, claiming a recognition of weakness and a willingness to make a change. And yet, just a few months later, Northwestern fraternity men couldn’t even be bothered to show up for an hour to show support for sexual assault survivors on campus.

When asked to speak at the march, I prepared myself for the chance to share my message with fraternity men whom I often do not get the chance to speak with. As both a man and a survivor, I find it hard to grapple with my experiences and come to terms with my identity. At the same time, however, it has taught me a lot about the privilege that I have. Being a man puts someone in a position of privilege, but instead of granting free reign over others, this privilege comes with a responsibility. Being a man in a fraternity at a university like Northwestern does not justify the existence of a culture that is complacent in actions of sexual assault.

Fraternity men on this campus have a responsibility to speak up, show up and shut up. It’s their job to speak up when someone is committing an act of sexual assault. They need to go out of their way to protect people who could potentially be taken advantage of, even if that means going up against friends or brothers. It’s fraternity men’s job to show up in support of sexual assault survivors, attend marches and create tangible change within their fraternities. Yet at the same time, it’s necessary to be mindful of privilege and provide survivors the opportunity and space to speak for themselves and tell their own stories.

It is no longer enough to just say “not all men” or “I’m in a good frat.” In fact, as a survivor, I find those words offensive — they indicate an unwillingness to take the blame and ownership for the toxic culture fraternity men perpetuate. IFC, Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council men actually need to strive to change the toxically masculine culture at NU. To show up as an ally and prove willingness to make change, fraternity men must lobby for increased education about sexual health and assault prevention within fraternities in order to create a means to end the rape culture that fraternity systems perpetuate.

At the end of the day, the fact that fraternity men and University administrators largely did not attend the march today is disappointing, but not shocking. I consider it a sign of the larger campus climate — where students and administration are willing to make the claim that they want to fight sexual violence, yet fail to back up their claims with tangible actions to make a change.

Adam Davies is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at adam2020@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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