The Women’s Resource Center was pleased this week to host the One in Four: Men’s Program at the WRC’s regular Food for Thought program. Ose Okojie and Okey Okonkwo presented the program to an interested audience of students, faculty, and staff. The program is new to the University of Houston campus and is housed within the Cougar Peer Educators program within the UH Wellness center.
Ose and Okey spoke of the training they attended in which they learned how to address sexual assault issues on campus from a male perspective. Part of their training includes using an all male peer education support system to teach other men how to helpfully respond when a female friend becomes a rape survivor. For instance, Okey noted that a male friend’s first response is often anger and a wish to beat up the perpetrator, which is not a very helpful response to the rape survivor. Their plan is to reach out to other men on campus including members of fraternities and athletic teams. They hope to teach men to question prevailing attitudes of masculinity and how those attitudes often demean women. For example, Ose noted that when men want to insult other men, they often use negative words that refer to women.
The One in Four program hopes to alert men to how these negative attitudes toward women can lead to a sense of entitlement and, in some instances, to sexual assault. For instance, the presenters noted negative language that is used by some men when discussing interest in a sexual relationship with women such as “knock it down,” “hit that,” and “get that,” which tends to objectify women, turning them into sexual objects to conquer rather than human beings with needs and feelings of their own. Ose and Okey referred participants to the website www.nomorerape.org for more information.
The presentation led to a lively discussion among attendees about masculinity. A re-occurring theme that arose was how homophobia is often used to constrain and regulate the masculine behavior of men. The WRC interim director, Beverly McPhail, noted that work such as the One in Four program is really the start of a revolution, changing how we think about men and masculinity. She praised the courage of Ose and Okey in presenting this information and raising awareness among men on campus.
This presentation was part of the Women’s Resource Center’s regular Tuesday programming, termed Food for Thought. Every Tuesday at 11:30 am a speaker presents a topic and a light snack is served. All are welcome to attend.