On April 11, 2018, educator and filmmaker Dr. Jackson Katz spoke during an assembly on how gender roles impact sexual harassment. In the first of his two sessions, he also showed the trailers for the movies “Miss Representation” and “The Mask You Live in,” which address the harmful stereotypes that hurt children of both genders.
A football-player-turned-gender-studies-major, Katz was invited to Gunn to give his presentation on teaching men to speak up and stop sexual harassment. His assembly is a follow-up to a February assembly, featuring author and educator Anea Bogue, on understanding and respecting consent. He is internationally known for his activism and his talk encouraged other boys and men to follow in his footsteps. “Men deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, but we can’t equate their experiences with those of women,” Katz said when interviewed after the assembly. “I think my biggest message here is that men have a responsibility to speak out about sexism as well.”
Another big point of Katz’s speech was that it is important for bystanders, or people who witness harassment, to take a step forward and stand up for those being harassed. He believes that being a good bystander extends past helping victims when they’re being attacked, but also includes stopping your friends if they objectify women or make a rape joke.
Students had conflicting views on Katz’s key points that revolved around telling men to not allow for this behavior, and to stand up themselves rather than spending as much time on telling women to stand up against harassment. “The assembly touched on some very big points on our society that should be fixed,” freshman Sachait Arun said. “It was with a shifting focus on men instead of women, which I felt was taking away from the fact that women should be in the conversation, too.” Conversely, freshman Henry Poole believed that working with perpetrators is the right way to solve the problem. “If we work with the people that do these things, we can prevent them from doing bad things,” Poole said.
Freshman Suhani Sethi took slight issue with an idea he brought up about people essentially consenting to harassment if they don’t stand up against it. Katz specifically said that if you don’t stand up for the person being harassed, you’re automatically a perpetrator of the harassment and agreeing that it is okay to do. “He’s basically saying that anything but no [standing up to the harassing] means yes, but when we’re talking about sexual harassment, anything but yes means no,” Sethi said. “So, you’re kind of contradicting yourself and most people don’t see it that way, but I do.”
Junior Helen Zhao believed that bystanders actually have more of an obligation to stand up than victims, as they have more power in that specific situation to stop the harassment. “What the harassers want to do is to humiliate the victim in front of a group of people, but if the bystander stands up for the victim instead of watching this so-called show, they show that they will not stand for violence,” Zhao said. She added that victims also may not be in a position to speak up, so others need to speak for them.
At the end of the day, Katz wanted people to know that it is time for everyone to step up and stop sexual harassment from happening. “It used to be with perpetrators and victims that everyone would say ‘it’s not my issue,’” he said. “But now it’s time for us to see that both bystanders, men, women and victims all need to stand up because it’s everyone’s issue.”