“I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!!!”
Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
How goes mine? My “new adventure,” that is, as I called it in my last column?
You may recall that my primary task as the Man Up Campaign’s lead organizer in Greater L.A. is to, well, organize and lead a Man Up chapter! You may also remember that my initial focus will be on college campuses. (I’ve chosen the college scene because college students generally have a lot of idealism, energy, and discretionary time, and also because colleges are one of the main flashpoints in the struggle against gender-based violence in the U.S.) Although I’ve connected with students, faculty, and administrators on several campuses in the area, the two colleges that seem to hold the most promise for the Man Up Campaign’s involvement are the University of Southern California and Whittier College.
They’re two very different schools in terms of size. USC is located in the heart of Los Angeles, is known the world over, and has an enrollment of nearly 40,000 students. Whittier is located near the L.A./Orange County line, is rather unknown even among Southern Californians, and has fewer than 1800 students. When people think of USC, they often think of college football and the party scene. When people think of Whittier – at least those who know about it – they think of a small liberal arts school whose most famous alumnus is former President Richard Nixon, who grew up in the area.
My work for Man Up on these campuses is still being shaped. At this point, I’m trying to make sure that I understand the lay of the land at both USC and Whittier. I believe it’s important for me to not just show up and announce that I’m starting a Man Up Campaign chapter, rallying people to my cause. Instead, it’s vital that I listen to, and seek to work with, the people who’ve already been dealing with issues of violence against women at these schools.
I’ve already spent many hours talking with such folks, sometimes in person and sometimes over the phone. Most are currently at these schools, yet some have already moved on. They are sexual assault survivors, campus activists, professors, department directors, and deans. I need them to give me a sense of what the campus climate is like for women, what efforts have been made to improve those conditions, and who are men and women that I should connect with to explore partnership opportunities. So far, these conversations have me feeling very optimistic. More conversations and campus visits are in the works for me over the next couple of weeks. And if partnerships between these schools and Man Up come to fruition, I’m hoping to begin regular meetings with students by mid-term season!
Now, you may be wondering: Eugene, if your primary goal is to establish a Man Up chapter, why are you looking to establish something at two colleges? (And if you weren’t wondering about that before, you are now, aren’t you?) I’m using the term “chapter” in a loose sense. Perhaps it’s better to think of my mission as setting up a Man Up Campaign presence in the L.A. area, as opposed to a formal chapter. My vision is that in time, through my work and the resources of the Man Up Campaign, college men on several campuses in the area will be striving to make their schools safer and healthier for women.
But one step at a time.
Another role I’ve taken with Man Up is that of social media manager. I actually began doing that in mid-summer during the World Cup. I don’t produce every tweet, pin, share, post, and “like” on our platforms, but the majority of them do come from me. Since I took the social media reins, the Man Up Campaign has gained more than 700 new followers on Twitter, started a set of Pinterest boards, and launched a group discussion page on LinkedIn. We still maintain an organizational Facebook page, but I much prefer the nearly immediate interactivity that Twitter and the LinkedIn discussion group offer, so those are the platforms I’ve been emphasizing.
Social media really does wonders for bringing activists together. It’s enabled Man Up to make substantive connections with men and women around the world who share a passion for ending gender-based violence and advancing gender equality. Some of these are activists in sub-Saharan Africa, dealing with widespread female genital mutilation and the highly common practice of marrying off girls as brides. Others labor diligently in Europe and Australia, wrestling as we do in the U.S. with deeply embedded sexism in cultures that otherwise seem rather liberal. Yet others among our new connections are influential journalists and newsmakers. The latter group includes leaders in the movement to seek justice for campus assault survivors, and even some of the experts on violence against women that have been called upon by the National Football League.
Perhaps my most important social media interactions have been with a small group of women who are sparking a movement against campus rape at Pace University in New York City. On Valentine’s Day of this past year, a woman was sexually assaulted there. Even though the Huffington Post had reported on it this summer, school officials appeared to remain largely silent about concerns over how they handled the case. The women felt deeply troubled by the school’s actions, or seeming lack thereof, and came together to take action.
In the process of starting their work, they stumbled onto @ManUpCampaign, the Man Up Campaign’s Twitter account. They reached out to us, and over the last several weeks I’ve offered them encouragement, advice, and the above graphic. All I did on the graphic, actually, was take their “Pace U. End Rape” circle from its previous background and superimpose it onto a photo of one of the school’s iconic buildings. I then made it into the wallpaper header for @ManUpCampaign. It wasn’t much, but it meant a lot to these women. One of them said she cried when she saw it. Four of them made it their Twitter wallpaper headers, too. And their own persistence has paid off; the university’s dean of students met with them, other students, and even faculty members in a forum a couple of weeks ago. Initial indications are that the forum went well!
Perhaps this will be one of the major contributions I can make as a Man Up Campaign staffer: to provide encouragement to other people who are also working hard against gender-based violence.
So as the Man Up Campaign’s man in So-Cal and on so-cial, I’m finding that this adventure is really picking up steam!
A dad, writer, and activist, Eugene Hung writes Asiance’s Raising Asian American Daughters blog. His work has also appeared on FINDINGbalance.com, 8Asians.com, ThickDumplingSkin.com, and CatalyticWomen.com. He tweets via @eughung.