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Women's Center to launch "My Strength" campaign

By Keener A. Tippin II


What kind of man do you want to be when you reach the age of 30?

One that uses his strength to hurt women? One that makes himself feel better by making other people feel small? Or a powerful, interesting, desirable man in control of himself who protects his fellow human beings and respects men and women? One who teaches those men younger than he or those less powerful than himself about the strength of nonviolence?

A campus-wide program that targets male students at Kansas State University will explore those options through a series of posters titled "The Strength Campaign." Based on the central theme, "My Strength Is Not for Hurting," the posters depict couples in various embraces with phrases such as "So when she said 'no,' I said 'OK'" or "When I wasn't sure how she felt, I asked," and "When she wanted me to stop, I stopped." Another poster features the D.C. United professional soccer team, with the statement, "So when other guys dissed women, we said 'that's not right.'" Each message centers on the theme of strength used in a positive way.

"The idea is that a strong man, a powerful man and a man in control of himself doesn't have to use his strength in ways that hurt," said Mary Todd, sexual assault advocate and assistant director of K-State's Women's Center.

The posters are a creation of the Washington, D.C.-based Men Can Stop Rape, formerly known as the Men's Rape Prevention Project. The organization is an outgrowth of D.C. Men Against Rape, a volunteer pro-feminist collective founded in 1987 by a handful of men seeking to raise their own and the community's consciousness about men's violence against women. The group empowers male youth and the institutions that serve them to work as allies with women in preventing rape and other forms of men's violence through awareness-to-action education and community organizing.

The campaign's goal is to educate young men about their role as allies with women in preventing dating violence; promoting positive, nonviolent models of male strength; empowering youth to take action to end dating violence; encouraging healthy relationships; and creating safer school communities.

"I think that most K-State men are smart enough to make the shift," Todd said. "I think that there's a time when somebody who might have been influenced by the media or by his peers to a certain way of thinking begins to grow up and begins to mature; become more logical and more moral in his thinking. They can finally figure out that you don't get your strength from hurting other people; you don't get your strength from violating other people or taking from people what you want or what you think you want. That partnership is more important than selfishness or conforming to an immature peer group."

According to Todd, the campaign is just one of several efforts by the center to encourage the cultural shift toward nonviolence on campus. Eliminating date rape begins with listening to both men and women as they give voice to their ideas and needs.

"Eventually, we hope that a critical mass of men will change the male culture which is still permeated with the ideas that 'manly men' take sex, that women are to be controlled and that ego satisfaction is more important than authentic, dynamic partnership," Todd said.


August 2003