As a part of Sexual Violence Awareness week, a panel of four students and a graduate of Goshen College discussed their own gender realities and how they have grown, changed and developed during their time on campus.
Led by Natalie Thorne, a junior, and Erin Bergen, a sophomore, Tuesday’s panel produced discussion of a range of themes, including both male and female sexual violence, gender fluidity and the roles that women and men are expected to play in other countries, as well as many others.
Jacob Putnam, a senior, discussed the struggles of growing up with locker-room talk and how accepted and normal objectification of women was during his high school years.
“[That] men can’t get raped is a myth,” said Putnam. “1 in 6 men or boys are sexually assaulted by the age of 18.” It wasn’t until 2012 when the definition of rape changed from saying only females can be raped to including any person, regardless of gender.
Eli, a transfer student and a current sophomore here at GC, who identifies as bigender, discussed the issue of systemic violence and gender. To protect their privacy, this student requested to have their last name withheld. “I attempted to come out [at my previous college] and I was silenced by my institution,” said Eli. “Being oppressed like that is a form of violence in and of itself.”
Jenae Longenecker, a sophomore, who grew up attending Catholic school which had gender separated classes, experienced heightened social pressures and definitions of gender roles. “Goshen has been a safe haven for me,” said Longenecker. The willingness of the Goshen community to discuss gender realities is what Longenecker appreciates the most about the college.
Sarah Azzuni, a first-year, discussed the roles men and women play in Palestine, her home country. “The way that males and females interact is very calculated,” said Azzuni. “A woman might cover herself because her body is her beauty and she shouldn’t show the world all of her beauty.”
Jake Smucker, a recent graduate of Goshen College, discussed gender fluidity. “There are lots of things that influence how I view gender,” said Smucker. “I don’t think the way I dress or present myself determines my gender.” Smucker also brought up the importance of recognizing the rise in deaths of transgender women of color.
After each member of the panel was given a few minutes to speak, the students in attendance were given time to discuss in groups of five or six and expand on any themes or issues brought up by the panel.
The discussion produced both praises of the work currently being done on Goshen’s campus, as well as concerns and ways it still needs to improve. “Living conditions [that are comfortable for people of gender and sexualities] is where Goshen falls short,” said Eli.
“Kudos to the junior class,” said Putnam, “for really taking leadership. They’ve helped out so much with the safety shuttle, PIN training and the organization of this week.”
Ellen Conrad, a junior in attendance, added that “this is not the group of people who needs to hear these types of things. Discussion must continue and grow.”
Sexual Violence Awareness Week will continue with more activities each day until four p.m. on Saturday, with closing activities held in Schrock Plaza.