In recent times, allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape have become a topic of increased discussion in the media. This past Wednesday at 6 p.m., a TEDx Salon event was held in downtown Greensboro at Triad Stage, to discuss the ways popular culture breeds sexual misconduct.
The event, which was an independently organized TED event, was sponsored by TEDx Greensboro. TEDx Greensboro is an organization that, every year, has a full day event with different speakers who discuss various topics. In addition to their annual event, three times a year, TEDx hosts a salon. The salons are small events which zero in on one topic. At these events, a TED talk is shown that relates to the topic of discussion, which is followed by a small audience discussion.
Beth Bowles, the chair of the salons, felt that there was a need for this Wednesday’s TEDx Salon. “[With] the rash of sexual misconduct allegations that have been in the news, the #metoo movement, what we wanted to have a discussion about is more[so], what are we doing as a society that is allowing this environment to develop? How are we socializing men into this behavior and can we change that?” said Bowles.
The salon dived into the discussion after showing two TED talks, the first TED talk, “Violence Against Women – It’s A Men’s Issue,” featured Jackson Katz, an educator, author, filmmaker and activist. In Katz’s’ TED talk, he suggests a paradigm shift in perspective, to consider issues of domestic violence, gendered violence and sexual assault as men’s issues as well as women’s.
In the second TED talk shown, entitled: “A Call to Men,” Tony Porter, an author, educator and activist working to improve social justice issues, tells a story about his own experiences with the culture of sexual assault.
In the intimate Wednesday night discussion, a talk surrounding the two TED talk videos was held. The question was raised: “how are we socializing and teaching people about sexual assault?” Among the audience, it was discussed how, when issues of sexual assault are raised, society predominately puts focus to teaching girls and women how to take measures to ensure their safety, rather than teaching men not to assault women.
Another point that was brought up by the audience was the problem behind the rhetoric people use with regard to attempting to get men to think about sexual assault and gendered violence. All too often, people say things to men and boys along the lines of “she could be your sister” or “she could be your mother,” citing those as reasons to respect women, but why do people not simply say, “She is a human being?”
As the audience grappled with those questions, attendants then broke into smaller discussion groups to discuss questions brought up by the moderator. In my section, we had the question: “what are things we can do different culturally to change the culture of sexual misconduct?” Among my group, a response we asserted was to, “Raise children with less imposed gender roles and teach our sons, not just our daughters, about the culture of sexual assault.”
One audience member and Greensboro local, Tamia Davis Wynn, who was a first timer at a TEDx Salon, said she wanted to come out to this event to spread awareness on the culture of sexual misconduct. “Awareness; that’s what I think it’s really all about. When you do come to forums like this, it’s all about awareness, how you can spread the word, and just really getting that conversation out there,” said Davis Wynn.
As the event came to a close, attendants were left with the important sentiment, that although the conversation of sexual misconduct and gendered violence has had a heightened awareness in the media as of late, it has always been happening. At the end of the event, we were left with the analogy of a new car; that when someone gets a new car, they suddenly seem to notice this particular car on the road more often, but like the car, sexual misconduct was always there.
It is simply the power of illumination. The more that people talk about the culture of sexual misconduct, persisting in discussing this pressing issue, the more we can foster a better conversation around the issue and change the culture behind sexual violence.
For more information on TED events in Greensboro, visit tedxgreensboro.com.