Do we have a campus rape crisis?

—Sameena Mulla

Let me begin with my conclusion: there is not only a campus rape crisis in the U.S; rather, there is a rape crisis in the U.S. and college campuses are symptomatic of this broader issue. In the days since the campus rape crisis has been in the news, the discourse around sexual assault has begged the question as to whether sexual assault victims on college campuses are worse off than those who are raped beyond the institutional confines of a college campus. No one is explicitly arguing this, but the innuendo, the outrage, and the concern has attached itself to the university in a way that it eludes rape at large.

The first question worth asking is whether there is more rape on campuses than off campuses. Incidence data on the prevalence of sexual assault has, to date, demonstrated the same rate of sexual assault on campuses and in the general population. The latest survey from the Centers for Disease Control resulted in a victimization rate of 1 in 5 for women and girls, and 1 in 71 for men and boys. In this sense, the prevalence rates of sexual assault on campus are continuous with broader cultural trends.

Second, do on-campus rape victims fair worse in adjudication processes than those who navigate the criminal justice system? The preponderance of evidence standard that must be met during campus student conduct hearings is technically a lower standard than the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that defines criminal adjudication, as it should be. This means that in theory, universities are in a position to hold anyone adjudicated guilty responsible for their actions; in practice, however, the consensus seems to be that there are few consequences for students who engage in sexual misconduct.

Victims participating in criminal adjudication are also challenged by the criminal justice system, and are unlikely to see the verdict that they desire. The criminal justice system privileges student defendants in that their class position is likely to align with “prosocial” elements weighed by the court during adjudication. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that the court of law is no more likely to hold a college student responsible for a sexual assault than a college student conduct proceeding.

Universities have an institutional mission that invites more public scrutiny because of their different regulatory environment. The Title IX legislation holds campuses responsible for addressing sexual assault as a matter of women’s civil rights and creates a structure of accountability that does not exist in other institutional settings. Thus, we do not hear the same outrage when rape occurs in prisons, by military contractors, or even in the military itself. In some ways, universities also represent our cultural elite, and it is possible that our collective outrage over the campus rape crisis should be read as a barometer for our sense of impunity when non-students are victimized and violated.

What solutions lie ahead? First, behavior interventions on sexual health and consent at the college level are too late, too little. Universities that focus on these measures are likely to see success with increased reports, but will not necessarily see a reduced number of assaults. Cultivation of respect for bodily autonomy, integrity, and a culture of consent and affirmative sexual practices must begin long before students reach college. If Title IX implies that we are responsible for reducing rates of sexual assault on campus, then policy directives that urge early childhood education are key and will have a broader impact on sexual assault across all sectors.

Finally, university officials should commit to applying the preponderance of evidence standard properly. This means, as in the criminal justice system, student conduct boards should rely on testimony as credible evidence, and understand that forensic evidence is rare and often inconclusive. The absence of physical evidence is not the absence of rape. In many jurisdictions, experienced prosecutors and public defenders have learned this lesson well, and it is not uncommon for criminal prosecutions to rely solely on testimony. Student conduct boards need not apply a standard that is even higher than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Proper training and ethical orientations are a necessary intervention.

The campus rape crisis is a symptom of the U.S.’s rape crisis. If we are serious about finding solutions to the problem of campus rape, we will implement changes that address the problem of sexual violence writ large.

Sameena Mulla is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Marquette University (WI). She is the author of The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses, and Sexual Assault Intervention (NYU Press, 2014).

“Boys will be boys”?

—Judy Y. Chu

As a parent of a 10-year-old, I have spent a fair amount of time over the past few years observing kids playing—at schools, playgrounds, and various social functions. As a researcher who studies boys’ development, I am especially inclined to tune in to what parents and teachers say about boys. And I have found that when adults talk about boys, regardless of the context or the particular group of kids, I can expect to hear someone at some point remark that, “Boys will be boys.”

Usually, this comment comes as a response to boys’ rowdy and rambunctious play, as when they are running around, being loud, acting hyper, getting into mischief, or otherwise brimming with energy. (Incidentally, no one says anything when girls display similar behaviors). Even when said in a tone of acceptance, it seems to have a negative connotation. In my experience, this comment is not meant as a celebration, as in “Hooray! Boys will be boys!” Rather, as they say this, adults will often shrug their shoulders, smile mildly, and sigh as though in resignation: “Oh well. What can you do? Boys will be boys.”

But what does it mean for boys to be boys? And why might this be something less than desirable? When we think about it, the first question almost doesn’t make sense. Of course, boys will be boys. What else would they be? But the question gains new meaning when we consider anthropologist Margaret Mead’s observation that in many cultures and societies, boys must prove their masculinity. Somehow it is not enough to be biologically male. Boys must prove that they are “boys” or “real” boys (and, later on, “real” men). For the most part, they do this by aligning with group and cultural norms of masculinity.

Social psychologists remind us that we tend to find what we look for and favor those things that match our expectations. So, when boys behave in ways that confirm gender stereotypes and are consistent with conventions of masculinity—that emphasize, for instance, physical activity and toughness, emotional stoicism, and projected self-sufficiency— we take notice and are prompted to conclude that, “Boys will be boys.”

Conversely, we tend to overlook or discount those things that challenge our assumptions. Although we may like to think of ourselves as being receptive to new information, most of us are more comfortable with evidence that affirms what we already know and believe. It requires extra effort to truly consider and incorporate unfamiliar ideas or ways of thinking.

This might explain why I rarely, if ever, hear people remark that “Boys will be boys” when boys are calm, quiet, gentle, kind, thoughtful, generous, and considerate. Boys certainly exhibit these qualities as well. Indeed, they are a part of boys’ (as well as girls’) humanity. Nevertheless, to the extent that these qualities are considered “feminine,” and we continue to define masculinity as the opposite of femininity, we are less likely to recognize these qualities in boys, much less count them among the attributes that confirm boys’ masculine identities.

As couples therapist Terrence Real points out, when we take all of the qualities that make us human, divide them into “masculine” and “feminine,” and decide that only males should be “masculine” and only females should be “feminine,” everyone loses. While there is no doubt that boys will be boys, it is necessary to update and expand our understanding of what it means to be a boy, including what boys are capable of knowing and doing in their relationships. We know from our experiences of the boys in our lives, as well as from research studies, that gender stereotypes may misrepresent, or represent only a fraction of, boys’ capabilities and strengths.

Although we know that there is more to boys than being “boys,” it is easy to allow stereotypes to influence how we view and respond to them. When we expect boys to be “masculine” and we focus on ways in which boys’ behaviors conform to masculine norms, it can become difficult for us to acknowledge that they are capable of anything else. At times, the notion that “Boys will be boys” can even become an excuse for doing nothing about sub-standard behavior (e.g., when boys behave dispectfully towards others or towards themselves).

To support boys’ healthy development and relationships, we need to hold them accountable to standards that exceed merely being “boys.” By moving beyond gender stereotypes, we can transform this cliché to convey greater expectations. Whether or not boys align with norms of masculine behavior, ultimately it is the qualities that make them human—such as their sense of integrity, decency, compassion, and connection to others—that will be crucial to their happiness and success.

Judy Y. Chu is Affiliated Faculty in the Program in Human Biology at Stanford University and the author of When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity (NYU Press, 2014).

[Note: This article originally appeared on Psychology Today.]

Doing justice to Mandela’s legacy

—Robert N. Kraft

A remarkable set of events occurred in South Africa in the final half decade of the 20th century – events that are now mostly forgotten. In the outpouring of tributes to Nelson Mandela’s life and leadership, many people remembered his transcendent wisdom in negotiating the stormy transition from apartheid to democracy and his triumphant victory in May of 1994 as South Africa’s first democratically elected president, but few recalled the truth commission that followed.

In 1995, guided by President Mandela and mandated by an act of Parliament, South Africa created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a massive, temporary institution whose mission was to reveal the specifics of widespread human rights abuses and to begin repairing the damage from nearly half a century of brutal repression known as apartheid.

To appreciate the magnitude and merit of Mandela’s accomplishments as a national conciliator requires traveling back in time – to South Africa in the middle of 1990, shortly after Mandela’s release from prison in the forty-second year of official apartheid.  When Mandela emerged as the chief negotiator for the African National Congress, he faced not only an entrenched apartheid government but also the beginning of unprecedented volatility in the provinces of South Africa.

From July 1990 to April 1994, nearly 14,000 people died in politically motivated violence, a rate of more than 300 deaths a month. Transposed to the present population of the United States, that would be 110,000 deaths due to political violence in a four-year period – or 2,300 deaths every month. Neither the difficulty nor the urgency of Mandela’s task should  be underestimated.

After his election to the presidency, Mandela then worked with a diverse group of leaders to manage the aftermath of apartheid. The result was the TRC. To accomplish its eponymous goals of gathering truth and promoting reconciliation, the TRC obtained testimony from the victims and the perpetrators of apartheid. Victims gave testimony to the Human Rights Violations Committee to document the crimes committed against them and their families and to apply for reparations. Perpetrators gave testimony to the Amnesty Committee to inform the nation of the specific crimes they carried out during apartheid and to obtain amnesty for these crimes – acts that were illegal even under apartheid law. If the crimes were judged to be politically motivated, and if the perpetrators made full disclosure, they were given amnesty.  Freedom was granted in exchange for truth.

Listening to the victims’ stories made sense for healing the wounds of apartheid, but the idea of granting amnesty to violent perpetrators faced understandably passionate opposition. Heinous crimes had been committed. Tens of thousands of people had suffered lasting harm from these specific crimes, and millions had endured profound hardship due to the laws of apartheid. One reasonable approach, then, would be to punish those who had committed the wrongdoing. (After all, Franz Kafka wrote The Penal Colony – not The Reconciliation Colony, and Dostoyevsky did not write Crime and Amnesty.)

Set in motion by the forceful persuasion of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, the amnesty hearings proceeded – from 1996 to 2001. Acting as an itinerant axis mundi, the Amnesty Committee moved from Durban to Pretoria to Johannesburg to East London to Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town, hearing hundreds of amnesty cases and sending several resonant messages throughout South Africa: truths about widespread human rights violations will be uncovered, secrets of illegality will be disclosed, government crimes will be illuminated, and perpetrators will be held publicly accountable for their crimes.

In part, the TRC has faded from view for most of us because it occurred during an obscure period of time: in the words of noted correspondent Rupert Hart-Davis, “too old to be news and too young to be history – the day before yesterday.” Yet it was the TRC that transformed an emerging set of principles for finding truth and resolving long-term national conflicts into an established tradition, a tradition that continues today in those countries working to adapt its principles to their own traditions.

Two truth commissions completed their work just last year – the Gacaca system in Rwanda and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Kenya. In Canada, a truth commission is currently in operation, endeavoring to investigate and repair the damage inflicted by more than 120 years of the Canadian government’s program of Indian Residential Schools (www.trc.ca).  Each of these commissions drew on the work of the South African TRC.

For those countries traumatized by widespread injustice or sustained violence, the findings of the TRC represent news in the making, but for the rest of the world, the TRC remains the day before yesterday. Over the next generation, however, as policy makers and community leaders continue to study the TRC, awareness of its principles will grow and propagate. Within a generation, the TRC is likely to become both news and history. Even with its flaws and limitations, the TRC stands as an enduring example of the potential for restorative justice on a national scale and a prototype for other national truth commissions.

More generally, after the foundational concepts of restorative justice enter the cultural lexicon, it is only a matter of time before they enter political discussions and national public policy. For many nations, Nelson Mandela’s South African legacy will then become bold possibility – a realistic solution for investigating and reconciling large-scale violations of human rights and constitutional guarantees. Indeed, we may someday see such a truth commission in the United States.

Robert N. Kraft is author of Violent Accounts: Understanding the Psychology of Perpetrators through South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (forthcoming from NYU Press, 2014).

Bullying, teasing and the gender trap

—Emily W. Kane

With National Bullying Prevention Month underway and a focus this year on the sponsoring organization’s tagline, “The End of Bullying Begins with Me,” I find myself thinking back to what I heard from parents of three- to five-year-old children during interviews for my book, The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

I talked to parents from all social backgrounds and all family types, and found that quite a few wanted to give their kids the freedom to pick activities, toys, colors, and approaches that were not strictly determined by gender. But even those parents who wanted to encourage a moderately more fluid approach to gender, expressed fear and anxiety about how their children might be treated if they didn’t conform to typical gender expectations.

I heard reports of an everyday world teeming with social pressures, judgments from friends, relatives, their children’s peers and even strangers if their kids didn’t stick to a pretty narrowly gendered path. These parents were very much conscious of the social costs their children might face and, consistent with decades of scholarship in gender studies, these costs and anxieties loomed larger in relation to boys. With frequent mention of phrases liked “picked on” and “ostracized,” parents expressed the fear that their sons would be bullied by other children if they wandered even a little bit off that socially-dictated path.

The trap of parents pushing children toward traditionally-gendered outcomes is sometimes baited by beliefs about biology, personal preferences, and unconscious actions. Even when it isn’t, though, the everyday judgments of friends, relatives, and teachers can bait that same trap. Gender nonconformity is much too often met with bullying behavior, and if adults are not vigilant about responding to that bullying and responding to the more minor policing of gender expectations (which parents in my study labeled as teasing), many parents will enforce gendered constraints they don’t even agree with out of fear for what their children might face.

Individual parents can try to create a less constraining world for their children, but only if the rest of us suspend our judgments, applaud their efforts, and seek to interrupt the everyday teasing and more significant bullying that are too often ignored in children’s daily worlds. Suspending our judgments, offering that applause, and executing those interruptions are all ways that the end of bullying can indeed begin with each of us.

Emily W. Kane is a Professor of Sociology at Bates College and the author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls (NYU Press, 2012).

A Father’s Day wish list

—Gayle Kaufman

Today’s fathers are more involved than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, fathers spend over 10 hours more per week doing housework and child care than they did in 1965. Yet their paid work hours have only decreased by 5 hours per week. It may be no surprise then that fathers are now experiencing a good deal of work-family conflict. In honor of Father’s Day, I have a few suggestions for helping out all those dads who want to be more involved with their kids:

  1. Paid paternity leave.  The United States is the only industrialized country without paid parental leave. I vote for the Icelandic model. Currently they offer 9 months of paid leave, with 3 months reserved for mothers, 3 months reserved for fathers, and the rest shared. Just in December, their Parliament approved an extension of leave to 12 months, with 5 months for each parent and 2 months shared (this will go into effect in 2016).

  2. Shorter work hours.  The United States is the only industrialized country without a maximum work week. The European Union has a working time directive that limits all work, including overtime, to 48 hours per week. Many countries set this lower. Belgium has a legal working week of 38 hours. The actual average working time in the European Union is 37.5 hours per week.

  3. Paid vacation.  The United States is the only industrialized country that does not require paid annual leave. The European Union insists on a minimum of 20 days. The French get 30 days. If we count paid holidays, the difference is even greater. Austrians get 22 vacation days and 13 holidays!

  4. Daddy Day.  Why save it for once a year, when dads could have a day to spend with children every week? In the Netherlands, one-third of men work either reduced hours (i.e., part-time) or full-time over four days, leaving an extra day which has become known as the “papa dag.”

We want dads to be more involved. Let’s try to help them out.

Gayle Kaufman is Professor of Sociology at Davidson College, a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholar, and the author of Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century (NYU Press, June 2013).

Dads are parents, too

—Gayle Kaufman

In a recent Atlantic piece, Alexis Coe writes about different expectations of and reactions to mothers and fathers. On the one hand, people expect “very involved” fathers to do less than “very involved” mothers. On the other hand, when fathers do the same thing as mothers they are praised, while mothers remain invisible. Coe argues for people to react to involved fathers in a way that “is not judgmental or evaluative, but still positive.”

“Look! There in the playground, with the stroller and diaper bag! It’s Superdad!”

While I agree that fathers should be as involved as mothers and engage in all aspects of parenting, I don’t have a problem with praising the actions of involved dads. Being evaluative means considering the value or worth of something. In this case, fathers who take care of their children are engaging in a very worthwhile activity. To be fair, mothers do much of the valuable work of caregiving. In an ideal world, we might not speak of “mothers” and “fathers” but of “parents”—and we might praise all parents for the important work they do. But we are not quite there yet.

Coe suggests that when people react in the wrong way (perhaps in the form of misguided praise), gender differences, rather than equity, will be encouraged. She gives the example of parents avoiding calling their daughters “pretty” or “dolls.” But the other side of this is that parents instead call their daughters “smart.” While we might not want to flip it completely by calling sons “dolls,” we should encourage more nurturing behaviors in boys and men.

Consider how much we praise women who succeed in business and politics. Think Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Sheryl Sandberg. Men in similar positions don’t receive as much attention. My point is that we want more women in business and politics and we react (mostly) favorably when they get there. I think it’s okay if we do the same for men.

I don’t want to overblow this issue. I’m sure Coe and I would agree on a lot. I just think there’s room for superdads.

Gayle Kaufman is Professor of Sociology at Davidson College and a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholar. She is author of Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century (NYU Press, June 2013).

Announcing our Spring 2013 Catalog…

NYU Press Spring 2013 Catalog is now online, featuring an exciting range of new books in history, media studies, law, and more!

Highlights include:
TWO PRESIDENTS ARE BETTER THAN ONE: Making the case for a two-party, two-person presidency, this “pipe dream of a book” presents a “novel and provocative thesis worth hearing out” (Kirkus Reviews).

A DEATH AT CROOKED CREEK: Marion Wesson, author of best-selling and prize-winning legal novels including Render up the Body, combines drama and intrigue  with cutting-edge forensic investigation techniques and legal theory in this superbly imagined historical novel.

CAPITAL OF THE WORLD: Charlene Mires tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in an extraordinary race to host the U.N. headquarters at a pivotal moment in history.

(You can also click here to access this catalog via our website, or find our catalogs available on Edelweiss.)

For our First Black President, no more racial niceties

—Enid Logan

Social scientists have spent a great deal of time in recent years writing about covert racism, also known as colorblind racism, have-a-nice-day racism, or racism lite. Many of us have believed ourselves to have entered into a new racial era wherein overt racist sentiments are rarely uttered aloud, and in which the mechanisms that sustain white supremacy, though insidious and impactful, are now much more subtle and hard to pin down. But then Barack Obama ran for, and won, the presidency and Overt Racism once again reared its ugly head.

At this juncture, I believe, many scholars and non-scholars alike are trying to figure out just what is going on. How is it that in the era of racial niceties, where racial meaning is most often conveyed through “sanitized” and deracialized discourse, old style racism, overt racism, or “Archie Bunker” racism has suddenly moved from the fringes to the conservative mainstream? How is it that a moment that was supposed to represent the nation’s triumph over racism has seemingly lead to the opposite?

In the last several years, we have seen the vilest of racial imagery applied to the President, his young daughters, and his wife. Particularly visible early on was the signage at the rallies of the so-called “Tea Party” in 2009-2010. President Obama was figured variously as an African witch doctor, as Hitler, or as a white-faced Joker, with black circles around his eyes and bloody red lips. Comments about the Obamas left on the internet over the past several years have been especially vicious. And, in November 2009, it was revealed that the top ranked Google search image for Michelle Obama was a Photoshopped rendering of her as an ape. As sociologists Adia Harvey Wingfield and Joe Feagin report, in July 2009, one anonymous reader at the Free Republic—an online message board for independent, grass-roots conservatism—described 11-year old Malia Obama “as ‘a common street whore’…and went on to “wonder when she will get her first abortion.” And in March of this year, a federal judge circulated an email in which it was implied that Barack Obama had been conceived at a party during which his mother had had sex with both a black man and a dog.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Obama has faced lashes of anger and incivility directed at him from white elected officials. Consider Congressman Joe Wilson who yelled “You lie!” at Obama from the Senate floor, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who greeted the President with a finger in the face as he arrived at a Phoenix airport. Once considered primarily to be an extremist, fringe political movement, the Tea Party itself has achieved sweeping electoral success, as a number of its candidates were elected to the U.S. Congress during the 2010 midterm elections, largely on the grounds of their fierce opposition to the President.

During his brief, fake bid for the Republican presidential nomination, business tycoon Donald Trump based his entire political platform on the clearly race-baiting ideology of “birtherism.” This is the view that Obama’s presidency is illegitimate, because his birth certificate is a fake, and that he is not a U.S. citizen. While this belief would seem to be a highly illogical and irrational one, an August 2010 poll found that 41% of Republicans and 1 in 4 Americans overall believed that the president was probably lying about his citizenship.

But perhaps the most ominous development we have seen in recent years lies in the area of voter policy. Legislatures in 41 states have introduced restrictive voter identification laws in the last year, designed expressly to limit the access to vote. Voting rights would particularly be curtailed among the young, the elderly, and non-whites—all liberal-leaning constituencies that are likely to vote for President Obama in 2012. Critics have likened these measures to the poll taxes and literacy tests that restricted African American access to the vote for seven and a half decades after the Reconstruction.

So what has happened? Was Overt Racism always already in the background, ready to reemerge at any moment, and had we just been fooling ourselves to think that it would stay there? Is this a calculated political strategy on the part of the Right, designed to inflame racial fears and drive whites to the polls on election day? Or does it represent the uncoordinated, inchoate rage of a segment of the white population that perceives itself to be imperiled by the impending “non-white” demographic takeover of the U.S.?

I believe it to be a mixture of the two. The reaction demonstrates that for all the claims that Obama is a milquetoast moderate who has brought about very little change and done almost nothing to shake up the status quo, not everyone is in agreement. The reappearance of Overt Racism in the Age of Obama tells us that white racial anxiety and anti-black hostility in the U.S., as well as an abiding investment in the U.S. as a white nation, run much, much deeper than many of us had imagined.

Obama’s victory seemed at first to portend great things for the U.S. As I have written in my recent book, from 2006 to 2008, a chorus of pundits proclaimed that Barack Obama offered redemption, absolution, and renewal to the nation, all of which was refracted through the magic of his blackness. Above all, we were told, the election of a black man as president would prove that whites had largely gotten over the issue of race, and Real Racism was now firmly in our past.  But this has been proven to be manifestly false. And let’s be clear. It was John McCain who won the majority of the white vote (56%) in 2008, and without the high turnout of the black, Latino and Asian electorate, he would have won the presidency.

Obama’s election was without a doubt a triumphal and defining moment in our nation’s history. But it was a moment that awoke the dormant T-Rex of Race, igniting a special kind of fear and loathing in the nation, aimed directly at our First Black President. If Obama wins the election in 2012, it will be despite the power of racial fears to sway some whites towards the GOP ticket. It will also be because the expanding multiracial electorate turns out for Obama in large numbers, thus helping continue our march towards an America that is red, white, blue, and brown.

Enid Logan is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Her book, “At this Defining Moment”: Barack Obama’s Presidential Candidacy and the New Politics of Race was published by NYU Press in 2011.