We applaud Ellen Smith for her article in last week’s Index that offered a thoughtful critique of this year’s “Man Dance” performance. Though our individual reactions to Ellen’s piece have varied widely, we appreciate that Ellen raised difficult questions that have prompted all of us to examine our relationships to patriarchy, gender relations in our community, and the appropriate role of art in challenging or supporting existing structures. The Index is an appropriate forum for voicing such a critique.
We are outraged that the responses to Ellen’s thoughtful article – which have found expression across the internet and in campus conversations – have been alarming and, at times, appalling. This commentary has taken on a hostile and aggressive tone, and has even descended into gendered threats against Ellen and other women and men who are raising these important questions for the campus.
We assert that such threats and hostility have no place in our engagement with one another, particularly when those threats serve to silence, intimidate, and reinforce the same gendered power dynamics that many of us are working to disrupt.
We assert – in contrast to some commentators who have labeled Ellen’s arguments the domain of “extreme feminists” – that there is nothing “extreme” about arguing for the safety and health of women and men in our community. There is nothing “extreme” about offering thoughtful critiques of the state of gender relations on our campus. And there is nothing “extreme” about confronting oppressive structures and focusing our efforts on dismantling them.
As men on this campus with a shared interest in supporting a vibrant and engaged discussion on gender, power, sexuality, and safety, we assert our intention to be allies, conversation partners, and advocates for anti-oppressive deliberations. We stand in solidarity with Ellen and other women and men raising these issues; we look forward to continuing this critical dialogue well into the future; and we commit to confronting silence and intimidation wherever it is found.