Following a month of moving Sexual Assault Awareness events at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, participants in Colby’s chapter of the Men’s Story Project asked themselves: “Will our stories contribute to or detract from violence prevention efforts here on campus?”
The question stemmed largely from the fact that one week earlier, in the same space scheduled for the MSP event, students (mostly non-binary and female-identifying) shared personal stories of sexual violence (committed mostly by men) as part of a campus Take Back the Night event.
After group discussion, including conversation with Colby’s Director of Prevention and Advocacy, the MSP participants at Colby decided to take to the stage, and included an important prelude in their event introduction: “We want to make it clear that the stories that we share tonight are not meant to overshadow, invalidate, or in any way detract from the stories shared by courageous survivors at Colby last Friday. We wish to serve as allies and partners in the work to end gender-based violence, standing by their side, in story and in space. We wish to share our stories tonight not to put ourselves in the spotlight, but rather to shine the spotlight on—and critically consider— social ideas about masculinity, in order to promote healthy and equitable masculinities. As such, we will be sharing our stories tonight off to the side of this stage, as symbolic acknowledgement of the narratives that so moved us last Friday.”
This acknowledgement — and the stories shared thereafter — represented the culmination of ten weekly sessions attended by a diverse set of undergrad students. Together they co-created a safer space for learning, vulnerability, and accountability around how social ideas about masculinity affect society and their own lives and behaviors. Several of the participants had participated in the Men’s Story Project at Colby College in 2020 and 2021. We look forward to several of them returning to the project in 2023, along with new folks who join us!
Sam Cohaly, Alex Facq, Akezhan Meirkhanov, Tiger Nguyen, Alex Schwartz, Nithun Selva
Colby College Gender & Sexual Diversity Program