A mix of students and non-students discounted social norms and engaged in dialogue about gender roles Wednesday during the first of a five-speaker series about stopping sexual exploitation.
Lysa Salsbury, director of the University of Idaho Women’s Center, spoke to a room of about 30 people on gender stereotypes and their harmful effects on both men and women, following a snack dinner Wednesday evening at the Campus Christian Center.
Salsbury’s speech was the first of the Stopping Sexploitation Speaker Series, organized by Rev. Dawn Beamish, new director of the Campus Christian Center.
Salsbury said she wanted her presentation to be interactive, so she encouraged the audience to contribute to the discussion about dismantling gender roles and expectations.
“This conversation has really risen to the forefront,” Salsbury said. “People want to talk about this.”
During the presentation, audience members wrote down words that society uses to describe men and women and crumpled them up, throwing them into the air.
Salsbury said it’s important to understand how the socialization of men and women can be exclusionary to people who don’t represent exactly what society wants. It can lead to dehumanization which in turn leads to violence, she said.
“There’s still a lot of anger, fear and misunderstanding about people’s gender identities,” Salsbury said. “When people don’t fit into those neat little boxes, we often categorize them as abnormal or unnatural, and when we use those words, it can lead to violence.”
Salsbury said gender stereotypes underlie the problem of sexual exploitation and the reasons behind it. She said her presentation was meant to set the stage for the rest of Beamish’s speaker series.
Beamish said she wanted to explore topics that built on each other. Her hope for the series was to recognize the problems with sexual exploitation and offer solutions.
“It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where sexual exploitation is part of the culture,” she said. “We want to know how we can stop it, curve it, make a difference and provide that alternative.”
Beamish said Salsbury’s presentation was helpful in teaching not to point a finger at a certain gender. Everyone needs to work together, she said.
Often people are quick to blame men for problems with objectification and violence, and the conversation about men being victims of aggression can be neglected, Salsbury said. That’s why it’s important to continue the dialogue, she said.
“I really like that (Salsbury) included the audience and made it a discussion,” said Riley Jorgensen, a member of the audience. “I think it’s a really important subject for everyone to talk about comfortably.”
Jorgensen, a Spanish and secondary education major at UI, said her friend encouraged her to attend the event, but she now plans on coming to every presentation.
Emily McLarnan will speak next about recognizing and preventing sexual assault. Other topics of discussion covered during the series will include the production and use of pornography and sex trafficking.
Beamish said she hopes for social change on this issue and wants UI to be an environment without sexual exploitation. She said it’s important for people to realize that even one person can make a difference, especially a student.
“College students have the heart for making a difference and want to produce results,” Beamish said. “I want them to learn and to be equipped to make a difference and to change this sexually exploited world into a world without sexual exploitation.”
Jordan Willson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stopping Sexploitation Speaker Series Dates
Feb. 6 – Emily McLarnan: recognizing and preventing sexual assault
Feb. 13 – Eric Kjorness: preventing the use and production of child pornography
Feb. 20 – Vanessa Corwin: damaging effects of pornography on relationships
Feb. 27 – Rev. Dawn Beamish: sex trafficking