Let's Talk Turkey About Manhood After Penn State

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Allegations of child sex abuse at Penn State provide a teachable moment for male sports culture--and the rest of us: Being silent can now get you in trouble. Rob Okun says the NCAA should start running teach-ins about the new game rules straight away.

(WOMENSENEWS)--It's Thanksgiving. Time to gather, feast and maybe check out the big game.

Along with all that, let's not miss the chance to digest the cultural role sports play in our lives--and in our male silences--in the wake of the multiple charges of child rape reverberating throughout Penn State and beyond.

The message on a popular New England sports talk radio station recently was that this isn't a sports scandal but a men's scandal. It's about time the language was accurate. Time, also, for us as men to stop watching from the sidelines. Listen up. There's the whistle.

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And here's the game changer: Because of how Penn State trustees have dealt with the powerful and beloved coach Joe Paterno a precedent is set: Going forward, a bystander who doesn't intervene and do enough to stop an act of abuse can expect to be harshly punished.

Right now groups like Coaching Boys into Men, Mentors in Violence Prevention and the Waitt Institute, among others, are poised to lead re-trainings on this lesson. They have long led workshops for students and staff on bystander intervention, learning the how and why of speaking up.

With the end of the college football season at hand, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should announce it will finance not just a one-shot teach-in next semester at Penn State, but an ongoing training program at colleges and universities across the country. What's needed is a sustained, national educational campaign addressing sexual assault, male socialization and the silence surrounding the masculine culture of violence. The NCAA certainly has the money to underwrite such an effort, having turned college sports into a mega business.

In every state, sexual and domestic violence prevention coalitions are working night and day to stop the violence; they can and should also be tapped. And men's antiviolence organizations, including Men Can Stop Rape, A Call to Men and Men Stopping Violence, among others, can play a role in an all out effort.

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The Penn State scandal has been grossly mishandled, and the news media has done NOTHING to make it any better. The PSU Board of Trustees should have told the media to "SHUT UP, STAND BACK, and WE'LL GET BACK TO YOU!" Instead, they performed one of the swiftest knee-jerk reactions in recent history! JoePa did what was right ACCORDING TO THE RULES of working in a college/university setting. He made his information known to the next-upward person in the chain of command. It was up to THAT person to go forward and pass the information to HIS superior(s). If you value your job, YOU DO NOT JUMP THE CHAIN OF COMMAND! There Are Protocols! And if you are part of that protocol, you had BETTER take the responsibility of the job to heart. Who did Joe Paterno give the information to, after receiving it from the witness? The person next in the upward chain of command, of course! THAT is the person who dropped the ball, NOT Joe Paterno! The message given to Penn State students, and the rest of our youth, is "don't be an informant, because if you do, you'll be made to suffer worse than the actual criminal!" That's what's happened to Joe Paterno. Several on the B of T have been trying to get rid of JoePa for years, and so they used this scandal to get what they wanted, instead of doing what they should have done and held off any decisions until after an inquiry was made. I'm not Catholic - I'm not even a Christian; I'm a Freethinker - but I have held the highest respect for the work Joe Paterno has done in making sure the football players that graduated from Penn State EARNED THEIR DEGREES. It wasn't just about football with JoePa as head coach, as it is with so many other colleges, where some football "grads" can't even speak proper English when interviewed! The women on the Board of Trustees should have noticed this and made a LOUD attempt to stop the Board from excoriating the one person who came forward, and they didn't. Where were these women? Why was emotion allowed to have full control instead of reason and logic? What damage has been allowed to occur now? I see the reign of Jealousy and Duplicity in the performance of the PSU Board of Trustees. I am woefully unimpressed by their idea of "responsibility!"