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viewpoint

When a worthy cause comes up short

| Tuesday, February 14, 2017

If a man asking for money on the street was to approach me and threaten to flash me if I did not give him five dollars, I would call the cops.

So why did a Siegfried boy outside of DeBartolo Hall tell me he would remove his Speedo if he didn’t get five dollars in the next two minutes?

More importantly, how did this day — one where Siegfried Hall residents walk around susceptible to the cold in minimal clothing to raise money for the South Bend Center for the Homeless and show solidarity for those who battle these elements daily — lead to this altercation?

A day meant to remove Notre Dame students from their privilege worked to grossly emphasize the discrepancies between behavior tolerated by people asking for money on the street and students demanding money on campus. A wall of men in yellow t-shirts, Falcons-inspired poster boards and red Solo cups yelled at me to donate while I walked into DeBartolo and the dining hall. The sentiment and cause were there and worthy, so why did they muddy it in threats?

Let’s start with the event’s title, Day of Man, and the slogan, “Be cold. Be bold. Be a man.” It’s 2017. Notre Dame is a co-ed campus with females trudging through the same snow in the same L.L. Bean boots as men to get to their 9:30 a.m. classes. And 85 percent of families experiencing homelessness are headed by women. Besides an outdated premise, the day inspired male aggression as a mob of half-clad men (in belly-shirts and jean shorts — clothes that seemed to ridicule more than sympathize with the homeless) partook in yelling matches across campus.

It was embodied by the interaction I was involved in: A man threatens me while two of his friends stand behind him and say nothing. I silently head to class only internalizing his harassment after the fact.

Perhaps the day could better serve the cause if rebranded as a Day of Solidarity. Giving money to a fellow student for a good cause should inspire trust and gratitude in the transaction. It is an instance where privilege can act as power — an interaction with a friend from class ends in a donation to a worthy cause. Instead, I kept my head down and avoided eye contact to get to my destination without further harassment.

Asking for money is not a demand; it is a request, and I had never witnessed such egregious sexual harassment in the process until Wednesday. The fact that the coercion tactic came from a fellow Notre Dame student and not a stranger downtown demonstrates the effects of entitlement. A day that was supposed to strip these men of their privilege only emboldened them to strip their clothes.

The positive results of the day are there: The event raised over $20,000 last year to benefit the Center for the Homeless. I imagine this number would increase if people were engaged and told about Siegfried’s commitment to volunteering at the Center instead of yelled at. I ask that next year the men of Siegfried run the event again, but are more attentive to the aggression.

After hearing that I intended to publish this column, a Day of Man commissioner emailed me urging me not to run it. He implied that if the issue affected Siegfried’s ability to fundraise for the Center for the Homeless, I would be at fault. This is victim-blaming.

In response, I would like to reiterate my support for the event’s cause, but also my concerns surrounding its execution.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin McAuliffe

I'm Scene's editor and a senior Marketing & Journalism student. To quote the exquisite Sadie Dupuis, "I'm not bossy — I'm the boss."

Contact Erin
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky

    This article is asinine. Thought we wouldn’t have to deal with this bullshit anymore when Trump was elected

    • Hootie Swan

      Then you are naive and idiotic.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      So were you expecting that Trump would be able to censor dissenting views on the Internet? Do you know what the First Amendment is?

      • Marcy

        Apparently the 1st amendment doesn’t count here. I also made a comment that someone apparently didn’t like so it got deleted.

        • Jack

          (The First Amendment doesn’t count here, that’s the point.)

    • Andrew Smith

      Welcome to America, I guess?

  • Common Sense

    Not only was this asiNINE, it was asiTEN, asiELEVEN.

  • HolyHandGrenade

    Granted that you took all of this to its literalistic extreme, and that can’t really be criticized in a vacuum, you miss all the context. You’re forgetting about the concept of sarcasm… and the meta/self-aware element of that encounter and the event as a whole. I wasn’t there so I’m basing my judgement on the most likely situation I imagine in my head, but honestly, if you thought he was going to strip in front of DeBart for 5 bucks, you’re the fool. But if he had done so, he’d be an even bigger one, naturally. Hopefully we’re all adults here on campus, so I’d hope we’d all be interpreted with that lens as a default. I’m not trying to be a sexual harassment apologist, but I am an advocate for common sense.

    I’m reminded of this loosely similar article here which now lives in infamy, immortalized by chants over the music of Seven Nation Army during football games:

    http://ndsmcobserver.com/2013/10/rethinking-football/

    • Jack

      *not trying to be a sexual harassment apologist* *makes excuses for sexual harassment*
      The issue at hand isn’t whether or not the dude whipped it out, it’s that he threatened with the possibility.
      It’s also hilarious that you tell this woman she is missing the context and then immediately admit you are basing your “argument” on your imagination.

      • HolyHandGrenade

        Ugh, no. By imagination, I mean the most likely scenario – y’know, Occam’s razor. And the threat itself, as I’m trying to point out, must be interpreted as plausible or not. Given the context of a charity drive that takes place on a college campus, I find the threat implausible and subject to a communication breakdown (i.e. crude humor -> valid threat).

        • Jack

          Jesus Christ dude. If you don’t see this as sexual harassment, we’ve got nothing to talk about.

          • HolyHandGrenade

            Listen, as I said, my basic view is dictated by the fact that I don’t find the threat plausible. I admit I’m biased by the fact that I know the event and I know the campus, so the letter of the law is one thing, but that bias and experience makes me feel like the weight of the threat… holds no weight. It’s just stupid, crude, sarcastic, attention-whoring humor, and if it is sexual assault, then anyone has the right to make a case out of it, but I’d have to feel like doing so would be incredibly petty knowing how little intent there probably was behind those words. Maybe it would count as both sexual assault and extortion and exhibitionism but my intent was that I thought it applied to the latter two more so I stated that I was interpreting it with the lens of extortion/exhibitionism *instead* of sexual assault. I reiterate that I don’t know everything about the law.

            But I’d appreciate you not being so pretentious when I’m trying to reason this out as much as I can. Such as explaining your view instead of using Jesus Christ to hurt my feelings. I’m just trying to be pragmatic and can’t avoid the opinion that this event could have been criticized as simply how “stupid, crude, sarcastic, attention-whoring” it was as opposed to the TL; DR of a sexual harassment claim. Not that the latter is off-base, but rather it’s not the best way of interpreting or addressing the altercation, in my opinion. The best means of interpretation is the most obvious, that it was attention seeking humor and indirect solicitation, since that makes the most sense!

          • ’14 alum

            She said this is sexual harassment, not sexual assault. Pay attention: sexual harassment is violating because it is when someone forces the conversation to sexual terms without the consent of the other party.

            Why is it funny for him to force the conversation to sexual terms (him threatening to confront her with his naked body if she doesn’t pay when she’s just walking to class)? (It’s not funny). Can you flip the scenario and imagine it still being treated as funny if a woman yelled this to a man? (No).

          • HolyHandGrenade

            I never said it was funny… I don’t think it’s funny. I said it was attempted “humor/comedy”. As in, his motivation for the words.

            “threatening to **confront** her with his naked body”

            He did not threaten that. He threatened to “remove his Speedo if he didn’t get five dollars in the next two minutes.” Just to clarify.

          • Marcy

            Some people don’t want to listen to reason or alternative viewpoints once they’ve decided that a certain narrative is “right”. 99% of the other people the kid used that same line on understood the context of his actions and the relatively innocuous nature of his words. All of them went on with their days and many probably donated. But all it takes is 1 person to stir the pot by taking him at face value, and making this about gender. Now everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and cry “sexual harrassment” instead of hearing opinions or thinking about it from another mindset. Thanks for looking at this through a lens of common sense and actually discussing the topic.

          • Adriano

            Seriously? What if your daughter was sexually assualted? Would you cry “sexually harrassnent” then? The reality is women are getting assualted at an alarming rate on campus and debasing the issue is poisonness.

          • Marcy

            I think there is a marked difference between the situation that occurred in the article and sexual harrassment. Having actually heard both sides of the story, as well as having had family member face sexual harrassment, this particular instance doesn’t strike me as having the same magnitude. This seems like someone was offended by an innocuous joke and decided to make a big deal out of something that didn’t warrant a response like this. And on top of that, trivializing the suffering of real victims by calling this “egregious sexual harrassment” is way more toxic than me calling someone out on their bs.

          • Adriano

            The point is the fact that this type of action towards a female was both committed and permitted by fellow students is endemic of the greater issues regarding sexual misconduct on campus. Tackling this issue is about shining the light on all instances of this type of behavior. Even worse, this type of behavior was committed under the guise of charitable work. Was the idiot kid going to take his speedo off? No probably not, but that’s not really the issue here.

  • disqus_aWlTSlmLa3

    Some kid making a stupid joke (highly doubt there was any chance he was going to flash you) ends with homeless people losing out on $20,00 because you felt uncomfortable. Privilege beyond belief. Good work, your pathetic crusade will likely succeed. Big loser here is the homeless, congrats winner.

    • Jack

      Charitable work does not excuse misogynistic sexual harassment.

  • poppy

    To be honest, I panicked for a millisecond that day as I was walking into north dining hall and just saw/heard a bunch of guys yelling excitedly at me. This is natural instinct. For many people. Especially if you are female.

  • Rambler

    If possible, I’d like to address some of the points separately.

    First is your point about the comments regarding aggressive coercion tactics used by the men of Siegfried Hall. I agree with your comments here–the Speedo comments or other accused threats are totally out of line and not in the spirit of Notre Dame’s community. Siegfried Hall, along with all of campus, does not tolerate sexual harassment even if intended for humor. I apologize to you, as I’m sure the student who made the comments would. Siegfried’s passion for this event, passion for helping the homeless in our community, and passion for elevating the success of this event each year, however, are something that should be admired. While the passion sometimes flirted with yelling and raucousness, such over the top theatrics are often necessary to grab attention in today’s “eyes on phone, earbuds in” culture of walking to class. The jean shorts and humorous posters are not meant to “ridicule” as you suggest, but serve to attract others to a cause while having a little fun and celebrating the Siegfried community.

    As far as your comments regarding the name and slogan of the event, “Day of Man” is not an attempt to alienate half of the student body or trivialize the struggles of homeless women. It is merely reflecting the fact that Siegfried is a men’s hall where we are continually reminded and encouraged to be a “man” for others–dedicating our service to both men and women in need. To assume that its name is a commentary on masculinity or an example of misogyny is both false and excessive.

    • disqus_dfJvTRZN25

      I apreciate your apology within your first paragraph, but your second paragraph certainly does not suffice. The phrase “be a man” in general is misogynistic, as it equates certain qualities (toughness, ability to bring in money, etc.) to men solely, actively alienating anyone who does not identify as a man from these traits. In addition, the assertion that Siegfried is simply a “men’s dorm” leaves out the potential gender non-conforming students who have, do currently, or will live in the dorm. Not trying to be excessive, but simply sharing my opinion as an ND student who questions their gender and was made to live in a men’s dorm. I know it may be difficult to understand if you are someone who is comfortable in their gender, but try to think of those who are not and the impact that phrases like “be a man” can have on our psyche. The phrase in general is incredibly outdated and should be re-thought!

  • McLovin

    The solution is simple. Deport this Siegfried kid to Knott

  • Marcy

    Having read the email that was sent by the Siegfried commissioner, I think the way you’ve twisted his words and painted him as a “victim blamer” is pretty low. He wrote a very well worded, courteous apology in which he both apologized for the incident, declared that new guidelines were already being drafted to prevent this from happening again, and detailed our dorm’s commitment to the shelter (where we volunteer every weekend). None of this appears in the article, and you instead choose to focus on a small section near the end that politely asked you to consider the ramifications your narrative may have on our ability to raise money in the future. I sincerely hope that his email is published at some point so that people can see the truth. I would have assumed that the Observer held their staff to a certain standard, but obviously not.

  • Jay

    You are the definition of privilege right here. To believe that your few moments of “distress” at a sarcastic comment means more than a $20,000 donation to a homeless center is the epitome of selfishness.

    Don’t think for one second that this article will not make the Center for the Homeless reconsider their partnership with Siegfried Hall for this event. Their hall president had every right to remind you of the consequences of your actions, but you ignored them, because you were only thinking about your opinion and how important it was that you share it. As a fellow journalist, every time I wrote an article, I thought about the consequences of my actions and asked myself if I was ready to answer to them. If Day of Man (a thriving charitable tradition) gets cancelled next year (which is an extreme, but not impossible scenario), are you willing to accept that you might have caused the homeless center to be $20,000 short on their budget?

    Additionally, your extreme reaction to this sarcastic joke is what causes the victims of real sexual harassment to not receive the credibility they deserve. Did you honestly think that this guy was going to take off his speedo? Really? If you did, learn some common sense and how to take a joke. But, since you are a member of this esteemed Notre Dame community, I think you do have common sense. instead, you decided to blow this little thing up and take pride in your social-justice warrior calling. You had the opposite effect, though, instead of bringing attention to an issue that deserved it, you called for a “pitty me because all men are evil.” You are being the boy who cried wolf, and instead of putting your intellect and skills towards a worthy cause (like the homeless or real victims), you put them towards yourself.

    I, too was a girl that was ran at by a group of scantily-clad males, yelling at me. Did I freak out? No, because anyone who was paying attention knew that these men were sacrificing their own comfort to raise money. They weren’t trying to flash or harass anyone; they were trying to be funny and draw attention to a noble cause, and I’m sorry if you couldn’t see that because you were too focused on yourself.

    • Adriano

      The whole point of the article is that day of man is worthy cause, did you not catch that? The reality is, and I’m talking as a CURRENT student, not a condescending and detached alumni, some of the men of Segfried hall, simply don’t understand the basis of the event, resulting in numerous uncomfortable situations for females. And At a time where sexual harassment and assault have become frequent occurrences on campus, we must as a campus hold ourselves to a higher standard in order to move forward. Day of man will not end because of an observer article, but if in the future the dorm decides to instill a more respectful air about the event, then many people, not just women, stand to benefit. Thank you for your courage Erin.

  • Bush O’Neill

    Pick your battles wisely.