When a worthy cause comes up short
Erin McAuliffe | 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 Besides an outdated premise, the day inspired male aggression as a mob of half-clad men (in belly-shirts and jean shorts — clothes that seemed to ridicule more than sympathize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.