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What’s the solution?

| Monday, September 27, 2021

To the editors:

My perspective on the cyberbullying of Saint Mary’s College might be unique, as I have a presence on both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame’s campuses. I am in campus ministry at Saint Mary’s and priest-in-residence at ND in Flaherty Hall. In addition, for 11 years, I was a Notre Dame rector.

My initial reaction to the incident — fair or not — was that some ND men, under the influence in the early morning hours, were talking about the ticket situation for the Wisconsin game at Soldier Field. Talk led to resentment. Resentment led to drunken action. Drunken action led to the incident that caused shock and hurt.

Some might write this off as an example of “boys will be boys,” as they are prone to do whenever college boys misbehave. But that’s too easy and is reflective of the male toxicity that permeates so many cultures: higher education, politics, religion, business, athletics, etc. Our cultural sense of what it means to be a male is way too limited and entirely too toxic.  Stereotypical traits include power, feistiness, hypersexuality, rough language, being in charge, drinking to excess, homophobia (although not acknowledged as such), bullying, victim-blaming, not being in touch with nor knowing how to deal with feelings and many others. In addition, “real” men  tend to see women as weak, objects for sexual release and lesser beings —“the weaker sex.” These men are frozen in adolescence, regardless of their age.

What does this have to do with the YikYak incident, you might ask.

History relentlessly reveals what happens in a male-centric culture. Male superiority is the default setting. The first national response to offense is violence. Compassion plays no role in business or political decisions. Strangers are a threat. Lashing out is the right way to react to upsets and grudges.  Lashing out at women is easy. “It’s the woman’s fault I didn’t get tickets to the game; the woman made me eat the apple.” Add alcohol, and male toxicity runs amok.

What’s the solution? It’s always complicated to turn a whole culture in a different direction. It takes time, patience and understanding. There is no value in blaming someone for being who their culture raised them to be. But they must be challenged, especially by their male peers, each time they reveal their toxicity.

Rev. Steve Newton, C.S.C.

priest-in-residence, Flaherty Hall

Sept. 23

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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