Since the shirts had been made years ago the people behind them had likely graduated already and the fraternity had moved on, so contacting the organization directly would be too little, too late. Walking up to the individual wearing the shirt and telling him how uncomfortable it made me was an option (and one of my awesome friends actually did this!) but it wouldn't do much to negate the damage that this shirt already managed to do over the last few years.
It's times like this that I am grateful for the Green Dot movement.
Green Dots are taking over college campuses all over! They start with the idea that every act of interpersonal violence, and any action that promotes or condones or neglects to discourage interpersonal violence is a red dot. So, for instance, this shirt being made was a red dot because it promotes the sexualization of little girls and creates male unity within the fraternity by reducing women to sex objects and nothing more. Taken on it's own, it's certainly not going to cause violence... but when you saturate a community with messages like this you end up with a community (like ours) in which violence against women is allowed to happen and even joked about because the culture does not respect women.
Green Dots are designed to help show those of us who want to change this culture where our power lies. A green dot is any action that either directly prevents interpersonal violence or challenges the attitudes that allow interpersonal violence to continue. Knowing this I was able to take a deep breath and tell myself this:
"Okay, so he's a red dot right now... and I don't think I can get him to stop being one by confronting him. What I can do, however, is walk away and make a whole bunch of green dots to drown out his red one." Then I went and spent the next three hours at a table with Feminists United, encouraging people to play a game that challenged gender norms (green dot!) and talking to whoever was interested about the club and what we do (another green dot!)
The idea is simple: we want to make so many green dots that the red dots get drowned out. To drop the metaphor for a second: what this would look like is a major culture shift. A world where green dots drowned out the red ones would be a world where jokes about violence would not be considered funny, people would come together to intervene when they saw violent acts taking place, and violence in general would be in decline because the culture would not foster an environment where violence was easy to perpetrate and get away with.
Now I want to know, What's YOUR Green Dot?- The next time a friend tells a joke about rape or some other form of violence, call them out and tell them why you don't think that joke was so funny.- If you hear someone making a victim blaming statement (for instance: she obviously wanted it, look at what she was wearing) challenge them!- Find ways to express your beliefs in a proactive manner, not just when they're being challenged! For instance, the Feminists United activity that we did celebrated gender diversity and feminism in a way that was simply fun and positive, without beling a direct reaction to any offensive act.- Start conversations with people about green dots and what they mean to you, spread the movement!- If you hear someone fighting on the street, in the apartment next-door, whatever... consider walking up and asking if everything is okay (if you feel safe doing so) or calling for help.- If you see someone being lead out of a party, clearly too drunk to consent, and you get a sense that they are going to be taken advantage of (go with your gut!) consider intervening and asking if everything is okay. [There's a great What Would You Do video that relates to this one!]
Green Dot's Site from Kentucky
Women's Media Center: Name It, Change It!