A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Female Respect on Campus

by Leah Whitcomb

“Sexual misconduct is not a ‘women’s problem,’” says Ann Phelps, director of 1C1C. “It is everyone’s problem, and men rarely have an opportunity to talk openly about this.” Paul Gomila, a junior at Millsaps, hopes to change that by implementing Female Respect on Campus, an initiative he believes will benefit everyone involved. He says that the idea started last spring in Dr. Lola Williamson’s Religion, Peace and Justice class. He learned about a lot of women’s issues–both global and local. Gomila, like many others, has heard too many stories about women getting drunk and doing things they did not want to do, stories about sexual assault and stories involving sexual misconduct.

“Lack of respect for women, particularly sexual respect, is one of the primary threats to the health of the Millsaps community,” Phelps says. “Behind closed doors, I have had discussions with women students, faculty, and staff who have felt disrespected because of their sex—sometimes to the point where their ability to move forward is compromised and their safety is threatened. I think bringing these conversations out from behind closed doors is the first step toward healing and recovery.”

Chris Donald, college chaplain and director of religious life, says, “It is an authentic student-centered movement, but it really has to be students talking to students.”

“I don’t think female respect can be ‘implemented,’” says Lori Genous, director of health promotion, “because to respect someone of either gender is a conscious choice. However, it is important to challenge negative stereotypes and each other on how we treat women. We can accomplish this through continuous dialogue and a supportive campus network.”

Gomila understands that this will take time and things won’t happen quickly, but his main objective is to try and promote respect for women. Gomila has the potential to start a social movement that will benefit not only women but everyone; however, we all need to make an effort to support and get involved.