Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Male privilege and the SGA: How we’ve been overrun by ‘megaphone guys’

By Josh Odam

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Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

Author’s note: This column has been reviewed by members of the Student Government Association’s Women’s Caucus, the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy and other stakeholders with a vested interest in ending misogynist language and sexist behavior within the SGA. My intent was not to speak on behalf of my female colleagues. It was merely to unpack the destructive nature of masculinity and discuss how I have seen it negatively affect the SGA.

In “The Braindead Megaphone,” George Saunders defines the phrase “megaphone guy” as follows:

“… His main characteristic is his dominance. He crowds the other voices out. His rhetoric becomes the central rhetoric because of its unavoidability. In time, Megaphone Guy will ruin the party. The guests will stop believing in their value as guests, and come to see their main role as reactors-to-the-Guy … They’ll become passive, stop believing in the value of their own impressions …What’s important to him will come to seem important to them … He has, in effect, put an intelligence-ceiling on the party.”

Think about that passage for a moment. It is my hope the consciousness-ceiling can be raised by the end of this piece.

I speak not as the Secretary of Diversity, but as Josh, a male student who wants to spell out the behavior I have borne witness to.

I have observed several of my female colleagues, whether they are new or returning SGA member, expressing anxiety about bringing up issues such as sexual misconduct, Title IX or rape culture in the senate. Many fear that they will be targeted, misinterpreted, drowned out or blatantly disregarded by male voices.

On a daily basis, I am reminded of some of my male colleagues’ inability to take “no” for an answer. Whether it is an already rejected romantic advance being re-proposed or forcing her to remain in a conversation when she has said three times she cannot speak right now, the blatant disregard for her space is glaring. It has created a hostile work environment where I see the discomfort and trepidation some women have while in the SGA office.

I am certain there will be those who ask why we did not try to settle these matters internally. However, when legitimate concerns by female-bodied individuals, some of which one could classify as harassment, are being repeatedly ignored, one has to seek alternative venues to bring light to these issues.

I had my reservations out of concern that I would indirectly perpetuate a form of male privilege – a male voice talking about sexism because men are more likely to listen to other men.

However, to put it simply, we as men need to do better – executive branch members, senators, area government and house council officials need to increase our efforts to ensure that these kinds of inequities do not continue within the SGA and on this campus as a whole. We need to pressure ourselves, use our privilege, our “megaphones,” to call attention to the sexism which persists in these various arenas.

As men, we possess many privileges simply due to our physical makeup. We have the luxury to convey our opinions and not think about voices which are being suppressed and/or smothered by our presence. We must also be cognizant that women holding leadership positions typically occupied by men are forced to make significant sacrifices to do so, and they are harshly critiqued while in these positions. As men, especially in leadership positions inside and outside of the SGA, we must recognize the figurative and literal space we occupy, take a step back and work with our female colleagues to provide a safe, gender-inclusive environment.

Again, I speak not to some backwards theory in which women need salvation and protection from a male figure. I speak only as a man bearing witness to the destructive, overbearing and domineering ideals of masculinity, and how we are allowing it to permeate all levels of the SGA.

Josh Odam is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

13 Comments

13 Responses to “Male privilege and the SGA: How we’ve been overrun by ‘megaphone guys’”

  1. Gary on October 9th, 2014 8:53 am

    “He crowds the other voices out. His rhetoric becomes the central rhetoric because of its unavoidability. In time, Megaphone Guy will ruin the party. The guests will stop believing in their value as guests, and come to see their main role as reactors-to-the-Guy … They’ll become passive, stop believing in the value of their own impressions …What’s important to him will come to seem important to them … He has, in effect, put an intelligence-ceiling on the party.”

    I have no idea what the author is talking about, but this passage really struck me. It accurately describes every history/political science/economics professor I ever had at UMASS. The lack of two-sided perspective is actually stunning. It’s like being taught by MSNBC anchors. Shameful.

  2. Zac Bears on October 9th, 2014 11:28 am

    Yet another guy takes an opportunity for discourse and turns it into the martyr day parade, completely ignoring the column. Amazing to see the brooding MRA in its natural environment.

  3. Kevin Bush on October 9th, 2014 12:33 pm

    “We have the luxury to convey our opinions and not think about voices which are being suppressed and/or smothered by our presence. ” ..yeah Josh ..all us womens and a few of us mens get a case of the vapors just by your very presence.. ooooh

  4. Lucas Gutterman on October 9th, 2014 12:41 pm

    Great column as always. I strive to reach your ideals.

  5. Kris on October 9th, 2014 2:11 pm

    Zac, on a scale of 1-7, how many people at UMass do you think care about the student government?

  6. Daud on October 9th, 2014 4:26 pm

    What on earth does this have to do with the SGA? It looks like just yet another barrage of a bleeding heart woe is the world manifesto. It has no backing in fact, only anecdotal references to “men” and “women.” There are absolutely no specifics or any kind of statistics in terms of what percentage of the SGA are women? What are some specific things that “megaphone guys” have drowned out with misogynistic hate?

    What on earth do you mean when you say:

    “We have the luxury to convey our opinions and not think about voices which are being suppressed and/or smothered by our presence.”

    *Everybody* has the right to convey an opinion and everybody should (and legally is) able to convey an opinion without it being censored. If an opinion is *bad* it will get drowned out not matter who it comes from. I’m male and have made some very poor decisions in my life, we all have, and people of all genders, races, religions, and whatnot have called me out on it.

    Are you implying that because I am a male that I my opinions are “louder” than that of my female counterparts? And because this is this case I should quiet down and let the female speak? I would agree with that if the premise was true. But it isn’t. Men and women have an equal ability to voice their opinions and have the grounds of the SGA to do so, and I say that because I believe that men and women are equal and should be treated as such.

    I can’t properly judge this because I am not female, but doesn’t it seem to be a little misogynistic to point out that because men’s “physical makeup” they are more privileged than women? Is it that a man’s “physical makeup” is superior? I would have trouble not reaching the said conclusion as it is stated because it implies that a female’s “physical makeup” is inferior. Furthermore, what does physical makeup have to do with the qualities of ideas? The SGA and people in general have a lot more thinking to do if they judge the quality of ideas based upon the physical makeup of who presents it.

    While critical of how you executed the message and led up to it, I do however agree with your conclusion:

    “As men, especially in leadership positions inside and outside of the SGA, we must recognize the figurative and literal space we occupy, take a step back and work with our female colleagues to provide a safe, gender-inclusive environment.”

    Amen to that! I’m all for that, but you do not reach that conclusion by creating a scenario where men must be the knight in shining armor that rescues the female voice. That sounds a bit medieval to me.

  7. Kevin Bush on October 9th, 2014 10:48 pm

    Kris..please forgive me for my “incipient maleness’ ..but please consider the possibility that this has nothing to do with the SGA ..and everything to do as a cautionary tale for the rest of us males and how we must behave if we wish to enter the progressive kindergarden of eden.. ..

    However it could be about ..or so I’ve been told ..is the that Josh & Zac keep showing up to these meetings in lederhosen ..and this is what in fact renders these women …”speechless”

  8. Kendall on October 10th, 2014 12:35 am

    Kris- on a scale of 0 to 0, how many people are you affecting with your opinion? 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. Kris on October 10th, 2014 9:00 am

    Kendall – Mine was better.

  10. Avrum Hirsh on October 13th, 2014 10:28 am

    Im sorry to say but we do not have to worry about rape culture on campus. What we have to truly worry about is rape of the culture. American values are being destroyed by the values of Leftism with its race/class and gender toxic trinity . Its being destroyed by radical feminism.

    This essay exemplifies that. Here is an American man talking about a non existent entity called “male privilege.” American women are the most free, most vibrant, most wealthy, most respected women that have ever lived in human history. Leftism seeks victim status for all its honored groups: blacks, women, gays, the poor, transgendered, illegal immigrants, and Latinos.

    Our American women are not victims. They are strong. They know how to handle themselves. They are not oppressed victims of a misogynist society.

    We also don’t need to feminize our men and turn them into teary eyed guys bemoaning how their voices are louder than our women- how their muscles are stronger- how their sex drives are different-how they are essentially different from women.

    Our women can handle themselves. They know how to speak up at a meeting if they care to do so. They know how to say no to a guy being a jerk in a dorm room. They don’t need foolish university administrators in the bedroom monitoring their sexual activities. They know how to call the police if they are molested. Come on guys.

  11. Gia on October 15th, 2014 11:10 am

    Avrum, I think you could benefit from actually listening to some women on this campus. Women in the U.S. can have more rights than historically, and can still be actively silenced and oppressed. The fact that you are so adamant about male privilege being non-existent only shows me that you haven’t taken any time to look at yours. However, congratulations—you’ve just proved Josh’s point about megaphone guys.

  12. Erin on October 16th, 2014 4:54 pm

    I was impressed just by reading the author’s note! Incredibly refreshing to hear a thoughtful and intelligent man speak to these matters without presuming to speak for others, unlike many of the commenters here. Keep doing your thing Josh! PS can we be friends

  13. Justin on October 18th, 2014 7:08 am

    This column is so simplistic and naive its laughable. I don’t disagree that there is often a ‘megaphone’ person, but you know what? even other white middle-class white males get drowned out by megaphone person, whoever that is…just because one megaphone guy drowns out conversation, doesn’t mean all people that are of the same race/gender are then guilty by association…I often find myself being ‘drowned out’ in social/business settings by some person who is much more forcefully trying to impose there opinion on others; its not my personality to dominate conversations – does that make me a victim too? Oh, thats right, white males can’t be victims of anything – they are all guilty by association.

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