Feb 202005
Authors: Joanna Larez

Caucasian men are rarely in the situation of being part of the minority group, but they were by far the minority at the first annual Women's Conference at CSU.

About eight of the 107 people in attendance were men, said Chris Linder, assistant director of the Office of Women's Program's and Studies.

"During registration we had to cut people off, because we didn't expect that many," said Jenn Adams, a member of the planning committee.

Josh DeSanti, a senior history major, attended the conference to understand the issues women face. He has been a resident assistant for the past three years and he hopes to be a hall director some day.

"I thought this conference might broaden my cultural horizons, to better understand what women face in their everyday lives," DeSanti said.

DeSanti was nervous going into the meeting, but he said he was welcomed.

"I'd never been a minority," DeSanti said. "It's definitely a learning experience for me. It will allow me to put myself in other people's shoes."

DeSanti's experience at the conference gave him a new understanding of being a minority.

"People always try to say, 'I know where you're coming from,'" De Santi said. "But until you've experienced what it's like to be a minority, you don't really know."

Luoluo Hong was the keynote speaker at the conference. She is the dean of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hong incorporated the importance of men into her speech.

"I'm glad to see, albeit few, I do see some male faces in the audience," Hong said. "We need to learn to break down barriers to men."

Hong shared detailed memories of her experience as a victim of acquaintance rape as a college student.

"My story, like every one of us in here, is unique," Hong said. "But I think mine will resonate with some of you a little louder."

She transitioned from a victim to a survivor, and now she encourages women to do the same. Hong is taking a stand against the mixed messages women get in a patriarchal society.

She said women are told it is not their fault they are sexually assaulted, but authorities turn around and tell women what to do to prevent them from becoming victims.

Hong said she prefers to discuss the patriarchal society instead of insinuating all men are bad. She said men are great allies and sources of women's empowerment.

"Are we afraid what we have been saying will be more important coming from mouths of men?" Hong asked. "We need to be accepting of the fact that the messenger is just as important as the message."

Men need to step up and volunteer to help in the women's movement, because if women ask them to do so, the message is coming across as being biased, Hong said.

Allowing men to help will require an even balance of women being willing to accept the help.

"Sometimes I start to do work that is not my work to do," Hong said. "Remember that sometimes it's not your work to do."

Hong evoked many laughs throughout a speech that had a serious overtone.

"She was engaging, and she had an amazing ability to connect to students on a personal level," said Annalyn Cruz, graduate assistant in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Hong told stories about motivated men with whom she has worked. She let the women at the conference know that men's involvement happens when men are motivated to help women.

"To see their (men's) support is inspirational to me," Adams said. "We're not feminist groups that hate men at all."

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