Everybody could use a good wingman. No, not someone who can help you with a hookup.
The Wingmen of Seattle University are men who engage other men to end sexual assault on campus. It is a new student organization created out of the Wellness and Health Promotion, led by Program Coordinator Jazz Espiritu.
The previous program coordinator, Brendon Soltis, came up with the plan last year after doing a research project that involved looking into successful movements to prevent sexual assault. The inspiration for Wingmen of Seattle U was a Cornell University program called Wingman 101, which was conceptualized in 2007.
“That word in today’s society is a man who helps another man achieve a sexual conquest,” Espiritu said of the term “Wingman.” “It’s like we’re reclaiming the word… for a much more positive purpose.”
It just so happens that the word wingman is also a perfect play on words to describe Redhawk men.
At an informational session on Oct. 20, Espiritu explained how the new organization stems from a need on campus, in the community, and on a national scale to inform and engage people to end sexual assault. He described how one in four women will be a survivor of sexual assault in her college career, noting the unfortunate stigma that surrounds the culture of reporting sexual assault and that the majority of perpetrators are men.
“First and foremost the point of Wingmen is just to be a positive change agent on campus regarding sexual assault,” Espiritu said.
Sophomores Koji Clark and Greg Osberg were interested in finding out more about Wingmen and went to the informational session. Within their friend groups they talk extensively about social justice issues and how it affects them and their objective identities.
“[Wingmen is] good because it provides a space for addressing similar problems that feminists deal with and maybe dealing with the realization that even though you identify as a male, it doesn’t mean you can’t identify as a feminist,” Clark said.
Wingmen will have discussions to deconstruct what it means to be a man, question gender norms and be trained in bystander intervention to counteract the bystander effect, a social phenomenon that occurs when individuals witness a situation but do not offer help to a victim.
“Most of the time, folks think someone else will call the police or they are too afraid of their own safety,” Espiritu said. “Wingmen will be able to recognize when situations are happening and how to effectively intervene.”
They will also be required to take the “It’s On Us” pledge, a national campaign to end sexual assault on campus.
While the organization is new and much of what the Wingmen will do is to be decided after applicants are accepted, the duties of Wingmen could include anything from tabling at events, holding workshops for individuals not in the organization, or being involved with Health and Wellness Crew projects such as SexLife, a life-sized game of Life with a focus on healthy relationships and sexual conduct.
At the meeting, Clark and Osberg brought up their concern that the language of “men educating men,” was too exclusive. Wellness and Health Promotion Director Ryan Hamachek recognized that concern and explained how in his personal experience, he has noticed more gritty, honest conversations about gender and sexual assault occur when there are focused gender groups. However, he mentioned the possibility of multi-gendered conversations occurring after focused gender groups talk first.
“Wingmen is an opportunity to focus on specific identity and [recognize] the need for that in a specific demographic,” Espiritu said. “In no ways does it mean we are being exclusive to just men, but what we want to do is recognize that this is an important conversation for men to have.”
Espiritu believes that Wingmen will be a positive force on campus.
“The face of Wingmen being present is going to mean so much to the cause of ending sexual violence,” Espiritu said.
Applications to be a general Wingman or on the Wingmen Advisory board are available on the Health and Wellness Crew’s Facebook page and are due Nov. 1.
Melissa may be reached at [email protected]