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hu-MAN Up wants to end rape culture

Organization's co-directors have their sights set on fraternities

Sunshine and the alluring promise of mild winters is what initially drew gender equality educators Adele Ulrich and Ray Manlove from Lancaster, Pa., south to Atlanta this past fall. More importantly, it looked like new ground thirsty for their mission: to end rape culture by swapping it for one of consent. If that seems like an ambitious goal — especially given their current core audience of fraternity houses — that's because it is. The couple who work together as co-directors of the nonprofit they started, hu-MAN Up Local College Coalition (HULCC), had an inkling of what they were getting into.

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"We really need to work hard to make that the new normal — a culture of consent and respect towards women instead of a culture that's so predatory," Ulrich says. " ... Our culture is celebrating the hyper masculine. We need to celebrate relational men who are nurturing. Our work is about teaching men that sexism isn't sexy."

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Again, it sounds fairly lofty. At the moment, HULCC's M.O. is reaching fraternities due to that fact that sexual assault is the second-most common insurance claim against Greek organizations in the country. The HULCC team works on getting an invite into their houses so they can work to sink a hook. In addition to university-based movements, the group used billboards and bus interiors and exteriors in Lancaster to help spread their message — using specific language like, "Even if she says yes, if she's been drinking, she may not mean it."

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Once inside the frats, they bring along a crew of actors, poets, dancers, and other creative activists to join in on the non-abrasive service by way of a daylong workshop. Ulrich's background as an expressive movement therapist definitely comes into play. The group uses "some pretty non-traditional, interactive, experiential means," he says. "There won't be any PowerPoint," Manlove adds. The workshops include a lot of movement exercises, an open invitation to share personal experiences, and careful attention to compassionate measures. "Theater and creative movement gets in, in a way," Ulrich says. "I think art's the way to the heart ... we take it as far as we can experientially to really get in." The two mention a conscious effort to use "I" statements in an effort to not alienate the young men — people like Manlove himself redirecting conversations by saying things like, "I used to respond in that way, too, but then I started to think about it. ..." Essentially, the goal is to make males think.

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As a white man himself, Manlove reflects on his past buying into his society-awarded privilege. "I basically invested in stereotypical male culture," he says. "There's no way to describe it but say I was a very active participant in white male privilege." How does he or any white male work on disassembling this?

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"It's difficult," Manlove says. "And women have to lead the way. It's about men shutting up and listening to the female experience." Manlove says there's a socially instilled male impulse to react as opposed to thoughtfully responding when the women in their lives aired gender-specific grievances. "So here I was, mansplaining. 'This is what you should do,'" he says. "Instead of just listening and trying to relate on a level and maybe trying to see through her eyes."

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After some cursory runs in Pennsylvania, HULCC is looking to secure spots in Atlanta area universities, where chances are Southern-based fraternities probably aren't known for their affinity for expressive dance and openly sharing what may be considered emasculating feelings. "They have been groomed their entire lives to be the deciders and to not be affected by emotional things," Manlove says.

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"The hard part is just being vulnerable," Ulrich adds. "One of the toughest things I had to do was just getting a guy to close his eyes. ... It was really transformational for him. He ended up sobbing."

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Currently, the organization is seeking actors and artists' submissions to help spread their message. They also need original art to use in their public transit and billboard efforts in Atlanta. More information is available on their website at hu-manup.org.



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