Alum Billy Bush ’94 is not an Anomaly: Hypermasculinity at Colby

Last Friday evening around 7 p.m., I sat in the Foss common room sick to my stomach as I listened to audio of Donald Trump bragging, “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” For the next 12 hours, I fumed, I texted friends, I organized voter registration events, and I tried to sleep. It was not the blatant misogyny and sexual violence that struck me (as many know, we are constantly in the process of being hit with these realities) but the lack of response, the tacit approval by many, the dismissal of the tape as “boys being boys” or, as Trump said himself, “locker room talk.” My anger and disgust was focused solely on Trump, ignoring the voice that egged him on and the figure that admonishes Arianne Zucker, “How about a little hug for the Donald?”—a line that turned my stomach over.

The next morning at lunch in Dana, a friend told me that Billy Bush, that pitiful voice of the patriarchy, was not just a ’94 Colby graduate, but a two time captain of the lacrosse team during his time here (a fact confirmed by professors here at the time). All at once, the connection between the violence and harassment we face here on Mayflower Hill and the ingrained violence and misogyny in the Trump campaign was all too clear.  I was hit with a wave of frustration so deep I actually screamed.

For the past two years, I have worked as a research assistant for the Education Program’s Professor Mark Tappan on the Colby Healthy Masculinity Project, which has the goal of identifying healthy masculine identities and understanding their development. Our work stems from the understanding of our society, including the Colby community, as conducive to a toxic masculine identity—one that emphasizes aggression, dominance over women, homophobia, etc. (all traits Trump has displayed “bigly” this campaign season). Tappan’s class, “Boys to Men,” has made many men conscious of the violence they participate in. These discussions have propelled some to activism. Consequently, Colby is home to initiatives such as Mules Against Violence, Party with Consent, and Mentors in Violence Prevention, all of which include some emphasis on toxic masculinity’s role in perpetuating rape culture.

While this feminist work is present on campus, it often seems to be working against a brick wall of hypermasculinity, as we read about incident after incident of sexism and homophobia in BIPR reports and the (now inaccessible) Civil Discourse. We hear about violence, we are saddened, we are grateful for the “good men” that exist, and we continue on our way. What else is there to do on a campus that seems to privilege the men who are the loudest?

After the tapes were released this weekend, Colby can no longer pretend that our campus environment is not one of hypermasculinity and sexual violence. Our campus culture, which both the student body and the administration have a role in developing, has produced a man who is now being nationally shamed for his role in the tapes. The Colby Plan’s mission states, “It is hoped that students will become […] thinkers who are welcoming of diversity and compassionate toward others.” Bush’s camaraderie with Trump and his approval of sexual violence show that Colby failed in producing a man of compassion or dignity, let alone one who is welcoming of diversity.

I have already heard that because Bush graduated more than 20 years ago, his connection to Colby is insignificant. But if you ask any person who has attended Take Back the Night, who has felt uncomfortable and unsafe in the presence of overly aggressive men on a Saturday night in the apartments, who has been cat called running along Mayflower Hill, or who has been forced to navigate the Title IX reporting process, they can tell you that the connection is anything but insignificant. Colby is a breeding ground for hypermasculinity and the violence that comes with it.

I write this not to dishearten but to call to action men on this campus. It is not enough to express disgust at the actions of our fellow mule (ass) and Donald Trump. It is not enough to like an article that your feminist friend has posted on Facebook.  We need men who are willing to act. Volunteer for the Hillary campaign to ensure the next administration continues the work of progress. Speak up when you hear words like “pussy” and “bitch” and name this as violent language. Do something. The silent majority does not just stand with Trump; they stand with sexual violence, with misogyny, and with sexism.

This is also a call to the Colby administration. Acknowledge that Bush is a graduate of our institution. Acknowledge that our campus culture produces and enables violence against women. Finally, support the initiatives that Colby community members are creating to work against hypermasculinity. Every Colby student should learn the tools to critique gendered violence and sexism. Let’s make sure that 22 years from now, we are not reading about a current Colby student assuring a dangerous bigot that he can do “whatever you want” to women.

  • MMJDex22

    Donna Rice Hughes: One woman’s case for Donald Trump (College Educated, CEO of Enough is Enough, Childhood Sexual Abuse & Date Rape Survivor) http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/11/05/donna-rice-hughes-one-womans-case-for-donald-trump.html

  • James Klimek

    The importance of choices of words in discussion and debate is exemplified here. The important word to remember here is not one of political correctness or partisan politics. It is the name for one of the most seroius crimes one person can commit against another. The word is rape. I started at Colby in 1985. I knew that sexual assault happened on college campuses, but at the time I thought it was a problem which was fairly insignifacant and, in any case, not mine. After graduating from Colby, I went to law school at Indiana University on the main campus in Bloomington. Bloomington is in some ways the idyllic college town. There is a great old movie called Breaking Away which is set there, shows it in that light and still represents it pretty well. I drive down there from Indianapolis every time I can find a reason just to take in the air. I love the place so much I am thinking about running for Trustee. I thought the issue I would run on would be the cost of higher education. If you are reading this, you are aware of it. 24 years later, I have started a master’s degree in philosophy at the Indianapolis campus of IU just because I still like philosophy. I hired an undergraduate friend named Halle to do a little clerical work at my office. I asked why she had chosen to go to IU in Indy as opposed to “perfect” Bloomington. The answer stunned me. She had too many friends come home from Bloomington after being raped. Halle likes her chances of avoiding asault riding her bike through some questionable urban neighborhoods to a campus where we have the occassional car-jacking better than those in Bloomington. So if I run for Trustee, the issue will be about women avoiding IU because the cost might be too high, just not the cost I thought. How many women thought paying $65k for Colby would be the cheap part? Jim Klimek ’89

  • Cheyenne

    I feel like I answered your question. You, on the other hand, still haven’t answered mine. I was sincerely asking why when thousands and thousands of women describe their actual, lived experience of pervasive sexual harassment and assault before, during and after college, in response to the audio of trump, why not receive them as authorities on their own experiences? Why not simply listen to them? Why not simply believe them? I am genuinely curious about the answer.

  • Bob

    “For the past two years, I have worked as a research assistant for the Education Program’s Professor Mark Tappan on the Colby Healthy Masculinity Project, which has the goal of identifying healthy masculine identities and understanding their development.”

    I look forward to you femsplaining how men can develop “healthy masculine identities” according to feminists. (Hint: You should have used the phrase “healthy masculinity” in place of that identity nonsense. We don’t “identify” as men. We are men.) Nag. Nag. Nag. 😉

  • Cristi Neagu

    So after huge media backlash and massive public outcry you’re still going to pretend no one is bothered at all by those tapes? And what does Billy Bush being a team captain have to do with anything? Maybe you’re connecting dots that aren’t there to begin with.
    And seriously… Did you actually scream in a public hall? Wow… Stop blaming the patriarchy for everything. You’re muddying up the waters, hiding real issues that actually affect people.

  • Ninety-Two

    When I was at Colby, the rape culture was nuts. Every weekend, hundreds of students would gather in the gym, cheering and applauding as a group of males flaunted their hyper-masculinity in front of the whole student body, playing a game that is an obvious metaphor for rape (“basketball,” where the goal is to muscle your way to the vagina and jam in as many sperms as you can before the whistle blows). And before the game/rape fantasy started, they would play the rape anthem “Funky Cold Medina” as the guys warmed up! And the whole thing was sponsored by the college! This was back in the 90s – same time Billy Bush was there – so I can’t say I’m surprised that Bush turned out to be such a rapist.

    Be safe out there tonight. Be safe.

    • Cheyenne

      I’m guessing that at least some of the women who were sexually victimized at Colby during the 90s (I graduated from Colby with Billy Bush and personally know of at least a dozen of women who were sexually assaulted and/or raped by other students while we were there) would find your joke cruel and offensive. Either no one is laughing because the author was right or lots of people are laughing, proving the author right. Regardless, way to go.

      • Ninety-Two

        It’s no joke, Cheyenne. And the epidemic of violence is worse than you might think. Every year, HUNDREDS of women are educated and/or raped and/or MURDERED at Colby! And the place IS a breeding ground for violent men. Nearly every male student at Colby will rape and/or have lunch with a female student in the course of his four years at the college, and most of them will commit their first rape and/or lunch within weeks of arriving on campus. I would never and/or would like to send my daughter to that place.

        • Cheyenne

          You are so clever (everyone knows mocking downward is the golden rule of comedy) and benevolent (trying to lighten the mood for victims of sexual assault by making everyone laugh about how the suggested rates are so absurd!). I am genuinely curious about how you came to such an original and brilliantly derivative place in your comedy career. Jerry Seinfeld would like to take you to coffee.

      • Scott Fusco

        We all know your kind. A women hooks up with someone at a party, the next day you convince her that she really didn’t want to hook up, then you convince her to complain to the administration and accuse the guy of violence, rape or coercion. It’s a flat out lie that you knew a dozen or so women who were sexually assaulted while at Colby. If that’s the case then I know a dozen dudes who have been sexually assaulted and/or raped by women here. Stop throwing around serious words and serious accusations as if you are complaining about your steak being overdone in the dining hall. You demean the seriousness of real rape and real violence.

        • Cheyenne

          You clearly don’t know me at all. The scenario that the rate of reported rapes are some sort of fantasy born out of guilt about sex is both antiquated and offensive. My senior thesis was an ethnographic research study about developing sexuality among senior women at Colby. I idid extensive interviews with 121 women and dozens among them described, unsolicited, sexual assaults, at Colby. I’m not a fan of making up numbers just to make my point. Suggesting that actual experiences of sexual assault are simply cases of gal pals “convincing” someone that they were assaulted (for fun? for extra credit in their Women’s Studies class?) is demeaning to the seriousness of “real” rape and “real” violence but mostly , deeply demeaning to women.

    • BigDave IrreDeploraDeemable

      I dont care what ANYONE says. Now THAT is funny!!! 😀

  • BigDave IrreDeploraDeemable

    I am glad I am not paying for my son to learn this ridiculous PC SJW BS. He was appointed to the US Merchant Marine Academy. He now makes a quarter million dollars a year and gets a total of 6 months vacation every year. Unbelievable retirement package.

    He has traveled around the world many many times. He has more knowledge of how societies work in his little finger than most college students have in their entire brain.

    I weep for you and your Beta Male offspring. Recessive genetics like that tend to die out thanks to a Mr Charles Darwin.

    • Cheyenne

      I am confused, Do you think that sexual violence against women isn’t an epidemic or that its simply not an epidemic worth examining because it’s an acceptable casualty of evolutionarily superior alpha male behavior?

      • BigDave IrreDeploraDeemable

        Who brought up sexual violence? Who used that term? Not me. Sexual predator means one who hunts and pursues. There is no expectation of violence. Predation is always all verbal. Sexual ASSAULT is physical. I never used or referred to that term. Neither did Trumps accusers. They use the term “Predator” as if it were a BAD thing. It is NOT. Predation and pursuit of the female of the species is necessary for the survival of the species. It is like this in ALL of nature.

        Plus Trump never acted on his locker room talk. Remember Jimmy Carter? No? You are too young. Pious Jimmy Carter talked about sinning in his MIND to Playboy in his interview with them.

        I take it you are a cuck or a FemiNazi or both? Beta male? Beta female?

        • Cheyenne

          Thanks for clearing everything up for me. I totally get what you are saying now.

  • Alex

    Of course this article circles back to voting for Hillary. America undeniably has a problem with sexual violence, but to claim that Colby College, a liberal arts college in central Maine, is a “breeding ground” for that behavior and hypermasculinity is just one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Yes, Trumps words were far from okay, but to turn around and act as if Hillary Clinton, an enabler of sexual violence and a victim blamer, is some sort of angel is just absurd and to call on the administration to acknowledge that this campus encourages sexual violence is downright stupid. While college campuses tend be active as far as sexual violence, unless you qualify bumping into people at a crowded party as rape, acts of sexual violence are few and far between at Colby. You’re a white girl at Colby, don’t talk about privilege like you’ve never experienced it. And definitely don’t equate the behavior of a graduate from 20 years ago to the men here now just because it helps your feminist narrative.

    • Cheyenne

      Is it possible that the author has a more accurate perception of what it is like to be a woman on Colby’s campus than you do?

      • Alex

        Is it possible that the author is a soft attention seeker greatly exaggerating the environment here to make a point that confirms everything she’s learned wasting 60K a year to be a gender studies major?

        • Cheyenne

          You didn’t answer my question, but I will answer yours. Technically, it’s within the realm of possibility that the author is lying about her experience as a woman and at Colby just for attention, but its absurd to suggest that your personal assessment of the female experience in regards to sexual violence is evidence of that. Even if you were a woman who went to Colby (as I happen to be), your experience of blissful, harassment and assault-free college years would make you lucky, not an authority. And my next question(s) to you is: When thousands and thousands of women describe their actual, lived experience of pervasive sexual harassment and assault before, during and after college, in response to the audio of trump, why not receive them as authorities on their own experiences? Why not simply listen to them? Why not simply believe them? http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/11/497530709/one-tweet-unleashes-a-torrent-of-stories-of-sexual-assault

  • Colby 2011

    Your article would have been really great, if you had cut the line ” Volunteer for the Hillary campaign”. I don’t believe Hillary is the choice against the rape culture.

  • your_mom

    Such a fine example of college writing.

  • Kevin

    Wow these comments…as if we needed any more proof that this article is spot-on.

    • Bob

      Hello beta-male. Lulz.

    • Cheyenne

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you for breaking up the sloppy, predictable misogyny parade with your astute observation. For this, I envision for you a long life of incredible, consensual sex with many amazing women (should you so choose). xo

  • Pete

    I’d suggest that the term “hypermasculinity” is both counterproductive and demeaning. As a man, and not a misogynistic one, I’d think, I can’t help but feel defensive when I hear that word. It seems to suggest that there is something inherently wrong with men, and that we’d be better if we were more like women. How would women react to a campaign against “hyperfeminity”? Or, people from Maine a campaign against “hypermainism”? Perhaps it’s a professional term in sociology–I have no idea. But in popular use, it repels. How about simply a campaign against “misogyny”?

    • Cheyenne

      Your response does a really nice job of demonstrating the insidiousness of cultural, systemic misogyny and the ways in which “good people” perpetuate toxic male supremacy. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are a nice guy but the immediate defensiveness, distancing tactics (#notallmen), focus on the language used vs. the phenomenon and experience being described, as well as the centering of the conversation around you and how you feel about this word warrants some self-reflection. Because perhaps not all men would stay silent if a fellow man joked about sexual assault but we know that enough of them do to support a society where almost all women experience gender-based harassment, assault, abuse, and/or rape at some point in their lives. If this isn’t worthy of some “dramatic” and/or “critical speech, I’m not sure what is.

      • Pete

        Cheyenne, I suppose you and I could get in a never ending “what you just said proves my point” argument.

        I’ll leave it at this: if the objective is to engage people outside of sociology and women’s studies departments (which will be necessary if you want to change behavior), you’ll have much better success if you use language that (1) we understand, and (2) doesn’t immediately activate natural human defensive mechanisms.

        • Cheyenne

          Aside from the fact that the definition of “hypermasculinity”feels pretty neutral to me (“a psychological term for the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as emphasis on physical strength, aggression and sexuality”), tone policing is a method of protecting and perpetuating privilege. http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/tone-policing-and-privilege/

  • Scott Fusco

    Donald Trump isn’t fit to be President. That much is true. However, the article exaggerates so much of campus life and Colby’s role in Billy Bush’s development. The fact the author of this article wants Colby to acknowledge Bush is a graduate as if Colby has responsibility to how Bill Bush behaves is beyond laughable. She screamed when she learned about Bush, I screamed when I read this article. Adrienne sees a Colby of violence and misogyny. She then somehow connects her extreme feminist view of Colby to Donald Trump. What a fantasy world she has created to support her view of men. She goes on to say Colby failed to “produce a man of compassion or dignity, let alone one who is welcoming of diversity” Billy Bush created Billy Bush, not Colby. Colby is an environment for people to grow, learn and thrive. PPD doesn’t manufacture 21 year old college graduates in a factory next to the field house. Sorry Adrienne, you likely live in a world of trigger warnings and safe spaces where someone saying something as innocent as you look nice is verbal assault. It seems like you view violence and sexual predators at Colby as common as Bean Boots. Here’s another newsflash for the author, the silent majority doesn’t stand with Trump. Trump supporters are loud and visible. They show themselves clearly. The election in three weeks will prove this country won’t elect him. I feel badly for my fellow Mule. No one should feel unsafe or unwelcome at Colby. Does the author truly believe there is a culture of rape where the Lacrosse team or others secretly go to a Dana suite and discuss how to rape women? Does the author know the seriousness of rape and what the word means? What about the word violence? Is asking a girl to hook up violent or is it part of being in college? Again, no one should feel unsafe at Colby. However, what about the women who want to have sex with men, who enjoy hooking up, who want to explore sex? Are they somehow part of the imaginary “rape culture” at Colby. These missives don’t promote us to discuss, they shut us down. This is why we retreat to our dorm rooms and don’t interact with other groups we don’t know well. Why should an athlete make an attempt to get to know someone who thinks this way? It’s way too risky to have conversations about this because we are already labeled as rapists, misogynists and hypermasculine.

    • Cheyenne

      I would ask that you consider the possibility that this woman (and the thousands of women talking about their experiences of sexual violence both in colleges and our society at large) has a more accurate perception of what it’s like to be a woman at Colby College and in this world than you do. Your questions to her are (at best) condescending and reveal far more about your ignorance than hers.

      http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/11/497530709/one-tweet-unleashes-a-torrent-of-stories-of-sexual-assault

      • Scott Fusco

        You seem like a one women warrior going against anyone here who disagrees with your warped view. Trying to make Colby into some rape factory only enlightens anyone reading this to your zero credibility.

        • Cheyenne

          I am confused by your characterization of my comment(s) as “trying to make Colby into some rape factory”…please clarify, with an example. As for being a “one women warrior going against anyone here who disagrees with [my] warped view”, I feel like most/all of the comments I responded to were made by men. I questioned the ones that suggested her experience as a woman at Colby was wrong, considering the fact that she was a woman at Colby and they were not. Finally, I didn’t really interpret her article as saying Colby turned Billy Bush into anything. To me, I felt like she was saying Colby only perpetuated what he was/is – someone who complacently, if not explicitly, participates in rape culture. If Colby is “an environment for people to grow, learn and thrive”, Billy Bush is perhaps a canary in the coal mine – demonstrating that Colby is not only living up to its stated mission but creating a culture where misogyny is what actually thrives.

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  • East of Chamberlain Lake

    Excellent article and why many of us are voting against the two establishment candidates. One is a serial groper sexist and the other defends and enables a serial predator/rapist of women. Neither are fit to hold office.

    • Threesixtyfive

      Very well said! This article needs to circulate through every college and work place, frankly. I will say that my only disagreement in the article, however, is in thinking that Hillary is the obvious choice against hyper-masculinity. Don’t be fooled, she most certainly is not. I would strongly encourage people to have a closer look at Jill Stein http://www.jill2016.com