The #MeToo movement goes to summer camp

By Deborah Meyer and Jeremy Fingerman
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 10, 2018

The #MeToo movement has empowered women to speak up against harassment and abuse. It is heartening to see many men standing as allies and organizations beginning to hold themselves accountable for establishing policies, procedures and transparency and for changing the workplace culture.

For those of us working in youth-serving spaces, it is difficult to think that even one of the people charged with keeping kids safe is capable of doing harm, but we cannot change what we do not acknowledge.

The firing of once-beloved camp leaders facing credible accusations is painful. Removing offenders feels dramatic but it is a critical next step forward in building a healthy culture around gender, sex and power at Jewish summer camp.

Summer camp is where many of us form our deepest and longest-lasting relationships. It is often rightly held up as a healthy oasis, an alternative to the social pressures of popular culture, including a much-needed break from life driven by screens.

And yet, we bring all of our cultural norms and expectations with us to camp. Normative discriminatory or biased attitudes toward gender, sex and power can lead to inappropriate behavior mirroring the outside world, from all levels – administration, counselors and campers.

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