Where are the men?

menarerapists

One of my tasks at WSCADV is to compile all the feedback we get at our annual conference. I actually look forward to it—I love reading both the praise and the critical feedback. I love that people care enough to let us know what they really think, even when it’s not always positive. After our last conference, one comment made my briskly typing fingers pause: “Where are all the men?” She went on to list her concerns that she believed she’d gotten involved in a movement that hated and devalued men (I’m paraphrasing here), which was not what she’d signed up for.

My knee-jerk reaction was dismissal. How ridiculous! Everyone working in this movement knows and loves men somewhere in their lives—it felt like she was trotting out that tired old saw about man-hating feminists again. But then I paused and thought about it: it’s actually a really great question. Where are the men? Our conference attendees reflect people working in domestic violence programs across the state. While there are men working in these organizations, advocates are overwhelmingly women. But if we have any hope of real, lasting change and eradicating domestic violence, men have to be involved—deeply. It just isn’t possible any other way.

To that end, I want to highlight just a few men and male-led initiatives that I’m aware of. This has been a pretty rough time with all the violence in the news, and I think we need to hear stories of men—and everyone—who are doing good work in their communities.

  • Tony Porter and A Call To Men: I first heard of Tony Porter through his engaging, powerful appearance on TED Talks. I love the way he challenges us to envision new ways of “acting like a man.”
  • Men Stopping Violence: Part of their mission is to “dismantle belief systems, social structures and institutional practices that oppress women and children and dehumanize men themselves.” In other words, they are focused on getting to the root of the problem.
  • Men Against Rape and Sexism: There isn’t one core national organization, but versions of this exist on many campuses across the U.S. The group at the University of Minnesota was my first exposure to men who were actively working towards ending violence against women.

Please feel free to list others in the comments, and to share your thoughts on how men can be allies to the movement to end violence.

Let’s NOT talk about Michelle’s dress

First all-woman delegation

In the wake of Election Day, women emerge victorious! History was made in the U. S. Senate when women secured more seats than ever before. In New Hampshire, they added two female Representatives and a Governor to their two women Senators for the first all-woman delegation. Let’s hear it for strong, smart women leaders! What an incredibly inspiring thing—especially for our young women and men—to experience. Progress!

*(insert record scratch)*

And then I see the “news” about Michelle Obama. Apparently, she committed a fashion faux pas on election night and wore a repeat dress. Even Sasha and Malia were not immune from fashion commentary. The point is—I saw nothing in the news about the First Lady’s prospective work for the next four years. Nothing about how she might continue her ground breaking work on the health of our youth, or how she could expand her work on food justice for the poor (OK, maybe that’s just my wishful thinking…) Anyway, there was nothing of substance discussed. But women have secured more seats in the Senate than ever before, you say. This is progress. What’s the harm in a little fashion commentary?

By focusing on what important, smart, powerful women are wearing and how they look, we are sending the message to young girls: this is what you should spend your time, energy, and money on. Don’t listen, girls and boys!

It’s time to move forward, and what better inspiration than last week’s election results. We have work to do and ground to gain, but we are headed in the right direction. Women’s voices will be better represented and that creates both policies and a culture where women are more respected, have more good choices available, and are ultimately safer.

Rush – you’re really making my job as a mom hard!

Photo by Gage Skidmore

It’s 6:45 am and the morning hilarity is on. My back is to my teenage daughters as I scramble eggs, yell out reminders about packing up homework, and try to listen to the morning news on NPR. Wait a minute, what are they talking about? Who is a prostitute, who is a slut? My girls are both talking at once, reacting to a snippet of the morning news roundup. They want to know why Rush Limbaugh is apologizing for calling a college student names and wanting to watch her have sex. They’re confused. Isn’t contraception a good thing? Isn’t it smart to prevent a pregnancy that you’re not ready for?

Thanks Rush, really. I spend lots of time with my daughters trying to untangle the double messages they receive. Like, what is considered beautiful and sexy; when is having sex appropriate; who controls their body; and what is a healthy and respectful relationship. And now this.

If Sandra Fluke, a smart, thoughtful, law student advocating for women’s access to contraception is publically called hateful names historically used to silence women’s voices, what does it mean for my girls? What will they think about the next time they want to speak up for themselves? What will they think about the role of women in the public discourse? I don’t want them to believe or even think for a minute that because they are female their opinions, experiences, and actions are in any way diminished.

Come on, can’t we have a discussion about access to health care and contraception without vilifying women and girls’ choices? After all, last I heard, the use of Viagra was a legitimate medical option for people without ovaries.

What next? Part 4

Earlier this year, our executive director, Nan Stoops, was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Her assignment: outline a five-point plan for ending violence against women and girls.

Here is the next installment of her speech. (Or jump to: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Point #3: Be a good partner

We know that violence against women is everywhere. It’s in every section of the newspaper, in every profession, in every community. So, whether we pick a group, topic, or activity, there is collaborative work to be done. Until we say that we are a single issue movement, we aren’t. And just as survivors bring us the complexity of their lives, so too must we be living the complexity of ours.

I have found wonderful collaborations and opportunities in the two things I love the most: sports and money. There isn’t time for me to rattle on about this, but I work with various sports organizations on coaching and mentoring leadership, respect, strength, and community-building, and I’m hoping to begin a philanthropy project at a girls’ school in Seattle. Some of my best work happens without ever mentioning domestic violence or sexual assault.

And so I encourage you to collaborate toward your passion. Sing, dance, pray, march, read, write, and play. Work hard, find joy, and be a good partner.