What Men Can Do

Day Four.

One of the questions I'm most frequently asked by feminist (or pro-feminist) men is what they can do, aside from just not being violent toward women themselves, to help stop violence against women—so this post is for you.

And it's for me, and every other woman, because we need you. See, the thing about men who are violent toward women is that they don't respect women, or what they have to say, or even their basic rights—and when you consider that the responsibility for preventing violence against women has traditionally been left to women, you start to see the problem. We need other men to communicate to them loudly and clearly and constantly that violence against women is totally unacceptable. We need male allies, just like the LGBTQ community needs straight allies, just like people of color need white allies.

Back in July, Kevin (via Donna Darko) posted a list of 10 Things Men Can Do To End Men's Violence Against Women, from the site A Call To Men—and this list is a really good place to start.

1. Acknowledge and understand how sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women.

2. Examine and challenge our individual sexism and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive.

3. Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to end violence against women.

4. Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against men's violence, we are supporting it.

5. Educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in ending men's violence against women.

6."Break out of the man box"—Challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand to end violence against women.

7. Accept and own our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence against women.

8. Stop supporting the notion that men's violence against women can end by providing treatment for individual men. Mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, etc… are only excuses for men's behavior. Violence against women is rooted in the historic oppression of women and the outgrowth of the socialization of men.

9. Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to develop systems to educate and hold men accountable.

10. Create systems of accountability to women in your community. Violence against women will end only when we take direction from those who understand it most—women.

(I will warn you that becoming an ally in this way may prompt misogynists to accuse you of peeing sitting down—but I promise you'll get used to it.)

The list really does make some great suggestions, most of which boil down to simply becoming a man who actively thinks about this stuff, even though it sometimes feels like there's nothing you can do. Trust me when I say the world is (sadly) filled with people who will give you opportunities to speak up, the chance to make a difference.

It's not easy to be a feminist ally, but, then again, it's not supposed to be—and it just isn't. Stephen McArthur:

Every 15 seconds in America, a man beats his wife or girlfriend. Every 45 seconds, a man rapes a woman or girl, most often one he knows -- a wife, a girlfriend, a co-worker, or a family member.

…Women have led the way in America working to bring the issue of violence against women to the attention of our media, our community organizations, our governments, our schools, and our religious institutions. The time has come for men to stop being bystanders.

Most men in this country are not violent, most do not beat their wives and girlfriends. Despite that fact, domestic violence is really a gender issue. Men commit 90 to 95 percent of domestic violence acts. I think most men instinctively know this is true, but most men find it really hard to talk about it, think about it, or much less do anything about it. Some men believe that because he is not violent or it's not happening in his family, he needn't do anything. Some men believe it is a "woman's" issue, so he can really ignore it. Some men can't imagine talking about this issue with other men, some of whom he might suspect are abusing women in their lives.

Let's face it. This is an embarrasing issue for men. It's much easier for us to simply let women try to take care of this problem. It's really hard for most men to admit that this is our problem. Violence against women is men's violence. Can we find a way to help men own this problem and work together to solve it? How can we end the pervasive silence? How can we help our communities get past the attitude that this happens someplace else, certainly not where we live?

Given the prevalence of male violence against women, why has this not been a very public men's issue. Isn't it really in men's self-interest to address gender violence? Don't most of us really care about the women and girls in our lives?

Most men have a woman or girl in his life who has been a victim of male violence, a mother who was beaten, a co-worker who was abused, a sister or daughter who was raped or killed, a friend whose daughter was attacked, a friend whose wife was battered in a previous marriage. How would things change if our male governmental leaders, our male religious leaders, our male media leaders, our male teachers, our male business leaders, all of us began to speak out, identify male violence around them, and begin working to end it?
As I've said before, the very thought of it gives me shivers. How wouldn't things change?! From the shame associated with being a victim of sexual or domestic abuse to how such victims are treated by the police and the legal system, everything would be different. We wouldn’t be talking about the ubiquitous straw-woman who invented an assault in a petty act of revenge, but the very real women, millions upon millions of them, who have been attacked—and we’d be talking about their attackers. Suddenly, the onus to avoid abuse would not be exclusively placed on women, creating a belief that violence against women preventable by its victims. Wow.

Men's involvement will and does make a difference, and there's a lot that men can do to help stop violence against women—even and especially the men who would never commit violence against women in the first place.

To wrap up, I'll quickly just make two other suggestions to men who want to help end violence against women:

1. If you're a blogger, blog about the 16 Days of Action. Blog the list of 10 Things Men Can Do To End Men's Violence Against Women. Link to the women who are blogging about it.

2. Donate. Donate to organizations that support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to organizations that advocate against abuse. Donate to the female bloggers who write about it. It doesn't have to be money you donate; you can donate your time and talent, too.


NOTE: This thread is for feminists and feminist allies. If your comment is about how not being violent is enough and you resent the implication that silence and inaction = tacit support of violence against women, don't bother. That is not the position of this blog. If your comment is that anything recognizing violence against women specifically is sexist, don't bother. That is not the position of this blog. This thread is to discuss positive action men can take to stop violence against women. Period.

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