Saturday, July 2, 2011

Men As Advocates

Often issues of sexual violence are termed 'gender-based violence' or 'women's issues' which shut men out of the conversation. Men can be perpetrators as well as victims of sexual or physical violence. They can play an integral role in advocating for an end to various forms of violence, however, programs often omit the role of men.

As Peace Corps is in the process of rolling out it's new training for staff and Volunteers, which is supposed to include a bystander intervention component, First Response Action thought this was a great time to start the conversation about men's roles in preventing and responding to sexual violence.

The following posting comes from Stuart Moskowitz, a volunteer with the organization Males Advocating Change located in Massachusetts. Stuart is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Ecuador in the 60s. If you are interested in other men's groups advocating for an end to violence and engaging men in the conversation, visit Voice Male Magazine.

Males Advocating Change is an organization committed to promoting healthy non-violent masculinity. We are a committed group of men and women who living and working in the Central Massachusetts community providing leadership and support to end men’s violence against women, children and other men. We are dedicated to enriching and supporting men and boys in the Central Massachusetts community to build healthy relationships, lifestyles and connections with their families and communities. We want to promote greater acceptance of the diversity of men, to support males to attend to their emotional experiences and physical needs. We also want to ally ourselves with other women’s and men’s organizations who are working towards ending gender violence, sexism and racism.

Why is a Males Advocating Change organization necessary?

Men and boys need connection, support and a community of men to:

  • Address violence against women, children and other men.
  • Promote wellness activities to address boys and men’s physical, emotional and mental health needs
  • Reduce the cycle of behavioral and drug addiction that afflict so many men
  • Advance a more positive view of masculinity that is engaging and inclusive for all men.
  • Raise awareness to promote a just society and allying with women and women’s organizations to end sexism, racism and homophobia.
  • Promote and support responsible fatherhood

Addressing just the first goal of violence prevention against women:

Males Advocating Change focuses on how we stereotypically define masculinity in our culture, and examine the possibilities of a broader, more inclusive definition. Not all men are violent or sexist, but whether we are examining murder-suicides, domestic violence, date rape, road rage, school shootings, or other acts of violence, the overwhelming majority of these acts are committed by men. Discussion of several societal influences and examples of both positive and negative media representations of men will open your eyes to the connections between gender roles and violence. Our challenges are how to get men in particular to become more aware and active in promoting healthy models of masculinity, and how to recruit men to promote respect and equality while joining with women to eradicate all forms of violence. We must STOP focusing primarily on the victims of violence to recognize that violence prevention is NOT to be studied only in the Women’s Studies or Gender Studies Departments. We will explore what each of us can do to make a difference in giving boys a range of affirming messages about becoming men, on campus and beyond.

In that vein, we have been airing for the past 9 years the Tough Guise documentary created by Jackson Katz, PhD to our local college community and to other community and religious organizations.

Tough Guise is a 1999 documentary co-created by Dr. Jackson Katz, male sex educator activist. He is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in the field of gender violence prevention education. In this documentary, he illustrates the connection between media imaging in the popular culture and how it strongly influences the construction of the male identity. He suggests that men and boys develop a tough guise or mask to project a sense of strength and virility. When men or boys do not conform to this tough guise they are ostracized by their male peers to be weak, a baby or fag.

Jackson Katz suggests that popular media is crucial in reinforcing the idea that violent masculinity has become a cultural norm. In the documentary, he discusses the fact that men are responsible for 90 % of the violence in the society. He gives example how the media sanitizes the message by using generic terms such as kids killing kids not that boys are killing girls and boys as in the school shootings such as at Columbine High School. He states further that the image of what is masculine to become more physical and aggressive with the media showing men being more muscular and violent with bigger and bigger weapons ala Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator and Sylvester Stallone as Rambo. He shows how toy models of Superman, GI Joe and Batman have grown in size over the last thirty years making men look more unrealistic in their body size. He also demonstrates how in the popular culture we have celebrated violence in such sports as football and wrestling.

In the conclusion of the documentary, he depicts some positive changes in the media portrayal of masculinity where men are shown to be more sensitive and nurturing as in such movies as Good Will Hunting and Boyz in the Hood. He makes some recommendations as possible solutions to the this dilemma of this portrayal of men as violent and dominant in their relationships such as men being more vulnerable as a healthier image instead an image of weakness He also encourages women can play a part by rejecting the role of the tough guise that some men might portray.

Men need to speak out and stop being Bystanders to the violence and emotional abuse of women. Hopefully healthy men can be role models to a new generation of boys and girls.

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