It's About the Journey
After our 2014 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, many men asked what they could do to support Blackburn Center once they took off their high heels. One way for the men of Westmoreland County to support our mission is join us in putting the Pledge to End Gender Violence into action through our "It's About the Journey" project. At our April 2015 Walk, local community leaders each read aloud a pledge point and made a personal committment to putting that point to action in their lives over the next year. Here are some ways for you to make that same promise , and to get involved in the fight to end gender violence.
1. I join Blackburn Center’s mission to end gender violence by pledging to approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages, socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The movement to end gender violence has traditionally been led by women. But this issue is one that affects everyone — and an issue that should concern everyone. At Blackburn Center, we have always welcomed men to the table; in fact, both women and men worked together back in the 1970s to launch the agency. Despite this history, we have not done enough to make a meaningful place for men, to include men’s voices in a consistent, visible way. Risk reduction strategies that focus on how women and girls can avoid abuse or sexual assault are not sufficient; we need to do more to get to the roots of gender-based violence. One way to do this is to engage men to help us challenge cultural norms and the institutions that reinforce harmful attitudes.
Although most men are not violent towards women, many men do not recognize either their responsibility or their ability to help fight domestic and sexual assault. We need to change this! The participation of men is absolutely essential if we hope to move from helping some people avoid or recover from violence to actually ending gender violence. Research shows that 88% of men think that our society should do more to respect women and girls, and that 57% of men believe that they personally can make at least some difference in preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. Our goal is to provide education and support to help men in Westmoreland County mobilize for change.
• Seek out opportunities to acknowledge my part in addressing gender violence, and encourage other men to do the same (e.g., raise this issue in social or family groups, or at work).
• Encourage other men to take action to end gender violence.
2. I join Blackburn Center’s mission to end gender violence by pledging to not look the other way if another man is abusing his partner or is disrespectful or abusive to women and girls in general. I will urge him to seek help. If I am not sure what to say, I will consult a friend, parent, professor or counselor. I WILL NOT REMAIN SILENT.
Think about what this might look like in your life. What are the opportunities you have with friends, family members, acquaintances, or co-workers to call out negative behaviors and attitudes towards women and support positive behaviors? How can you build on these things, and support the men around you in taking similar actions? Can you envision a time when it is no longer the norm to look the other way when a man is abusive towards his partner or makes degrading remarks about women or girls? We can become a community that no longer sits idly by, condoning gender violence through our silence – but is instead a community where individuals are empowered to actively help prevent violence.
•Call out negative behaviors and attitudes towards women and support positive behaviors, and support the men around you in taking similar actions.
•Actively envision a time when it is no longer the norm to look the other way when a man is abusive towards his partner or makes degrading remarks about women or girls … and then let that vision guide me in my actions.
•Speak up when I see another man abusing his partner.
3. I join Blackburn Center’s mission to end gender violence by pledging to have the courage to look inward. I will question my own attitudes and try hard to understand how my own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetrate sexism and violence and work hard toward changing them.
This pledge point focuses on self-reflection: on examining your own thoughts, ideas and prejudices to see how they might contribute to violence against women. One aspect of this involves reflecting on your attitudes towards sex and sexuality, particularly as it relates to women. Our society has what is known as a "rape culture” -- where sexual violence is considered the norm, and where people are taught not to be raped instead of not to rape. This culture is perpetuated by the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women's bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence -- all of which creates a society that disregards women's rights and safety. While most men are not rapists, all men are part of rape culture -- by doing things like using language that objectifies or degrades women, by supporting gender violence in popular culture (movies, television shows, video games, etc), or by subscribing to harmful gender stereotypes. We ask you to take a stand against rape culture by reading and sharing this excellent piece: "A Gentlemen's Guide to Rape Culture."
•Reflect on my attitudes towards sex and sexuality, particularly as it relates to women: am I part of the "rape culture” -- where sexual violence is considered the norm, and where people are taught not to be raped instead of not to rape?
•Stop using misogynistic language: “$itch,” “man up,” “she’s such a girl,” “you throw like a girl,” “slut.” And be mindful of the impact of male/female words that have different connotations: master versus mistress; stud versus whore.
•Stop using phrases like “she’s such a girl” or “man up.”
•Stop supporting gender violence in popular culture (movies, television, video games) or subscribing to harmful gender stereotypes (e.g., female managers are $itches; blonde women are stupid).
4. Gently ask if I can help if I think that a woman close to me is being abused or has been sexually assaulted.
For this pledge point, we ask that men take an active role in offering assistance to any woman in their life who may be a victim of domestic or sexual violence. Breaking the silence surrounding abuse lets victims know they’re not alone, and is a key strategy in the community to ultimately ending this violence.
Let her know you support her; that it’s not her fault; that you know she needs to make the decision about what to do next; that you’re available to listen and not to judge; that you can help her explore options for her immediate safety and other resources … when she’s ready.
•Take an active role in offering assistance to any woman in their life who may be a victim of domestic or sexual violence: Let her know I support her; that it’s not her fault; that I know she needs to make the decision about what to do next; that I’m available to listen and not to judge; that I can help her explore options for her immediate safety and other resources … when she’s ready.
5. Seek professional help NOW if I am or have ever been emotionally, psychologically, physically or sexually abusive to women.
If you have been abusive in any way in your marriage or intimate/dating relationship, take the necessary steps to end this behavior. People can change, but for the change to be successful, they must want and be deeply committed to change. The first steps in changing abusive behavior is are to recognize that abusive behavior is a choice you are making and that to seeking professional help, which may come in the form of individual therapy or counseling, is a key to a successful change. Truly overcoming abusive behavior can be an ongoing, lifelong process. It can include admitting fully to your actions, making amends, identifying patterns of behavior, and developing respectful and supportive behaviors. Importantly, it is never too late to seek help!
•If I have been abusive in any way in my marriage or intimate/dating relationship, I will take the necessary steps to end this behavior … and be deeply committed to the changes I’ll need to make.
•Admit fully to my responsibility for my actions, make amends, identify patterns of behavior, and develop respectful and supportive behaviors.
6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence.
At Blackburn Center, we actively encourage men to join our fight to end gender violence. What does that mean and what would it involve?
• What is gender violence?
Gender violence targets a specific group of people with the victim's gender as a primary motive. The most pervasive form of gender violence is abuse of a woman by intimate male partners, but is not limited solely to abuse of women by men. The power imbalance between men and women creates a culture in which whoever has power has permission to victimize someone less powerful. This most often is violence perpetrated by men against women, but is not exclusively so.
• What does it mean to be an ally?
An ally is a person or group that is associated with another or others for a common cause or purpose: in this case, it means men joining women in the movement to end gender violence. While the issue of gender violence has historically been tagged as a women's issue, it's one that impacts all of us - and one about which we should all be concerned.
• What can male activists do to be an ally to women in this fight?
One of the most basic ways to do this is to educate yourself about the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Once educated, men can then contribute to the movement against gender violence by contributing their time, thoughts, and money to an organization. But contributing isn't limited to working for or with an organization; supporting victims and survivors is also a critical component. You can also lead by example by never excusing or remaining silent about violence, and by communicating with other men and boys about gender violence. Men can become allies by not only talking to women about these issues - but also by listening to them. Understand their experience of living with the threat of violence on a daily basis, and ask how you can support them best. In all communications, choose your words thoughtfully, with an understanding of the impact of your language. And finally, explore opportunities to equalize the power balance between men and women (e.g., support women who are seeking leadership opportunities in your place of business or community).
•Educate myself about the issues of domestic and sexual violence.
•Once educated, support the movement to end gender violence by contributing my time, thoughts, and money to an organization dedicated to this cause.
•Support victims and survivors.
•Lead by example by never excusing or remaining silent about violence, and by communicating with other men and boys about gender violence.
•Become an ally by not only talking to women about these issues - but also by listening to them. Understand their experience of living with the threat of violence on a daily basis, and ask how I can support them best.
•In all communications, choose my words thoughtfully, with an understanding of the impact of my language. Understand the impact of the words I use.
•Explore opportunities to equalize the power balance between men and women (e.g., support women who are seeking leadership opportunities in my place of business or community).
7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse has direct links to sexism.
Often, men who speak out against sexism have their sexual orientation questioned, as an attempt to silence or intimidate them. Underlying these sorts of attacks is a deep misogyny, where all things "feminine" are considered unacceptable. In this way, homophobia and sexism are interconnected -- because for a man to act in a way that is associated with women is considered wrong or unnatural. Many forms of homophobia are tied directly to a person's gender expression, with the negative connotation being that there is something shameful about a man being feminine, or something wrong with a woman being masculine.
Homophobia is pervasive in our society, much like sexism and misogyny. Prejudice against another person based on their sexual orientation is just as unacceptable as discrimination against another person based on their gender. We ask you to not only make a conscious effort to ensure that you do not engage in homophobia, but to speak out against others' homophobia as well.
•Educate myself about homophobia. Many forms of homophobia are tied directly to a person's gender expression, with the negative connotation being that there is something shameful about a man being feminine, or something wrong with a woman being masculine.
•Call out homophobic behaviors and attitudes, support positive behaviors, and support the men around me in taking similar actions.
8. Educate myself and others about gender inequality, the root causes of gender violence and how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
Gender violence does not happen in a vacuum; domestic and sexual violence have their roots in larger societal issues of inequality and misogyny. To truly end gender violence, we have to address those problems -- which means that we first have to learn more about them. In our culture, women and girls are often objectified and degraded in pop culture and media -- creating a dynamic in which violence against women is normalized. Learning more about these forces can help you to become a conscious consumer of media -- which will help you to educate others about the negative impact of the media on perceptions of women in our society. Rape culture -- as described in our Blackburn 101 series -- is another reality that drives gender violence, by blaming victims and excusing the behavior of rapists. This sort of victim-blaming mentality extends to domestic violence as well -- when we do things like question why a victim stayed with her abuser, instead of asking why the abuser abuses. Misogyny is also a huge part of our society that drives gender violence -- with women who speak up on any issue related to sexism or feminism often facing rape and death threats, just for expressing an opinion. All of these larger social forces -- media, rape culture, victim-blaming, misogyny -- form the root causes of gender violence in our society. It is only by understanding these issues that we can end domestic and sexual violence. Learn more each month by following our Blackburn 101 series on our blog!
•Develop an understanding of the root causes of gender violence, including gender inequality and the impact of popular culture.
•Recognize the impact of the larger social forces – media, rape culture, victim-blaming, misogyny – in perpetuating gender violence in our society.
•Become literate about media – educate myself others about the negative impact of the media on perceptions of women in our society.
9. I join Blackburn Center's mission to end gender violence by pledging to protest sexism in the media. I will refuse to purchase magazines, films or music that portray women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner.
We know that media can hurt -- that because we live in a society where degrading and sexualized images of women are presented to us daily, we accept gender violence as normal. From magazines to video games to television shows and even books, our minds are saturated with sexualized violence. With media like this, is it really that surprising that we have been unable to significantly reduce incidents of domestic and sexual violence? At Blackburn Center, we believe that ending gender violence means addressing its root causes -- one of which is the normalization of violence against women in our pop culture. We can stop this trend by becoming conscious consumers of media. You can do this in any number of ways: from refusing to buy products that use degrading images of women in their advertisements, to changing the channel when an offensive show comes on TV, to refusing to read books like "50 Shades of Grey" or buy tickets to movies that glorify abuse and violence against women, to not playing video games where women are sexualized, raped, beaten or otherwise abused. Real change can happen when consumers band together to stop buying and viewing media that exploits women. But you don't have to stop there -- you can become media literate by questioning why you are being shown certain images, and pushing back against these messages (like a woman in a skimpy bikini being used to sell a men's suit, or the suggestion of a gang rape being used to sell women's shoes, for example) by creating media of your own. In the age of the internet and social media, we have a fantastic opportunity to send an entirely different message!
•Become a conscious consumer of media. For example, I will refuse to buy products that use degrading images of women in their advertisements, change the channel when an offensive show comes on TV, refuse to read books like “50 Shades of Grey” or buy tickets to movies that glorify abuse and violence against women, avoid video games where women are sexualized, raped, beaten or otherwise abused.
•Take it to the next level by questioning why I am being shown certain images (for example, a woman in a skimpy bikini being used to sell a men's suit, or the suggestion of a gang rape being used to sell women’s shoes), and pushing back against these messages by creating media of my own.
10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don't involve degrading or abusing girls and women. I will lead by example.
One of the most powerful ways that men can fight back against gender violence is by showing others through their words and deeds that they are committed to this mission. For fathers and grandfathers, there are many opportunities to speak directly with your sons and grandsons about this issue -- to directly tell them that violence against women is never acceptable, in any form. Teach your sons about healthy and appropriate ways to express their anger and frustration. Be explicit and unambiguous about what consent means -- and that the absence of a no does not mean yes. Above all, teach your sons to respect others -- that their thoughts, feelings and bodily integrity are just as important as their own. But you don't have to be a parent to mentor youth -- teachers, neighbors, friends, uncles and cousins can also lead by example. Show the young boys in your life, by refusing to laugh at offensive jokes or participate in sexist conversations, that you do not tolerate abuse or degradation of women. Model the behavior that you want them to emulate, and explain to them why it is so important that they show respect for girls and women. It can be something as simple as changing the channel when a commercial featuring a scantily-clad woman comes on, and saying that you don't think that they need to do that to sell a car or beer. It could be a deeper conversation about items in the news, from domestic violence in the NFL to campus sexual assault. Above all, make your commitment to ending gender violence a priority -- and show others in your life how and why it is so important to you. With your help, we can end gender violence in our society.
•Seek out opportunities to interact with boys and young men, to share my experiences.