I have been working alongside feminist anti-violence organizations for many years. Most of these groups have no men on their staff, no men on their boards of directors, and do not have a way for men to become equally involved in their volunteer opportunities. Some outsiders call these practices “discrimination.” But I call them justified. And I call them smart.
There are many good reasons for limiting the role of men in these organizations, reasons that are both practical and philosophical.
What is she doing with that guy? I thought she was too smart to date a jerk like him!”I overheard someone say that the other day. When it comes to dealing with abusive relationships, I prefer to focus on the ways to contain the abuser and get him to eliminate his bad behaviours, but sometimes it is important to take time to address the questions that we hear about victims of abuse. And this is one that I hear a lot: Why do so many smart women make such bad choices when it comes to relationships?
The other day I was involved in a conversation about what men can do to stop rape. One of the participants was a young university student who is articulate, energetic, funny, and charismatic. He is also gay, and he doesn’t care who knows it. And that’s a real strength when it comes to doing men’s anti-violence work. Because when we men do this work, other people – mostly men – often either make the assumption that we are gay, or they try to level “gay” at us as an accusation.
(Thanks to my colleague Ian Ohsberg for bringing up this incident as a matter worthy of writing about here.)
Sometimes, when I talk or write about violence against women, I get accused of not caring about the violence that occurs against men. I get accused of being unfair. So, while this blog is generally about violence against women and children, let me take a moment to address the issue of violence against men, and to say unequivocally that violence against men is wrong.
I would also like to take the opportunity to post “Bill’s Bill of Rights for Men’s Sexual Safety.”
On Friday evening the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre in my community will be holding its annual “Take Back the Night” march designed to bring attention to the issue of violence against women, and to loudly make the statement that women should be able to walk safely – anywhere and anytime!
But I will not be walking with them. Men are not invited to march. And some men (and some women) have a problem with this. But I don’t.
Imagine for a minute a society that has no sexual assault at all – a society that is totally rape free. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if on this strife-torn planet such a place could actually exist? Think about it: a place where women and children (and men) could live their entire lives not having to fear that someone might invade their bodies (and their spirits) through sexual aggression. Where a date would never turn into the thrust and parry of aggressive sexual advance and attempted refusal.
Missing men? I was recently reading my new issue of Canadian Parent magazine. (The magazine was a very fitting gift from an extremely kind relative – fitting since I am both a new Canadian and a new parent of a little girl.) But while the magazine – which is generally pretty good – is called Canadian Parent, the reality is that it is basically aimed at Canadian mothers. To be fair, the summer issue did have three brief pieces that mentioned trying to involve men.
“We are going. But we are leaving our seed behind.” (On the multiple functions of men's rape of women during wartime.)
(Warning: this post discusses sexual violence in graphic detail.)
“We are going. But we are leaving our seed behind.”— a West Pakistani soldier, leaving Bangladesh, 1971.