MasculinityU was created because, as men, Marc and I have routinely heard that in order for gender-based violence to end, men need to be part of the movement. Having taken numerous Women & Gender Studies courses, attended several Take Back the Night events, and even having listened to women’s thoughts and experiences, the message was and still is clear to us: Men need to be involved.
When I first got into this line of work as an undergraduate freshman at Syracuse University, I found myself asking why I needed to attend meetings for a campus men’s group called A Men’s Issue. Yes, my friends were attending and I had not much else to do, but why did I need to keep going back? Why did I need to listen to other men talk about masculinity when I really didn’t think it made any difference? Why did I need to nervously contemplate my response to the questions on masculinity when it was my turn to speak at our dialogue meetings? The answer is now constantly at the forefront of my mind.
Without men’s involvement, it is very unlikely that we will ever see a close resemblance to gender equality. I say this not with intent to perpetuate patriarchy nor to inflate egos of men as a whole, but rather, to show its importance. To some of us – even the most well-intentioned men – it may not seem like sexual assault, rape, and violence against women are much of our concern.
In reality, women have been working on changing this system with little help from men for far too long. It has gone unnoticed by many of us because we, as men, have been socialized in countless ways to not think about violence against women.
MasculinityU does not exist to point fingers at anyone for not contributing to the anti-violence movement. Instead, it is about all of us – regardless of identity – coming together as one to stand up against violence. The fact is that most men are not okay with violence against women. So then why haven’t we done anything?
Some of us are scared, intimidated, uncomfortable, or just unsure of what to do. To bridge this gap, MasculinityU aims to work in breaking down some of these barriers that men might face so that we can join women in ending violence. MasculinityU is about learning from each other, by sharing our experiences and joining together across differences.
Though our goals aim to reach male involvement, we do not intend to silence the voices of women, members of the LGBTQI communities, gender non-conforming individuals, or people any other identity. We will certainly be seeking out their thoughts and experiences as well. Our focus is for us, as men, to learn how to be good allies, to join women without “taking over”, and how to not be oppressive, among other goals.
Without these elements, we are not allowing men and boys to live “whole” lives. Through adhering to imposed gender roles, we are just living partial, one-track, socialization-inspired lives. Men are not only limiting women, but we are also limiting ourselves.
Since we have forced women to fight this battle alone, our society has conveniently developed a long list of ways to blame women when they are raped or beaten to keep men holding any stake in violence prevention. “She didn’t cover her drink”. “Her skirt was too short”. “She was walking alone”. When women are struck with constant paranoia to be mindful of such trivial actions, how can they live their lives?
Further, many women conduct these “risk-reduction” tactics on a daily basis . Have these behaviors, commonly thought of as violence “prevention”, eliminated the likelihood of rape or sexual assault toward these women? Not nearly as much as society would like to believe. Women can walk in well-lit areas, cover their drinks, or take other measures to reduce unwanted attention, but this vigilance will not end the problem. They are not choosing to assault themselves.
For this reason, men need to be involved. We can only control ourselves and not others. What that means is that men must be proactive in ending rape. We need to rethink what consent really means. We need to be respectful at all times. We need to hold our friends accountable.
Step one is to talk! Let’s start a national dialogue on masculinity through our blog and find out how. Let’s hear from everyone!
MasculinityU: The new movement to engage men and boys in anti-violence work.
Though this article specifically refers to sexual assault committed by men against women, we at MasculinityU do not mean to imply that this is always the case. We do not wish to exclude male survivors of sexual violence, attempt to excuse the actions of female perpetrators, nor conform to a finite, binary system in terms of gender. We hope to address this issue with the attention it deserves in posts to come.