Joining the Anti-violence Movement? Not So Fast, Bro. –What to Avoid (Tip #1)

Men, here is one of several elements to avoid as we begin to join the gender equality movement:

TIP# 1 [Continuing to] Take up too Much “Space”

Historically, men take up too much space in the public realm.  Yes. this can certainly mean physical space, but it especially applies to “whose voice is being heard?” Or “Who matters?”.  Picture the following scenario: A well intentioned man joins a Women & Gender Studies course. Time after time, he is constantly speaking. He doesn’t even have to embody the characteristics of a stereotypically defensive and questioning man in a WGS course. The content to his comments could be exactly “on point”. None-the-less, nine times out of ten, he is speaking.  Sounds pretty good huh? He’s a man willingly taking a Women & Gender Studies course who is also actively participating. How could this possibly be a bad thing?
Well, if he is constantly speaking, that means there is a huge population of people who aren;t talking. Thus they are being silenced. That group of people are women and yes, once again, even in a WGS course, they are being silenced by a man. Further, this also perpetuates the control men have on everything from everyday conversations to important laws being passed.  I argue that this type of silencing (seemingly unintentional and benevolent) may actually be worse that overt misogyny.  Why? Because this action is subject to going undetected and men go not being held accountable for these actions.
Now picture this scenario: Its the early 1900’s and a Heterosexual couple is starting their morning. The man is putting on his suit while his wife is on the verge of having breakfast done for him. He reads the paper and shouts out  a couple headlines and asks,”can you believe that?”….without waiting for any response from his partner and he gets up as he completes the meal promoting the women to get up and kiss him while wishing him a great day. He drives the one car that the family owns to work, where he meets several other men. They all discuss current news, work, trade jokes, talk about women, and make important discussions that impact their entire community.  He returns home to a prepared meal, and is asked how his day was. After sharing what he did, they go to bed and do it all over again. How many times did this women talk or interact with anyone in her day? (maybe 2 lines?) — This is one place it began. Men have been taught to control everything and experience everything by being in the public sphere.  This gives them so much more to talk about naturally and if we juxtapose this with his socialization, its no wonder men easily take over in public spheres currently.
So men who are getting involved in the gender equality movement: You have to work extra hard to be sure you are not perpetuating this problematic and ultimately patronizing behavior.
If men continue to talk over women, constantly (solely) share their opinions in this space, and make decisions that are based off their thoughts, we may actually do more damage than good in the gender equality movement.
Warning: This does not mean that we as good allies should be silent in the field either. A healthily balance of sharing our opinions when necessary while being sure to actually listen to women’s’ thoughts is ideal.
–Stayed tuned for more “tips” for men entering violence prevention work, coming up right here at MasculinityU. —
Sacchi Patel, M.S.    Co-Founder MasculinityU.   September 2011.

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