It’s training day with Men Can Stop Rape at the United Methodist building in D.C.!
Helping those who help others discover a new way to talk about masculinity and gender. Engaging men so that we can change the way we define masculinity.
Can’t wait to challenge the dominant story surrounding masculinity with a diverse group!
Feminism isn’t only about giving women access (or acknowledging the prescence and work of women) in male-dominated fields. It is also about elevating the status of what is traditionally considered as “female” or “girly” and opening up rigid gender roles. If behaviours and activites that we often identify as female are no longer seen as negative and inferior, they lose their power as insults and will not be considered undesirable qualities in a man.
Patriarchy hurts everyone. Yes it is a system wherein men are in control, and yet just as it subjugates women and keeps them from reaching their full potential, it hurts men psychologically (what some might call spiritual).
At MCSR we work to help men understand that just because society tells them they can’t be emotional, or have different interests, or dress like a woman, or be vulnerable, doesn’t mean they have to follow suit. Men can decide for themselves what is and isn’t masculine, and here at MCSR we try to help all men recognize healthy actions so that they can decide to use their strength and masculinity in a healthy way.
Lets break out of the gender roles we as a society have deemed acceptable. Human beings are human beings, and we all have different interests and love. Accepting that we’re all different and all deserve respect is a step in the right direction. It’s a step in dismantling the harm the Patriarchy has caused, and a step in establishing a society in which all people are respected for what their individual strength, based on what they deem valuable, not what is presented as valuable by social constructs.
By: Daniel Valentin-Morales
Recently Always (the brand of feminine hygiene products) put out an ad campaign entitled #LikeAGirl. It’s all about how we associate feminine with weakness and lesser. I watched it, and to be honest, while I know it’s an ad and they’re trying to make money, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We need to seriously consider ways to change how our society constantly degrades women by associating the phrase “like a girl” with weakness and incompetence. We’ve created a gender stereotype that assumes women are somehow miraculously incompetent at anything but child rearing, consumerism, and housewifery; that the only way to be truly feminine is to be passive, weak, and pliable.
Second wave feminists like Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique gave us quite a different story about femininity and the way our western culture approaches it. Effectively, writers like Friedan were providing us with a counter story, to the very powerful and very vocal dominant story being recycled by the psychiatric, economic, and social theorists of the early 20th century.
Your question at this point, if you follow the work that MCSR does, is probably: “ok how is this going to be about men” well you all know too well what we’re about here at Men Can Stop Rape, so of course I’m going to include men. However! That doesn’t mean I want to take away from what this ad is promoting, and the importance that its message holds in changing the way society views women in general. By not immediately relating it to men, I hope to give the important message room to breathe.
So. If you still haven’t seen the video (even after the link I gave you at the start of this post) please take just a minute or two and click here. (Trust me, it’s worth it.)
The whole reason behind the ad campaign is to change the ridiculous notion that women are weaker, less skilled, and less effective at physical activities than men. It questions the social construct that we like to call gender, and the associations with passivity and weakness that we have attached to the “feminine”. It provides a counter story to the culturally dominant story of “feminine” passivity and conformity.
Which is why, “Why can’t ‘run like a girl’ also mean winning the race?” is such an important question when thinking about reconstructing how we approach current gender-norms, by providing counter stories. Why can’t “run like a girl” also mean winning the race? Why is it that society has deemed it acceptable to put down over half of the worlds population to encourage success in men?
I think at this junction I’ll switch gears and instead ask, “Why can’t, ‘be a man’ also mean, ‘to be emotional’ or ‘to be loving’?”
Why shouldn’t it? Our society continues to tell young men that to be a “real man” they have to show no emotion, to show dominance over people and/or subjects, and to use violence if they can’t get their way. Current society still encourages young men to push forward using women and our association of the feminine with weakness as a stepping-stone towards greatness. We’re teaching our young men that it’s ok to step on the accomplishments of women so that we as men can move forward. A dominant and violent nature obviously rises from promoting this dominant story.
Men Can Stop Rape works to change that. We strive to ask the question, “Why can’t men use their strength to stop violence?” We want to shed light on the counter story that focuses more on using strength to spread love, acceptance, kindness, and non-violence, rather than simply focus on how the dominant story is tearing our society apart. We’re here to fix things from the ground up, by helping all men question why they associate violent attitudes with general masculinity and how they can begin to associate masculinity with healthier personal options.
This type of video is just as important for men as it is for women. We need to question why we associate certain characteristics with masculinity and others with femininity. If we want a society where both men and women are equal, and have the same opportunity to pursue their dreams without obstructing the way of others, we need to break down the current social constructs and rebuild them with healthier options for both sexes.
Daniel an Intern at Men Can Stop Rape, is a fourth year at McDaniel College, he is dedicated to changing how men see themselves and the world around them; to make the world a safer place for all people, especially women.
I’m curious how that would go over. That particular type of guy only seems to know the phrase “PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!” when they’re trying to defend something atrocious that has happened TO a woman and not when a guy DOES something shitty.
By Kiki Martire
On Tuesday members of our staff including the MCSR intern mob comprised of Leah, Emma, Aaron, Daniel, and I attended the You Are Not Alone 2014 District of Columbia College and University Conference sponsored by the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services and yours truly, Men Can Stop Rape. The morning started off slow with some welcoming remarks, muffins galore, and a diverse panel to get the ball rolling. But what really caught my attention on the program was the presentation entitled, “Being Victim Centered: What Everyone on Campus Needs to Know,” by Michelle Palmer at the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing and Nikki Charles from the Network for Victim Recovery in DC. This topic stood out to me right away because it prompted the thought, “Isn’t the term ‘victim’ a little passé these days?” Around the office the expressions I have grown accustomed to hearing sound more like “survivor” or those who have “experienced sexual assault.” After all, why re-victimize those affected by sexual assault or intimate partner violence by referring to them as someone preyed upon, targeted, wounded, suffering, or objectified? Not to mention placing a negative label on those affected instead of their perpetrators. I, personally, can imagine not wanting to be simplified into the “victim” category if I was the survivor a traumatic crime. With all this in the back of my mind Michelle and Nikki began their “Being Victim Centered” presentation. I instantly recognized Michelle from a meeting I had attended the week before with the Victim Assistance Network (VAN) and I remembered her astute comment on the group’s charter description, “I guess they were just trying to see how many times they could use the word victim!” So why was this spikey haired, spunky woman now speaking on “victim centered” services? What was I missing?
Well apparently I was missing a lot. Nikki and Michelle’s approach is anything but stuck in the past or stereotyped. They left all preconceived notions of sexual assault at the door and pushed the audience to do the same. The pair kicked off their talk by enthusiastically inviting the room to share their last sexual encounters with those next to them. This exercise turned out to be an awkward hoax but it imitated to the group what it might feel like for a person who has been sexually assaulted to explain their experience to strangers in detail, probably many times over. I would imagine that for many in the room, we could not begin to contemplate that type of distress, but what we could do is bring validation and vindication to these survivors. Conference attendants were primarily service providers or in law enforcement, university administrators, or in counseling— people who have the tools to de-victimize the victimized and empower those who have been disenfranchised by sexual or intimate partner crime. Nikki and Michelle’s presentation took me by surprise and forced me to approach the experience of a sexual assault survivor in a new light. We all know to dispel horrific notions such as “she was asking for it” or “it was her fault” but what happens after we overcome the blame game? How can we treat survivors with compassion and respect throughout the aftermath of their trauma? How can we humanize those affected by such an inhumane crime? Well Nikki and Michelle put forth some essential first steps: tell them the truth – make a survivor aware of their rights and choices, be clear on who is a confidential counselor and who is a mandated reporter; understand what reactions are completely natural – our instincts are trained for fight, flight, or freeze in the event of trauma, the brain shuts down for protection and memory loss or memory fragmentation is to be expected; healing takes time – some people are more resilient than others and everyone has a different recovery timeline. Special sensitivity is necessary for college students who are at high risk for falling into depression in the wake of an assault. The presentation stressed that college students in these situations need sympathetic faculty and administration to give them academic time off, or to adjust their class schedules if their perpetrator is still on campus. As a university student myself, I was encouraged by the level of attention to detail and need meeting these women were advocating for on college campuses.
So how does this affect college men and the work Men Can Stop Rape does with engaging these men in violence prevention? I think most undergraduate men grasp the destructive nature of sexual assault, but perhaps fewer women and men have a picture of what that aftermath and recovery looks like for their peers. This is most damaging to survivors who need understanding support systems more than ever. If college men became aware of the “victim support” strategies put in place by their institutions they would be better resources for their female friends and their campuses at large. If men in general understood that a logical reaction to sexual assault could be to freeze or be silent instead of screaming or fighting, imagine the good that could do, especially on college campuses where the line of consent grows greyer by the minute. I truly believe most college men are in the dark about what they can do to help the women they care about in this arena, and feel powerless to make a positive impact. Men Can Stop Rape mobilizes these men as allies, active resources, and bystanders on their campuses. Most immediately the UASK application now available for smartphones puts the power to help someone affected by sexual assault in the palm of their hands. Men have a significant role to play in prevention, as well as survivor healing, and need to be included in these types of conversations. All the work we do at Men Can Stop Rape builds towards this dialog.
Kiki Martire is a rising senior from Baltimore, Maryland; English major and Women’s and Gender Studies minor at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. Summer intern at Men Can Stop Rape