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April 12, 2012

A New View

We at A CALL TO MEN are extremely proud to say that our organization was born out of the Battered Women’s Movement. Over the years we have had the privilege and honor to be at the table and learn from countless women leaders, visionaries, and activists. This education has helped shape our analysis and empowered us to create an organization and a message that is universal and – we believe – transformational.

As I reflect on my participation in Move to End Violence and our recent trip to India, I am eternally grateful for my time with the cohort members and the visionary leaders of India that took the time to pour their brilliance into us. As the time passes since our journey, I continue to gain insight into my work, social justice, and even manhood. I have seen my own growth and evolution as an activist and a leader. I feel as though I am perched a little higher on the branches of the tree that is in our beloved community, and I am able to see with a new and broader vision and perspective.

Since our return, one area of concern that continues to rise to the surface for me is our framing of the issues that we want to confront and the language that we use to do so. The language of our movement (field) is changing. It is becoming less generic and much more inclusive of the many forms of violence and oppression that are directed toward women and girls. It is not unusual to hear colleagues, activists, advocates, and even the media speak of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, commercial sexual exploitation, and other forms of violence against women and girls in the same sentence or conversation. Even hearing “men’s violence against women” is becoming more common.

This evolution of our language is needed. It names the problem and has increased accountability for the perpetration of the violence and abuse. At A CALL TO MEN we believe that men’s violence will not end unless men become part of the solution to end it. If men are most of the problem…it makes sense that men (we) would also be most of the solution. Raising awareness that men’s violence against women is also a “men’s issue” is vital and our framing of the issue needs to reflect that fact. For example, currently the statistics will read that “1 out of 5 women will be raped.” While this is an unfortunate fact, it is much different than saying “a man will rape 1 out of 5 women.” The latter speaks to the perpetration and the intent (accountability), which is very important and reduces the blame that the prior can insinuate.

"But what is the next generation of thought?"

But what is the next generation of thought? How can we evolve our language, our efforts, and our work even further? How can we positively impact the lives of the women and girls in our communities? What if instead of framing our work or the problem as “ending violence against women” we instead used a more strengths-based empowerment approach? What if our efforts had the goal of “valuing and respecting women and girls”? For example, the Office for Violence Against Women would be the Office for Valuing and Respecting Women and Girls.

When we truly demonstrate value and respect for women and girls in our politics, our religions, our economy, our education system, and every other aspect of our lives then discrimination, misogyny and every place that showed a lack of value and respect for women and girls could not exist. It would have no place. In fact, we would all be surprised by behavior that did not value women and girls.

The work of A CALL TO MEN teaches that as we increase and promote a more healthy and respectful manhood we decrease and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls. Or shall I say…we also advance, encourage, and build value and respect for women and girls!

Art by lizar_tistry