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“What Manhood Might Be”: Men Changing Cultures to Stop Sexual Violence

6 February 2012 2 Comments

- By Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief

Have you ever heard the expression “All’s fair in love and war?” Think about it for a moment. It implies not only that all the rules are suspended during wartime, but that something called “love” gives sanction to the same anarchy.

In recent years, necessary attention has been focused on rape as a tool of war. The atrocities inflicted on women, children, and men in wartime are unconscionable. But war itself is unconscionable. War destroys the patterns and the structures of everyday life. To me, it’s even more horrible that violence occurs in the context of intimate relationships in peacetime―that this IS everyday life.

If you’re a woman in urban Japan, according to WHO statistics, your lifetime chances of being abused by an intimate partner are 15 in 100. And you’re living in the safest place on earth. If you’re in rural Ethiopia, they’re 71 in 100. In most of the world, they range from 30 to 60 in 100. The familiar, and appalling, one-woman-in-three figure applies to developed Western countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even progressive Scandinavia―whence the vengeance-seeking virago of the popular Stieg Larsson books and films.

Even fans who relish The Girl’s rough justice (and I hasten to say I am not one) know prevention is the only sustainable solution to this global epidemic. And most, though certainly not all, of the violence is perpetrated by men. So we welcome a trend that is making its way around the world: a proliferation of programs that engage boys and men in changing the global culture of violence to one of cooperation, equality, and respect for all.

Activist and author Kevin Powell is among the signs of hope. He’s a V-Man, one of 16 who support the V-Day movement and blog on its website: “It is my sincere hope” he says in his most recent blog, “that  . . . we can really begin to rethink what manhood can be, what manhood might be.”

That rethinking is going on in families, schools, workplaces, governments, and institutions the world around. Mike Domritz, another V-Man, uses role plays and self-effacing humor to invite audiences to question the assumptions they make in social situations. The venues for his winsomely-titled “May I Kiss You?” presentation include military installations.

And it’s about time. The US military, which couched its rationale for invading Iraq and Afghanistan in the language of protecting women, has a rate of sexual violence against women and men within its ranks that’s double the rate for the general population. The rate of convictions, 2% of all prosecutions, is only a third of the pitiful 6% in civilian courts. A new documentary on sexual violence in the military, The Invisible War, won an Audience Award at the just-completed 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

The men’s organizations that carry the anti-violence message vary widely in their audience, strategy, and reach. Most of them would agree, though, on a few basic points.

  • Love is a relationship of mutual respect. Domination is not love.
  • Sexual violence isn’t sexy. It’s not even about sex; it’s about control and power-over.
  • There’s no such thing as an innocent bystander. Effective change agents commit not only to refrain from abuse but to name it and challenge it wherever it occurs.
  • Men are victims of sexual violence as well as perpetrators. The cultural subtext of domination is the same regardless of the victim’s gender or sexual orientation. (It’s good news, then, that on Jan. 6 of this year the US Federal Bureau of Investigation changed its definition of rape, which had been limited to assaults on women.)
  • And here’s the really good news: Culture is dynamic. Cultures can change, and are changing, around the world, and men of good will are active agents of that change.

Culture change happens person to person, through credible role models and positive peer groups. And it can happen at any age. Since children are both our most vulnerable and our most teachable citizens, it makes sense to start early, like the middle scho0l MOST clubs do. (Look for more about MOST in tomorrow’s blog.)

Sisters, let’s welcome boys and men of all ages as our partners in redefining what’s fair in love. Then, when we’ve cleaned up the home front, maybe we can move together to end war. It’s still not good for children women, or other living things.

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About the Author

Mary Liepold is the Editor-in-Chief at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr. Liepold, email maryl@peacexpeace.org.
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2 Comments to ““What Manhood Might Be”: Men Changing Cultures to Stop Sexual Violence”
  1. patricia smith says:

    Thank you, Mary. As a woman who has experienced domestic violence, I know the confusion and despair it can create. All women who have suffered must say so. By our being open and public, we can — without even knowing — help someone else overcome shame and free themselves.

  2. Dear Mary,
    This is article is so good,if we can let it read by every man but God will bless us because He hears and see the women and girls’s violences.If,this poem can be read by every men in all nations !! Here is the poem addressed to Men!

    PLEASE GOOD BROTHERS.

    When you are with us we fear nothing,
    when you are with us we joke, play,
    when you are with us we are so happy,
    When you are with us we are comforted.

    When we are together we help each other,
    When we are together we share happiness,
    When we are together we share mourning,
    When we are together we comfort each other.

    Imagine seeing your lovely mother crying,
    Imagine seeing your lovely mother mourning,
    Imagine seeing your lovely mother dishonored,
    Imagine seeing your lovely wife raped.

    Imagine seeing your lovely sister dying,
    Imagine seeing your lovely sister bleeding,
    Imagine seeing your lovely sister ashamed,
    Imagine seeing your lovely sister, daughter raped.

    My dear brothers, your voice can rescue women’s life,
    Many women, young ladies will smile and alive again,
    My good brothers please, please help us to stop this ,
    My dear sisters are dying, bleeding ,crying, suffering,
    Because of some bad men you know some, you can stop this!!

    Respect women as you respect your lovely wife,
    Respect woman as you respect your mother,
    Respect women as you respect your sisters,
    Respect girls as you can respect your daughters.

    Mrs. NIMUGIRE M.Chantal
    KIGALI-RWANDA.

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