Friday, November 25, 2016

In Recognition: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25, 2016 — It is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and here at Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) in Washington, D.C. we are inspired more than ever and empowered to do our work. While our very raison d’ĂȘtre is problematic, we are grateful to be among a network of allies who are woke, compassionate, and strong. And we are encouraged that our MCSR Team — representing all four corners of the world; as well as a range of ages, political perspectives and spiritual practices — is willing to do the self-care that is required of such community work.

Through the years, we have reached some 65 million people in support of our goal to mobilize men and boys for the purpose of creating cultures free of violence. From you, who also represent a wide range of ages, races, and identities, we have learned so much. We understand that to be invested in the safety and well-being of each other means that we have to do this challenging work at our “home” (office) first.

These best practices were developed from those of you who participate in our various Healthy Masculinity Action Projects, and from our youth members of the Men of Strength (MOST) Club and the Women Inspiring Strength and Empowerment (WISE) Club.

We have learned that we first have to be unafraid to be who we are. Though each one of us, at one time or another, have felt as if we are “alone,” we have not dropped the ball on each other. We take walks, sit in silence, and listen, and we find ourselves again, on common ground.

Here, “I believe you,” is a declaration we make to each other on a daily basis.

“Our WISE club, in particular, has become my place for inspiration,” says MCSR Program Manager, Ebony Wheeler. “Through teaching young women about counter stories and understanding the cycle of gender based violence, I’m able to see their growth, hear their voices and provide them with the necessary resources for what they say they need, not what we as adults think they want and need. They’ve taught me to be more open in guiding them in the right direction… and most importantly, they see the violence and want it to stop.”

In January, we begin to celebrate our 20th anniversary, honored to continue upholding these foundational goals of MCSR. Though we look forward, the urgency of “equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity for all human beings” is not lost. Today, we invite you to join us at our next Youth Summit; and to chat with us on Twitter, Facebook, our website and through the Assault. Services. Knowledge (ASK) App. Together, we will be strong, without violence.

- The MSCR WISE Club Share

Monday, June 16, 2014

Manager of National Programs, Adrian Valdivia, takes Masculinity training to Puerto Rico

Two weeks ago MCSR’s Manager of National Programs, Adrian Valdivia, traveled to Puerto Rico for his first international training. Universidad del Turabo hosted Adrian for the two-day training with the Vice Chancellor, twelve university counselors, and three students. Two of the counselors who run the University’s counseling program were inspired to bring MCSR’s training program to their institution in Puerto Rico after attending the DC Healthy Masculinity Training Institute in January thanks to a grant through Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
At first there was nervous excitement surrounding the upcoming trip. Adrian anticipated Puerto Rico would be his most challenging training thus far. To his relief he found the experience to be amazing from start to finish and the people welcoming and accessible. As a Spanish speaking Venezuelan, Adrian found an immediate connection to Puerto Rico’s language and the Caribbean way. 
“They were extremely open about sharing their personal stories around healthy and unhealthy masculinity in their lives, which I suspect has a lot to do with an already cultural expectation about sharing stories in Latino/Caribbean culture.
Many island cultures build and sustain relationships through story telling, which also happens to be a hallmark of the MCSR approach. Sharing experiences with sincerity and candor is key for building group connections and trust within a training, especially while evaluating dominant stories versus counter stories. The dominant story is the negative depiction of men saturated in media and prevalent in every day culture. The counter story helps combat the stereotypes and expectations of dominant masculinity by presenting an alternative approach. For Puerto Rican men “machismo” culture is the dominant story. Adrian noticed that sexism is very much an ingrained part of men and women’s thinking, “many stereotypes about rape are so normalized and internalized given their culture that they are facing an uphill battle.” Over the two days Adrian emphasized to trainees that the systems of oppression they are facing, such as sexism, do not define them. These systems are a product of culture and the society they were raised in, and therefore can be changed through awareness training.
            The counseling team at the Universidad del Turabo identified with the MCSR strategy and felt motivated by this approach to engage men and their university community.  In the past there has been no supportive male group for men to turn to; rape is only a topic of conversation during assault aftermath and punitive consequences. But Adrian feels that the training has sparked an up and coming shift in perspective. 

By the conclusion of the training administrators and counselors at Universidad del Turabo felt motivated to confront gender-based violence in their community through a new approach. Like many places, Puerto Rico faces a prevalence of relationship violence that often goes unreported. Turabo wants to take a stand and be the first University in Puerto Rico to tackle this issue through programing that engages men. Even after their HHS funding is over, the administration wishes to continue to build a long-standing relationship with Men Can Stop Rape, and integrate the hallmarks of healthy masculinity into their teaching and counseling programs. To kick-start this Turabo will be conducting a survey for college men to see where they stand on the issues, and what resources they feel are lacking and would benefit them and the community. The administration hopes to create the first group of its kind in Puerto Rico that engages men in solving sexual assault. The University will take pride in being the first group of allies who take a positive approach to assault prevention.
Adrian would like to thank everyone at Universidad del Turabo who welcomed him, shared stories, and made this training such a success. Men Can Stop Rape looks forward to working more with Puerto Rico in the future and seeing their commitment to positive male engagement and healthy masculinity take flight.

An English and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies double Major, Kiki Martire is a rising Senior at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"1 is 2 Many" PSA: My Issues With It

By: Daniel Valentin-Morales

We’ve all seen the “1 is 2 Many” Public Safety Announcement released by the Obama administration earlier this year, and if you haven’t just follow this link to see it. The campaign asks men to be accountable for their actions, and the actions of their peers with regards to instances of assault and sexual assault or rape, within our society.
Celebrities like Steve Carrell and Daniel Craig stare directly at you and talk to you about something “that’s happening on college campuses; at bars; at parties; even in high schools.”  Something that’s “…happening to our sisters, and our daughters; our wives and our friends.”
Vice President Joe Biden was on the video and said, “If I saw it happening I was taught you had to do something about it… we need all of you to be a part of the solution. This is about respect; it’s about responsibility.” Even the President of the United States Barrack Obama made an appearance, showing his support by informing the American public that’, “It’s up to all of us to put an end to sexual assault, and that starts with you.”
First of all, I want to applaud the current administration for starting and releasing a PSA campaign like this one, and in some way trying to inform the People about a major humanitarian issue: the disrespect of women by a culture that objectifies them and treats them as beings meant to be dominated. Campaigns like this one are what we need to help begin the serious shift towards gender equality in this country.
That being said I have some SERIOUS issues with the campaign, I’m going to focus on the three I find are the most detrimental to the usefulness of the campaign in general.
(1) Women are independent beings with their own voice.
The PSA is fantastic in bringing to light a serious issue concerning women’s health, but it fails to recognize that women shouldn’t be respected because they are someone’s daughter, or might be someone’s sister, wife, or friend; women deserve respect because they are human beings, and all human beings deserve respect regardless of relationships formed.
By having celebrities like Daniel Craig, or Steve Carell, seriously reciting a mantra-esque set of words  (“they are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, niece, etc…”) they are reinforcing the idea that women deserve respect because they belong to someone else. It’s reinforcing the patriarchal idea that a woman can’t be something on her own; she has to be someone’s wife.
This “belongs to someone” mentality is actually a major factor in rape culture. When you view someone as less than human (essentially as someone’s property) it becomes very simple to ignore their humanity, along with their right to dignity, and dominate them.
I’m not saying the PSA is supporting this purposefully, I am saying that it subconsciously reinforces the lack of autonomy women have been subject to since what seems like forever.
(2) What about men? 
Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m not about to get all Men’s Rights Activist on you guys, but I’m not going to forget the other half of the population that is also affected by rape (which includes me… the writer). 
The original PSA, released by White, completely forgets that (1) not all rapists are men but more importantly (2) that not all rape victims are women.
I’m not trying to take away from the fact that 1 in every 6 women are affected by rape, or that 9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003. This isn’t a competition about who is more oppressed, or who has it worse off. It’s about not forgetting that every human being deserves respect and deserves not to be forgotten.
The worst thing about rape culture is silence, and in not reminding people that men can also be raped we continue to enforce that silence on people who deserve justice and a forum for their voices to be listed to. Personally, I felt that I was left out of the mix, and I’m not even a survivor of sexual assault. If I feel left out, how do we think a man who has been sexually assaulted feels while watching this PSA?
(3) Finally, what happened to everyday human beings?
You know, I get the whole “lets get celebrities to say things because maybe then people will listen” but I think that the underlying message this sends is dangerous. By only letting people who have money talk about these issues the ordinary every day American watching this PSA might ask themselves “what can I do about any of this?” 
I don’t know about you guys but I used to emulate celebrities for a reason. I saw something in them that I didn’t have, or something I wish I had, and while I’m sure the PSA is counting on this, I’m not too sure that people won’t take it in and say, “oh only people with money can do anything to change this”. That’s a major problem.
So while the PSA is great in that it gets the issue out there in the open, specifically with men who clearly understand they need to play a role in change, it fails to recognize a group of victims, it fails to allow women to use their voice as autonomous human beings, and it potentially dissuades everyday human beings from acting within their community.
But don’t think I’m the first one to think about these things. Here are two videos in which the creators saw the issues, and decided to do something different.

Daniel Valentin-Morales
Is an Intern at Men Can Stop Rape.
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. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where's the Dad?

By Emma Boillotat

For the past couple of Olympics, P&G has been a “proud sponsor” of the games, putting out commercials to show their support. Their most recent ad campaign is “Raising an Olympian,” and one of their commercials that came out recently is posted above. Now, I’m all for this feeling of family supporting you but that’s not the message. It states at the end of the video: “For teaching us that falling only makes us better” and then says, “Thank you, Mom” with a “#BecauseOfMom.” While watching this video, I did get a little teary-eyed for the love and appreciation these kids had for their mom, but what about the dads?

Most of the P&G products connected to the campaign are geared towards women. The end of the ad shows their different brands such as Tide, Pampers, Gillette, Duracell, and Bounty. Three of these five – Tide, Pampers, and Bounty – are typically identified with women and have commercials with only women in them. A fourth, Gillette, consists of products specifically for men and women – Gillette Venus, for example. It’s a clever advertisement ploy, and I’m sure many women viewing this commercial feel grateful because they are a mom or have a mom who they look up to, but we as a country do not need a public ad campaign giving credit only to mothers for raising kids when a child can and should consider men and women to be their support system.

A person who supports a child can be a mother, father, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, cousin, teacher or mentor of any sort who has provided the love and support that has helped a child succeed. I personally give thanks to my mom, dad, stepmom, sister, brother and extended family for believing in me and giving me opportunities to be who I am today. The love and acceptance I have received from each of these people in my life has helped me to succeed.

Emma Boillotat is an intern for the month of January 2014 at Men Can Stop Rape. She is originally from Hanover, New Hampshire and goes to Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. She will be graduating May 2014 with a major in Sociology/Anthropology and minor in Spanish. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

By Patrick McGann
Director of Strategy and Planning
Men Can Stop Rape

By now, many of you may know that the Healthy Masculinity Action Project (HMAP) has used storytelling to start conversations at the Healthy Masculinity Summit, Training Institutes, Town Halls, and Campus Conversations. This past year I’ve spent a lot of time formally and informally talking about healthy masculinity and listening to people talk about it. Someone occasionally voices the idea that healthy masculinity keeps us bound to gender instead of liberated from it and that our shared humanity can serve as a freeing agent. I’d like to share my thoughts on this subject, and in the spirit of HMAP, I’ll start with a brief personal story.

Feminism and a Genderless World
In 1983 as a Texas Tech University graduate student, I became involved with Abby, another graduate student. A year later we married, and shortly thereafter, she declared herself a feminist. Okay, maybe it wasn’t an actual declaration. She didn’t stand in our living room and announce while I was watching TV, “I am now a feminist.” It became clear by the books she read, the classes she took, the topics she brought up – and the arguments we had.

In the living room of our two-story, $150 a month, rental house in Lubbock, I told her – pretty zealously – that feminism was trapped in a tunnel vision, that it only focused on half the population and the well-being of people was lost. We’re all humans. This didn’t set well with her.

I have since come to have some understanding of why my “humanity” argument didn’t fly. A few of those reasons, I believe, apply to the idea of healthy masculinity and a genderless world.

Deconstructing Masculinity
Early in my graduate career I was heavy into reading about the ‘sixties and counterculture. One book whose title I can no longer remember focused on the creation of a commune with the intent of establishing a new society free of all harmful mainstream ideologies. After a short while, the banished ideologies started popping up here and there. It turned out that it was no easy walk to freedom. The commune residents positioned these unwelcome ideologies as outside the new environment and external to themselves. In actuality, they had internalized them as well. This mis-positioning resulted in people unintentionally replicating the very things they were trying to escape.

Based on this example, we can’t wipe away the old simply by embracing the new. Just because a man has gotten on the healthy masculinity bandwagon doesn’t mean he’s free of unhealthy masculinity. If we men are responsible about all of this, we’ll commit to deconstructing unhealthy masculinity – both internally and externally – for the rest of our lives. And we’ll teach deconstructing it to the boys in our lives.

Reconstructing Masculinity
But we need to do some reconstructing too. Otherwise, we’re left with a deconstruction void. Identity is a basic part of human life. We all have our identities shaped for us and participate in shaping them ourselves. We are more willing to deconstruct identities if more appealing identities are waiting in the wings.

In prevention work, we talk a lot about behavioral and attitudinal change in young men and boys, but if the attitudes and behaviors don’t fit with identities that young men will enthusiastically assume, we’re less effective. Men Can Stop Rape’s Men of Strength Club not only fosters young men and boys’ attitudes and behaviors connected to preventing gender-based based violence and other forms of violence. It also presents young men with a positive way to think of themselves in relation to those attitudes and behaviors. The Club reshapes social norms among peers by reconfiguring group and personal identities so that members are connected to something important that is bigger than themselves.

Moving from masculine identities to gender-free identities is a large leap, probably an impossible leap for the overwhelming majority of men and boys. I myself find it hard to grasp. And where do transgender people fit into this schema? I could more easily recognize the possibility of a gender continuum – something a number of theorists advocate. And running across this continuum would be the principle that no gender shall cause harm.

Strategy and Masculinity
So how do we create that gender continuum for men and boys? And I’m not referring to the guys in the violence prevention choir. I mean all of us. We need a strategy – a plan, a path, a process – that helps men and boys begin to break down the gender binary. We’re not Nike. We can’t tell them: Just Do It! During trainings, Men Can Stop Rape sometimes represents this binary through the two words most frequently used in ads for boys’ and girls’ toys: BATTLE and LOVE. How do we create conditions for men to move closer to love?

In another exercise we do during trainings called “Describing Healthy Masculinity,” we ask people to come up with personal examples representing healthy masculinity, and the end results are words that can be linked to love: a man who’s caring, respectful, non-violent, emotionally supportive, a good listener, questioning, empathic, and more. Someone often points out that these are words used to describe women. Healthy masculinity may not be our final resting point. Maybe it's a strategic, practical first step for men and boys to move in between the two gender poles. Maybe it’s a way for them to start considering “and/both” instead of “either/or.” Maybe it’s one way to bring all the genders closer together.

Let’s Talk
Of course, whether this is the case isn’t up to me. It’s really up to all of us. Whether healthy masculinity is a viable and valuable strategy is something everyone will have to answer and act on. So let’s keep talking about it.

Learn about the Healthy Masculinity Action Project
Patrick McGann, Ph.D. has been involved with Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) since the organization’s inception in 1997. Patrick has co-authored a sexual assault prevention strategy for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and has played key roles in conceiving, planning, and implementing the Healthy Masculinity Action Project. He regularly gives presentations across the country on engaging men in the prevention of gender-based violence. Share