As the mother of a very wonderful and sensitive young man, as well as a self-defense teacher and women’s empowerment advocate, I have had to deal with some very unpleasant conversations. Predominately after getting off the phone helping some distressed woman or girl when my son only overheard my side of the conversation. As sensitive as I have tried to be about not condemning all of mankind, it definitely can seem like I dislike men.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Ask my wonderful male IMPACT instructors and the fantastic male Judo and Martial Arts instructors that I have had the privilege to work with. I can add to that my father, son and numerous other male friends and family for whom I have nothing but the greatest respect and love.
But hearing only my side of the conversation, my young son would say to me, “Mommy, do you really think all men are bad?” My answer was, “I know it might sound that way, but what is bad is violence. Unfortunately, many, many times violence is at the hands of men. If I was a man, I would be so upset with all of the bad men who make a bad name for me, a man. But I am not, so I fight against violence in the way I can. One day, you will find your own way to fight violence. The first step is being a good man and a good father.”
One of the biggest controversies in the violence prevention world is whether we need to focus our work on victims/survivors or on the perpetrators. More correctly, if we teach women to defend themselves we are saying that it is their responsibility, and what we should be doing is stopping violence by stopping the perpetrators. The answer, in my mind, is both. We need to educate against violence. We also need to educate that protecting one’s body is a universal right. I purposely wrote both of those statements gender neutral.
This past year I have seen more and more groups and ads being created by men against violence; men against rape. I hear my colleagues talk about their male advocates and how they are creating programs that build on healthy communication between the sexes. I have posted links to some strong videos done by young men who speak out against rape. I am proud of the growth in awareness that I see in this area. I am even more proud of the cooperation of both genders to raise awareness and be vocal in our fight to end violence. And yes, it is a fight.
So today, I am throwing down a gauntlet. Men, take this JPEG file. Print it. Hang it in your office, on your fridge, your dorm door, in the bathroom at a local bar or restaurant, or any place you are willing to make the statement “I believe in this!”
And women, you know what my advice is for you 🙂