Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ka-BLOG Day 11: Men & Mensch

It is barely Dec 6th and yet I can barely keep it together long enough to post. I am overwhelmed with sadness tonight and I need to cheer myself up. Today is perhaps the hardest of the 16 Days campaign: later today we will meet, reflect and honour the memories of the 14 women killed at l'École Polytechnique, in 1989. While we're doing that, our PM will further out-himself as a cynical pander-bear to the religious-right. Our friends to the south will be preoccupied with the toothless report filed by some Washington mandarins (the Baker-Hamilton study group on Iraq).

To exacerbate matters, you may find yourself in the company of men who "don't get it" and either openly-mock or challenge the very need to pay dignified remembrance to our lost sisters. Or, more benignly, you may notice your male peers in varying states of discomfort and at a total loss for "the right thing to say." To this latter group of men, I say this:

You don't have to say anything. Just being there, showing up & being good people is enough for me. Male participation in Dec 6 remembrance is so important. Yes, this is about stopping violence but it's not simply "our" day to wag-fingers and brand "you" with the collective shame of past wrongs. Dec 6 is about taking stock of where we are as a society and thinking of ways to heal our (sometimes very sick) relationships with each other.

The purpose of this post tonight is to pay tribute to men that contribute to this healing and recognize that stopping gender-based violence helps us all:
We don't think that men are naturally violent and we don't think that men are bad. The majority of men are not violent. Researchers have discovered many past cultures with little or no violence.
At the same time we do think that many men have learned to express their anger or insecurity through violence. Many men have come to believe that violence against a woman, child or another man is an acceptable way to control another person.
The problem does not stop with physical violence. There are forms of emotional violence--from sexist joking, to sexual harassment at work, to other domineering forms of behaviour. By remaining silent about these things, we allow other men to poison our working and learning environments.
The good news is that more and more men want to make a difference. Caring men are tired of the sexism that hurts the women around them.
We're not male bashers because we're men, working with men, who care about what happens in the lives of men.
{Oh! and I see they have a blog now, too: "People working to end violence against women" }
  • Men For Change: based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, these guys came together after the Montreal Massacre and devoted themselves to "promoting gender equality and ending violence in society." They've produced an educational program called "Healthy Relationships: Violence Prevention Curriculum". I was particularly impressed with the following:
This curriculum frequently makes reference to "male violence." This is not meant to condone or ignore violence that is perpetrated by women. However, the great majority of violent acts such as assault, rape and murder are committed by men. We believe that women who trample on the rights of others are also modelling themselves on the tough male stereotype. Therefore, the model itself is what warrants close scrutiny. The object is to help students of both genders learn the skills that build healthy relationships, which are based on sharing power with others as opposed to exerting power over others.
  • Stephen Lewis: as UN Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Lewis was quick to recognize the feminization of the pandemic through lack of power/consent (see Ka-BLOG Day 7 for more).
  • All of the men who've attended memorials with me over the years. I know you're in a different mental "place" than us-with-the-ovaries but it means so much to see you there.
  • The officers who helped me. I don't know how you cope with your awful, awful jobs. Seeing that child's 'thank you' drawing on your office wall reminded me how truly horrible your job must be sometimes.
  • To my brother & my husband--stand up guys both!
Ok, I'm gonna cry if I write any more tonight. I'll just leave you with this:
mensch or mensh (mnsh) n. Informa. pl. mensch·es or mensch·en (mnshn): A person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose: “He radiates the kind of fundamental decency that has a name in Yiddish; he's a mensch” (James Atlas).

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