Men step up to thwart gender violence

It’s time to ask: “Other men are doing this? Why aren’t you?” That’s the question Chuck Derry suggests women pose to the men in their lives about working to prevent gender violence. In this issue-with a theme of Do Over-gender violence in our culture is an important topic. In a series of individual conversations, we spoke with men in the leadership of doing just that: Chuck Derry of the Gender Violence Institute and Men as Peacemakers and Frank Jewell and Ed Heisler of Men as Peacemakers.

Jewell:“Men commit most of the violence in our community, but have been a small part of the solution. Men as Peacemakers is changing that by getting men off the sidelines and involved in making peace. We are engaged in telling a new story about what it is to be a man.”

Derry:“It’s about time we showed up. We have women who have been working in this area for 30 years looking over their shoulders and saying, ‘Where’s my brother? Where’s my dad, my boyfriend, my husband? Why aren’t they involved in this?'”

Jewell:“Partly [gender violence] is defined as a woman’s issue. Men have not thought it was something they should be putting their time into. They have the privilege of not having to worry about it. The other piece is societal norms are incredibly powerful. It is very clear that men have this thing in which violence is part of their lives.”

Derry:“Men don’t always make the connection between violence and sexism. It is a critical connection. All men benefit from the men on the front lines of sexism, keeping women in their place. Regardless of whether I am personally being violent against women, I am actually benefiting because it maintains sexism and its advantages for men. Sexism is a pretty good deal for men. You have to be willing to give up the benefits of sexism to work toward justice.”

Heisler: “The bar has been set pretty low for men. It doesn’t take too much for me to be viewed as a good guy. If [a guy] thinks women should not be hurt or beaten, if he attends a rally against rape, … those are things that are already against the norm so he is already more supportive than other men.”

Derry: “Men need to be using their influence where they are-at their work, in their faith communities, in civic groups, in locker rooms with other men-to challenge sexist and degrading behaviors and comments and institutional practices that dehumanize and sexually objectify women. Slowly but steadily more men are joining women as allies to create a just and equitable world by combating sexism and ending male privilege.”

Men step up
“Men as Peacemakers” see men stepping up in all kinds of ways in places such as Duluth, Clearwater, Moorhead, Bemidji, Anoka, Alexandria and the Twin Cities. One example is the Clean Hotel Policy developed in Winona that was brought forward by a male county administrator to the majority male county commission. The commission voted to support a policy to only hold conferences or reimburse staff overnight stays at hotels that do not offer in-room adult pay-per-view pornography.

Other initiatives include: men in Duluth working against gender violence by coaching boys on what it means to be a man in schools where the only adult male is on the custodial staff; fraternity guys on University of Minnesota campuses across the state creating safe party policies that respect women; 300 people in Alexandria, men and women, coming together to work for nonviolence; or it is the one guy on the men’s hunting bus who speaks up to challenge sexist remarks and behaviors.

A survey done by the group found that men might think something should be done, but they don’t feel knowledgeable about issues or don’t know what to do or say. “Men as Peacemakers” and the “Men’s Action Network” provide resources on their website and are available for forums to talk about primary prevention, responsibilities and opportunities that are unique to men. They will work with men to look at how they are socialized as men, what in the environment supports gender violence and what men collectively can do.

Derry said that for a lot of men who have never done this work, they think they can’t. “The reality is that they have to. You can’t wait for somebody else to do it because there isn’t anybody else who is going to do it. It’s going to have to be you. You’ve got to step up and do it.”

The Minnesota Men’s Action Network is a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Health, 
the Gender Violence Institute and 
Men As Peacemakers.

Men as Peacemakers fosters and develops peacemakers through 
modeling, mentoring, storytelling 
and dialogue. Peacemakers stand 
up and say there is an alternative to violence, and that violence is not acceptable.

For a list of action ideas about what you can do go to: