And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why
we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women
The song Keep Ya Head Up by Tupac was what made me realize I had to care about violence against women, and for me, caring meant to fight. I know that this anthem is over-simplifying a complex set of issues, and that referring to women as “our women” is inherently problematic. But this song was part of my wake-up moment. I reference it here because I’m very interested in that thing that changes a man from a bystander (or worse, a perpetrator) of violence against women into a man that instead sees it as his duty to make the world safe for women (and men! And everyone!) to live in without fear of physical, verbal or emotional abuse.
I want to frame this post on the next few lines of the song:
I think it’s time we kill for our women
Kill for me meant: tear down.
We have to tear down rape culture. When I was a teenager and first heard the statistics of rape, I promised myself that if anyone ever did rape one of my friends I would kill the rapist. And then one of my best friends was date raped, and instead of becoming a raging vigilante I chose to do as much as possible to end the systemic problems that lead to rape and to provide caring and healing services to victims. There is still that fight impulse though, the anger that some d-bag hurt someone that I love – knowing what to do with that impulse is vital. Activism > Jail-time.
Time to heal our women
This doesn’t mean what Tupac thought it means. We can’t heal someone in the same way that we can’t empower them to become stronger. Healing and power come through time, through self-care. What we can do is to create a culture where women’s voices are heard and amplify those voices wherever possible. Projects like I Believe You | It’s Not Your Fault are amazing examples of what happens when people don’t try to explain or excuse an incident. This is where true healing begins, and our role as men is to know when to rally around someone and help and when to just say I believe you, I’m here to hold that truth for you and not to judge or try to fix anything.
Be real to our women
Being real, not just to women in our lives, but to men and to ourselves. This one might be the most important, and the thing that we as men actually have the power to change. Men account for 2/3 of the suicide deaths in the U.S. 85% of murder-suicides are perpetrated by men, it’s men that have committed virtually all mass shootings in America.
We can no longer afford to ignore our emotions; being silent and strong is deadly. In 2015, I’m launching a nonprofit with the mission of creating safe emotional spaces for men. The goal is not to reduce stigma of seeking mental health care, but to design and create interventions and programs that are stigma-free by design. I believe that men are much more in touch with emotions than people give us credit for, but that we don’t have a place to express them in safe, open and real ways. It’s exciting, and it’s scary because I don’t have any answers, just questions that will hopefully lead to a new way of being a man in this world.
So, that song, now 21 years old, was what made me realize that I had to do everything in my power to reduce domestic violence and rape culture. What was your wake-up moment?
Christopher Gandin Le has helped launch basically all of the national suicide prevention programs. These include the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Veterans Crisis Line and CrisisChat.org. He established the initial Facebook/Suicide prevention partnership and co-wrote the Facebook policy on suicide in 2005, and has since helped Google, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest create similar policies. Chris is on the boards of Connect Safely and the Lifeline and Crisis Text Line, and through his company Emotion Technology he continues to link social media companies and non-profit organizations. He was an Aspen Institute Scholar and an Aspen Challenge presenter. Having launched these national and international programs, he’s now looking to fill in the gaps, to find what’s missing in our mental health system and create tools through which communities can support their own systems of healing and care.