Man-To-Man: Talking About Sexism and Domestic Violence

man-to-manWhen our coworker logged onto Facebook a couple of weeks ago, he was bothered by some insensitive jokes a good friend had posted about the #YesAllWomen campaign. He had a choice: let it go, or say something.

We asked him what he thought when he saw his friend’s post. He explained:

“I felt responsible. I talk a good game [about speaking out] but am I going to do it when I have the opportunity? I had a challenge for myself. I could either stand for something or not say anything. You can’t just talk; you have to stand every now and then, and this was an opportunity, even though it was outside of my comfort zone.”

We asked him how he felt when he sent a personal message to his friend:

“I was nervous about how he was going to react. But his response was good— I didn’t have to sell it to him. It just spoke for itself. I just basically put it out there and let it sit. In speaking up about something like this, you’re not trying to correct, you’re just trying to highlight an error that lots of people just do unknowingly without intending to be offensive.”

This got us thinking: what’s a good way to call attention to something you hear or see, perhaps without being overly confrontational? There a lot of reasons even the most well-intentioned people won’t speak up if they witness violence or hear something that condones it. We may fear our instincts are wrong or worry that we’re being nosy or intrusive. We worry that we’ll be perceived as too “politically correct” or that it wouldn’t be cool to call someone out on something.

The truth is, silence can be harmful. It’s tacit support of what’s going on. It’s an affirmation that what you’re witnessing or hearing is OK.

What Can You Do?

You don’t have to make a huge ordeal out of calling someone out. Even the simplest of actions or words can make a difference — and it doesn’t need to be done in front of everyone or in the moment. Send a Facebook message, or pull someone aside later to talk about it.

Begin to pay more attention to phrases that attribute gender to an action. Certain societal norms and the ways we talk about masculinity and femininity can encourage dominance or violence (EX. Telling other guys, “You’re acting like a girl.”)

Sexist, racist, homophobic, and other prejudiced sayings and remarks can have the same impact. Do you or people you hang out with say things or tell jokes that would fall under one of these categories? Next time you hear something like this, say something.

Do you know someone who is being abusive to their partner? Speak up if you suspect it’s happening or if you see it firsthand.

Actions speak volumes as well. Treat those around you with respect. Treat women respectfully in front of men who are friends with you, care about your opinions, or look up to you.

Being an active bystander means more than just stepping in between a man who’s being abusive toward a woman. It means stopping violence before it starts — by stopping behaviors or actions that normalize violence.

What Kinds of Things Should You Say?

White Ribbon has some helpful info about talking to other men and challenging violence-supportive comments or jokes:

  • Provide information. Highlight the facts and debunk the myths.
  • Question the assumption. Challenge the logic of the statement. No one deserves to be raped, beaten or stalked. No one asks for it. No one likes it.
  • Convey your feelings and principles. Show emotion and passion. Show that you’re affected by what was said or done and doesn’t think it’s right. Tell them that these types of statements make you uncomfortable.
  • Use humor to playfully question sexist and derogatory remarks.
  • Ask for an explanation. Ask, “What are you saying?” to invite critical reflection.
  • Invite group pressure. Say in front of others, “I don’t feel good about this. Does anyone else feel uncomfortable too?”

It’s important to keep in mind that men can also be the victims of domestic violence. Regardless of gender, these methods and techniques for intervention and talking to others can be helpful tools for anyone.

Change begins with one action or assertion, and everyone has a stake in ending domestic violence. After all, it’s not just a women’s issue or a men’s issue — it’s a human issue.

Men Who Have Spoken Up

Check out these men who have received media attention for being outspoken about domestic violence (but you obviously don’t have to be famous or in politics to talk about the issue!):

  • Star Trek star Patrick Stewart has spoken about the necessity of men getting involved to help stop domestic violence.
  • Dallas, Texas mayor Mike Rawlings held a rally to get Texas men involved
  • Some awesome NFL players like Jason Witten, William Gay, and Chris Johnson have challenged norms about masculinity and helped spread awareness about domestic violence

Further Reading