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Saturday, August 25, 2007

How far we've come — How far to go

There's a new television drama out this summer. It's called MAD MEN. It's about the world of Madison Avenue in the 1960's. Being in advertising, the buzz about the show started early. I was reading about it in Ad Age and AdWeek months before its debut. And while I was very interested in the subject matter — Advertising — I didn't expect to be captivated by the show.

I am.

The story line follows the lives of a number of people in 1960 New York. The advertising stories are interesting, but the most fascinating aspect of the show is the attention to detail the director has show toward the period. The 1960 office environment was significantly different than today's workplace. I had heard stories of this type of behavior, but had never really experienced it.

In the show, women are treated as supplicants. They exist to serve their husbands and/or bosses (not managers, bosses). They are treated as sexual objects, existing to serve the men in their lives, to bear children and to take care of the household. Sexual comments abound at the office, as does smoking and drinking during business hours.

I entered the world of advertising in 1982, close to the end of the three-martini lunch and overt sexual comments. The world was rapidly moving toward political correctness, sexual harassment awareness was coming into vogue and drinking and driving was becoming taboo.

Having missed the 60's and 70's advertising world, I decided to ask some older friends what it was like to work during those years.

I first asked Jim, a former creative director I worked with at a previous agency. He laughed when I asked the question, "What was the sexual environment like in the agency business in the 1960's?"

Jim said, "Oh, it was wild. When clients came to town they expected us to have women join us for dinner. Sometimes it was our secretaries. Other times they were call girls. We just put it on our expense reports as entertainment."

I found myself at lunch a few days later with my friend, Landa. She began in the agency business in the 60's and had been watching MAD MEN for a couple of weeks. When I asked her if the office environment was really like what the show depicts, she said, "Oh honey, it was much worse than that. On my first day, one of the men in the office came up to me and asked, 'Do you know the difference between a hamburger and a blow job?' I said, 'No.' He responded, 'Want to go to lunch?'"

We have come a long way since 1960. But we still have a long way to go. The attitudes men have toward women have been around for centuries, and while many men have come to understand the importance of seeing women as equal in both personal and professional endeavors, many more men continue to perpetuate the myth that women are somehow less than men.

Man Up! is dedicated to helping men come to understand the long-term effects unintentional comments and actions have on women. It is our goal to help men understand that being silent when other men make inappropriate comments does nothing to stem the tide of sexual degradation that women feel every day.

MAD MEN gives us a glimpse of where we were 47 years ago. But it also makes me wonder how far we have really come.

Sam Meers
MOCSA Board Member
Member of the Man Up! committee

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rape is not “gray”

I recently told the staff coordinator for our Men Against Sexual Violence program that I would do a blog entry. I have been Executive Director at MOCSA for over 20 years, my career has been devoted to helping victims of violence, and I have a husband and a 25-year-old son whose values I admire.

I should have lots to say….and I do. I’m just a little boggled by all that’s evolved in recent years, and I’m not sure of the right message. There has always been the issue of “he said, she said”, but now a crime victim is called “the accuser”. The job of law enforcement is to establish that a crime has occurred, thus establishing victim status, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference when rape is the crime. There are judges who refuse to have the word rape used in the courtroom, despite the fact that an indictment has preceded the trial.

The September Cosmopolitan, has an article that coins the term “gray rape,” but proceeds to describe instances where the victim clearly said no. In one instance, the woman described how she had invited a friend to be her “platonic date” to a sorority function. Following that, they made out, but she said sex was off limits. He proceeded to force sex, and she said no. However, she blamed herself for not saying no forcefully enough.

What we at MOCSA and everyone who deals with sexual assault knows, is that victims blame themselves. Even if a stranger jumps out of the bushes, a victim will question whether she should have been walking in that area, whether she should have fought harder, etc., etc. We don’t need popular magazines coining phrases that discount victims or their experience.

Rape is not “gray”. Rape has devastating and long-term effects. Lives are changed. Clinical depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and coping through alcohol and substance use are just a few of the effects. One study revealed that 60% of marriages or long-term relationships ended within a year of a rape.

I applaud the men who are associated with MOCSA and similar organizations for committing to address this issue. It is a difficult issue, and I know of some who questioned and felt badly about actions that they were involved with earlier in their lives.

What I think about for these men is how we help victims. It is important to move beyond denial, acknowledge and grieve the violation, and regain a healthy and empowered approach to living.

The men who volunteer for MOCSA’s Man Up! committee have committed to reaching out to boys, young men and their peers to promote respect and positive communication. Typically, they are fathers of both boys and girls and recognize the importance of developing healthy relationships based on trust and mutual respect. This is clearly what our society needs.

-Palle M. Rilinger, Executive Director of MOCSA

Friday, August 17, 2007

Upcoming Related Community Event

Man Up! is proud to announce the following upcoming related community event:

* UMKC's AALo (African-American/Latino) Empowerment Summit on Friday and Saturday October 5th and 6th at UMKC Pierson Auditorium. Attendance at the Summit will be FREE for all participants. Michael Eric Dyson and Joe Hernandez-Kolski will be keynote speakers and discussing issues that are relevant to African-American and Latino male populations. For more information and to register please call 816-235-6060.