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Friday, November 21, 2008

3 videos, 3 questions

1) How does gender stereotypes portrayed in all the media forms (TV, magazine, music, video games, movies, etc) from child- to adult-hood affect you?

2) Is it unfair to connect these three videos to a hidden agenda of media culture not only in pointing towards the trend of child exploitation for future product consumption but also the messages they are selling to get our "buy-in" to these characterizations of femininity and masculinity for the purpose of relational power and control, misogyny, and misandry?

3) How do we break free of these to promote healthier and safer ads for future generations?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes

Being mindful of the daily experience of many women in this country as the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault is not an easy task while walking uncomfortably in high heels across a college campus. This, however, was the challenge several men took on during UMKC’s second annual “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” march. Of course men in high heels is an awkward sight, but on this day it was an opportunity for men, including myself, to get a better understanding and appreciation of women’s experience as well to provide a greater perspective by broadening our awareness. It was a march of solidarity as men came together to show their willingness to support those affected by and those that take a stand against sexual violence.

In my personal experience with this march, I found friends and family members curious but also quick to poke fun due to the uncomfortable topic (sexual violence) as well as the idea of participating by donning a pair of heels themselves. Frankly, I’m not surprised by their reactions as society, in general, are embarrassed by men taking on feminine stereotypes and would prefer to keep the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence hidden and voiceless. Even among families and friends there is space to discuss the economic crisis, the presidential race, the energy crisis, or the United States foreign policy. But many would prefer to pay lip service or simply brush under the carpet issues dealing with race, poverty, violence and sexual violence.

The opportunity to take part in this march did provide me with the courage to probe deeper with friends and family in discussing how we can improve gender relations and decrease potential violence in our community. Several of these conversations led to places that I never imagined – both good and bad – but all led to greater understanding of the importance of ending sexual violence in our community and our role, as men, in that struggle. I’m hopeful that this was the experience of many of the participants of UMKC’s march as well as those that participate in the over 1000 other “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” across the country.

David Belt
Man Up! Program Coordinator

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Upcoming Event: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Men: Are you interested in taking a small step in becoming an active bystander? Want to show women and other men how you walk the walk as an ally in the struggle to end sexual violence? Ever wonder what it's like to wear heels? Do I have the event for you...Come join us at UMKC for the annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event on Thursday September 25th at 4pm. For more information about the event, please proceed to UMKC's Women Center...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Needed: Active Male Bystanders

The web can be a wonderful resource to get a read on how our society views a variety of issues. Recently, while searching YouTube for PSAs on sexual violence I came across this video of a man reflecting on his personal experience of witnessing a friend at a party in the process of an attempted rape and how he responded. I recommend watching it even though it is a bit long and drawn out.

Whether this guy's story is true or not matters little to me in comparison to what this video does for men as it calls into question our responsibility towards victims in situations even when a friend is a perpetrator. This man might not think of his friend in those terms -- even though he does call "the girl" a victim -- but, regardless, he intervened because he felt he needed to.

I do not advocate violence but I am happy to hear some men feel this strongly about sexual violence and choose to involve themselves as an active bystander rather than remain silent for "his boy". Silence is NOT golden in these situations. If you read the comment section on YouTube following the video, there are several survivors reporting they wished a man like him was actively present when they were victims of rape. Our world needs more men that are willing to take responsibility and intervene with the sexism, harassment, or sexual violence of their peers.

What do you think? If you are a guy, put yourself in his shoes at that party and consider how you would respond? How will you respond the next time you hear or witness friends making sexist remarks about others, behaving disrespectfully or attempting to take advantage of someone under the influence?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why are men so violent?

I have been engaging in an ongoing conversation with a friend about violence and men and he flat out asked, “Why are men so violent?” The question became a springboard for a greater dialogue with my friend and others and I thought it would be an interesting post to our Blog. So, with his permission, we are putting this question out here and creating space for some open dialogue. We would be interested in hearing what you think or how you would respond to such a question and ask that you would participate in our dialogue by posting in the comments section.

If you think this is an unfair question, consider a small sample of the overwhelming stats that validate the need to ask this question…

*Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey.[The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, May 1999]

*99.8% of the people in prison convicted of rape are men.
[National Crime Statistics]

*The majority of victims of men's violence are other men (76% Males, 24% Females).
[U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justic Statistics]

*Forty percent of girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.[Children Now/Kaiser Permanente poll, December 1995]

*A nationwide survey found male students more likely to have been involved in a physical fight than female students in the 12 months preceding the survey.[]

*In 2003 men 15-19 years of age were more than four times as likely to die from suicides as girls their same age.

*Of all the homicides reported in the 18 to 24 age group in 2004, 86 percent of the victims were males.[]

It begs the question, "Why are men so violent?"

Friday, February 29, 2008

Because you're not that guy...

Have you seen these commercials?

The number of gender-limiting messages we receive through commercials on a daily basis is mind-blowing. Obviously, commercials are meant to tell us to think a certain way in order to persuade us to buy a product, but when we allow it to shape our mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors it can be really dangerous. You might disagree with me or think that I have over-analyzed this commercial, but I think the limited emotional ability of men this commercial presents is absolutely destructive to masculinity and femininity and relationships.

I would invite you to view it again and really consider what messages are being covertly sent about "that guy" and "regular guys" and what it is saying, in general, about what it means to be in healthy relationships.

I would also invite you to consider the following questions: Is there really something wrong about being "that guy"? Is he any less of a man for painting her nails? What's wrong with being that genuinely in-tune with your partner? Is it really necessary to call out that guy's masculinity because he chooses to invest time in becoming more intimately known with what his partner really desires rather than merely investing money in a materialistic gift? What kind of message does this send to young men and boys about the “acceptable” way to act? Which guy do you prefer "that guy" or the "the regular guy"? Do we have to be only one or the other?

David Belt
Man Up! Coordinator

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fathers, Husbands, Brothers, and Sons – “ManUp!” needs you!

If you have a Mother, a Wife, a Daughter, and a Sister– chances are you know someone VERY intimately who has been sexually assaulted or will be in their lifetime.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Think about that for a minute….how would you react if you found out your Mom or your Wife or you Sister or even your own Daughter for God’s sake were assaulted sexually?!

Often times, what men do when they hear that someone close to them has been sexually molested is figure out a way to go find the perpetrator who was responsible and kick his ass. I know, because that’s exactly what I wanted to do when I found out someone close to me had been molested and the perpetrator was my very own brother! I spent one solid day trying to figure out where my brother was after he admitted to his assaults – so I could transport myself to wherever he was and physically beat him to a pulp! My brain was dominated by revenge and little else. I call this the rage and revenge response.

Another way men react when they hear someone close to them has been sexually assaulted is to shake their heads, drop their eyes to the floor, and think “what a damn shame!”, “what a freak”, etc. For lack of a better label, I will call this the “disgust and disassociate” reaction.

The problem with this reaction is two-fold. First – it’s a misconception to think that men who sexually assault women and other men are “bogey men jumping out from behind bushes late at night”. Most men who perpetrate such crimes come right from the general fabric or our society. And most times, the perpetrators of such crimes are men the victim knows extremely well already – a family friend, a trusted coach, a confident of some sort, counselor, neighbor, etc. Secondly – by shaking our heads, staring at floors, and thinking “what a shame”, Men absolve themselves into thinking sexual assault is isolated freak-show behavior. And sexual assault is NOT isolated, it happens to 1 in 4 women, and it happens by someone who’s generally already in a relationship of some sort. The laundry list of perpetrators could read like a who’s who of various professions coming from a wide array of socio-economic backgrounds, etc.

What’s missing in these two over-riding reactions (rage/revenge and disgust/disassociate) from men about sexual assault is accountability. We tend to think of sexual assault as a women’s issue instead of what it is – a MAN’S issue. Men are the perpetrators of sexual assault 97% of the time in America. Yet, so many of the “good guys” who are disturbed by sexual assault sit on the sidelines and continue to display the same two reactions over and over – rage/revenge or disgust/disassociate. I would submit to you the only way we can decrease the chances that one of our loved ones will be assaulted is to start having some serious guy to guy talk. More appropriately – some man to man talk about sexual assault, about healthy relationships, about boundaries, date rape, drug and alcohol facilitated rape, etc. We need to be real with each other about why “going for that extra base” to put sex into a baseball analogy is so dangerous, so unhealthy and can lead to a sexual assault more times than not.

And if you think you don’t intimately know any woman close to you who’s been a victim, here’s something else to consider…..even if your Mom/Wife/Sister/Daughter has been abused sexually, there’s a great chance they haven’t told many people, including YOU about it for a variety of reasons. One – they might fear you would respond the same way I did when I found out my brother was a rapist, intent on physical revenge. Second – they might feel a very twisted sense of responsibility which if you actually spend time investigating this issue you would know is complete B.S.! Lastly – the victim might feel like it would damage how YOU would feel about them in some way. Somehow, someway – you might actually place some misguided blame their way. Worse yet, the victim might feel you would label them "tainted" by the sexual assault and create some distance in your relationship with them.

If you have four women in your life who you love, it’s time to take up for them and no longer sit idle. 1 in 4 is a crisis on par with any bad thing you can think of happening to a loved one whether it be cancer or drunk driving. I encourage more men to get involved in ManUp! Please come forward and help us to start pushing the statistics back the other way, it’s time to get real with each other about what the phrase “be a man” actually means.

Matt Sharples
Man Up! Committee Board Member

Friday, January 4, 2008

Pink Power

I was at Target the other day returning a shirt that didn’t fit and noticed an entire rack of pink button downs in the Men’s Wear section. It reminded me of a story that I recently read about a group of male high school students that bullied and sexually harassed another male student solely for wearing a pink shirt. What was newsworthy about this incident were the responses of two senior class boys and the use of pink shirts as a part of a creative campaign ("Sea of Pink") against bullying and sexual harassment. They rallied other students to wear pink and used this “feminized” color as a unifying element to show their solidarity against the bullies.

What really struck me about their campaign was that it didn’t appear they knew the victim of the incident but they still felt the need to actively respond in a show of support and encourage their friends to do the same by wearing pink shirts the next school day. It is so encouraging to read about how people, especially young men, are speaking out and taking a stand against sexual harassment and bullying. It is equally powerful to share that their activism proved to make a difference in the victim’s life and their corporate disdain put the bullies on notice that such inappropriate behavior would no longer be socially acceptable. Their story has also inspired me to purchase a pink shirt and share their activism with others as a way to honor how these bystanders made a difference.

I'm curious what effect this story will have on you. Will you look at men wearing pink shirts differently? If you are a man, will you consider wearing pink and share this story with your friends? Or given the opportunity as a bystander, will you speak out and take a stand against sexism, violence, and sexual violence?

David Belt
Man Up! Coordinator