(Photo by by StockSnap from Pixabay )
As Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement makes clear, harassment and assault against women is not “just” about gender and sexuality, it is about power.
Though most men do not consciously feel they have power over women, the very history of gender relationships in Western Culture, has been one of male power and privilege at the expense of women. As the voices of the #MeToo movement make clear, girls and women have experienced sexual harassment, abuse and assault in subtle and overtly dangerous ways.
The very description of masculinity as having qualities of dominance and control — think, “act like a man.” “man up,” or the crasser expression “grow some …” — has led to an assumption that “boys will be boys” and the absence of critical examination and intervention. So much of the work of the feminist movement has been to assure women’s safety, right to their own voice, and freedom from discrimination. Work with men to shift the very definition of “masculinity” and how it is practiced is critical, and ideally will gain the active participation of men in changing male culture.
No longer is it enough for “good” men to think their role is to protect women. Rather, to be effective in changing male behaviors and eliminating institutional practices that allow and at times even encourage harassment and assault against women, men need to actively stop all men from using their power and privilege in ways that oppress women.
The Men’s Center for Growth and Change has created a conference this November 14-15 focused on men; this stems from the growing concern that the culture that creates men who sexually harass and assault women is in need of change. Individual men and organizations they work for, belong to, and participate in, must be a significant part of this change.
Men and the #MeToo Movement: What Individuals and Organizations Can Do, is a conference aimed at creating a regional dialogue about: 1) how men come to play a part in harassment and assault, regardless of whether they themselves do the harassing or assaulting; 2) research, policies and programs that can help in creating the needed change at the individual and organizational level, and 3) what those working in organizational leadership roles as educators and therapists and as social change advocates can do to raise men’s awareness, help men understand the extent and effect of the problem, and how they can contribute to ending sexual harassment and assault against women.
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Change is happening. Many men are aware of and supportive of the #MeToo movement and its message. Yet some men express confusion about what is the “right” way to interact with women, particularly in the workplace as well as in the community. As well, women and men in organizations are often challenged about how to respond when accusations of harm are received. This conference will address these topics, including restorative justice practices that can help to restore trust when it has been damaged by inappropriate behavior.
The Men and the #MeToo Movement conference will share ideas, research and practices that work in ending harassment and assault perpetrated by men against women. Researchers and practitioners will share ideas and practices that will empower those working in organizations and with men directly, to better understand causes of male perpetration and extend the tools we have to effect change.
The conference does not promise to address every experience and every population affected by sexual harassment and assault. It does, however, focus on men with the vision that we can gain insight into creating effective prevention and responses at the personal, organizational and cultural level that will make a real difference in lives of people of all genders.-30-
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