What is VOICES OF MEN?
A community where boys are taught Healthy Manhood, and men treat all people with dignity.
Fox Valley men helping end sexual assault and domestic violence by dismantling Man Box culture and building a culture of Healthy Manhood.
Voices of Men was founded in 2007 in the Fox Valley region (Wisconsin) when our four domestic violence/sexual assault agencies (Christine Ann Center, Harbor House, Reach Counseling, and Sexual Assault Crisis Center) gathered men for a “Men’s Summit” after Harbor House brought Ben Atherton-Zeman to our community. Ben’s message focused on engaging men and boys in the work of ending sexual assault and domestic violence. Inspired by the Men’s Summit, a group of 40 men wanted to do more. The effort received a boost through a 2008 CHAT (Community Health Action Team) plunge on domestic violence led by ThedaCare. Following the plunge, a steering committee was formed to plan an intensive four-month initiative starting in January 2010. This effort culminated in a community breakfast that drew more than 400 well-meaning men who wanted to be part of the solution. This breakfast has become an annual event (attracting nearly 1,100 people in 2015) to learn about simple everyday behaviors that can either foster a culture that enables violence and sexism, or can help elevate women and girls and create a culture of safety and dignity.
In 2014, inspired by our annual Breakfast, students from Appleton North High School and Lawrence University each launched “chapters” of Voices of Men – bringing our message to their school community, and engaging in this work year-around. In 2015, inspired by these two chapters, five additional chapters started in the Fox Valley area, including an elementary school and a middle school chapter, facilitated in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs – Fox Valley.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are often considered “women’s issues.” Voices of Men is trying to change that perception and get people thinking about these as “men’s issues” or “human issues” since approximately 90% of perpetrators are men. Voices of Men works in close partnership with women leaders from our four local domestic violence and sexual assault agencies so they can guide and inform our work. Our approach is “upstream” – we look to address the root causes of these epidemics. Violence against women is rooted in sexism and how our culture teaches masculinity – what we call the “Man Box” (the messages society gives us about what it means to “act like a man”). Our educational efforts ask men to challenge sexism and redefine masculinity so that we start teaching Healthy Manhood instead of the Man Box.
Youth leaders from the Appleton North “Stand Up” chapter speaking at our 2015 Breakfast.
To date, more than 4,000 men and teenage boys have attended our Breakfast. In addition, more than 2,500 men and teenage boys have taken our White Ribbon Pledge “never to commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women and children.” An annual survey of Breakfast participants revealed:
- 80% made a conscious effort to improve the way they treat women/girls;
- 58% spoke up when they heard an inappropriate comment made about women/girls;
- 99% attended an event or took some kind of action in support of women or girls.
Over 1,000 people in attendance for our 2015 Breakfast.
UNDERLYING THEORY THAT GUIDES OUR WORK:
- We live in a sexist (and violent) society and world.
- Most men are “well-meaning” men and are not to blame for being born into a sexist society, but they need to be part of the solution to end it.
- The “Man Box” is a false, unhealthy masculinity that we’ve been taught in our society. It is a manifestation of societal sexism, and it hurts women & girls andboys & men.
- Man Box thinking teaches 3 key things: (1) men shouldn’t have “negative” emotions other than anger; (2) men need to be in charge and not seek help; and (3) women are of lesser value, and their value is tied to physical appearance (objectification).
- Men’s violence exists in part because men are disconnected from their full humanity, “stuck in the Man Box”. Women don’t need us to come and “save” them—what they need is men to create a healthier masculinity that will help everyone in society, including men. Men’s liberation is intertwined with the liberation of women.
- With awareness, education and training, men CAN “break out of the Man Box” and help end sexism and violence.
- Men become allies in this work by: moving from entitlement to enlightenment to engagement to eradication. Male allies: (a) break out of the Man Box; (b) become aware of privilege; (c) listen to and learn from women; (d) speak up, not over; (e) acknowledge and learn from mistakes; and (f) are active, engaged allies 24/7.
- If we can dismantle the Man Box and become strong allies, men’s violence will decrease.
Conversations about manhood should start by talking about “Man Box culture”. If you’ve ever heard phrases like “act like a man”, “man up”, or “you’re throwing like a girl”, you know Man Box culture. We’re raising boys and men to believe three things:
- “Real men” don’t cry or have emotions … except anger.
- Men need to be strong and never ask for help.
- And women are of less value.
When we tell our boys to “act like a man”, that is what they hear. When we instead speak of “healthy manhood”, boys hear a different message: they can cry and show emotions, be loving and kind, ask for help, and value women and girls.
If we want to decrease societal problems such as school shootings, male suicide, homophobia, sexual assault and domestic violence, we need to end Man Box culture and start teaching Healthy Manhood.
Our words can be violent.
“We wouldn’t say it to their faces. So let’s not type it.”
Our words can blame victims.
When Ray Rice assaulted his girlfriend, many people asked “What did she do to provoke him?”, or “Why did she go back to him?”. Better questions would have focused on the perpetrator and not the victim, such as “Why did he hit her?”, and “How is he going to be held accountable?”.
Our words can police how women dress.
Our words can imprison boys and men inside the Man Box.
Our words can diminish women and make them invisible.
Everyday words, such as “chick” and “babe”, diminish women. Other everyday words, such as “Aldermen”, “Policemen”, and “Freshmen”, when used to describe both women and men, make women invisible within our language.
Even if our words don’t have bad intent, we need to watch the impact of our words.
Our words can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.
Sexual assault & domestic violence have traditionally been thought of as “women’s issues”. That is wrong, and it is one of the reasons these crimes continue to be epidemics in our community and around the world.
The reality is that approximately 90% of these crimes are perpetrated by men, and approximately 90% of the victims & survivors are women.
If a male sexually assaults a female, it is not “her issue” – it is his issue. These issues are “men’s issues”, or more accurately human issues, since they impact all of us.
When we think of these as “women’s issues”, men often remain silent. Though most men are not perpetrators, silent men are part of the problem. Perpetrators like our silence. When we think of these as “men’s issues”, men speak up and take action.
When we think of these issues as “women’s issues”, we ask questions that blame the victim:
- Why did she dress that way?
- Why did she drink that much?
- Why didn’t she leave him?
When we think of these as “men’s issues”, we ask more useful questions like:
- Why did he sexually assault her?
- Why is he controlling her social life?
- Why did he hit her?
We need men to speak up in helpful ways, and be engaged in the solution. We need men doing this work in partnership with, and following the leadership of, women who have been doing this work for decades.
THE VOICES OF MEN PLEDGE
HISTORY OF THE “WHITE RIBBON” PLEDGE: After the École Polytechnique massacre on December 6, 1989, where 14 women were killed by an anti-feminist man, a movement formed in Canada involving men wearing the white ribbon to signify opposition to violence against women.
The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) appeared in 1991 in relation to this movement and became one of the largest men’s anti-violence programs in the world. Started by activists such as Michael Kaufman, it has spread to over 57 countries around the world. It is now an international effort of men and boys working to end violence against women.(from Wikipedia)
“I PLEDGE NEVER TO COMMIT, CONDONE OR REMAIN SILENT ABOUT MEN’S VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN.”
- Voices of Men works in close partnership with our four local domestic violence and sexual assault agencies:
- Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services
- Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs
- Reach Counseling
- Sexual Assault Crisis Center