Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence against Women

Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence against Women

Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence against Women

Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence against Women

Synopsis

What does it mean for men to join with women as allies in preventing sexual assault and domestic violence? Based on life history interviews with men and women anti-violence activists aged 22 to 70, Some Men explores the strains and tensions of men's work as feminist allies. When feminist women began to mobilize against rape and domestic violence, setting up shelters and rape crisis centers, a few men asked what they could do to help. They were directed "upstream," and told to "talk to the men" with the goal of preventing future acts of violence. This is a book about men who took this charge seriously, committing themselves to working with boys and men to stop violence, and to change the definition of what it means to be a man. The book examines the experiences of three generational cohorts: a movement cohort of men who engaged with anti-violence work in the 1970s and early 1980s, during the height of the feminist anti-violence mobilizations; a bridge cohort who engaged with anti-violence work from the mid-1980s into the 1990s, as feminism receded as a mass movement and activists built sustainable organizations; a professional cohort who engaged from the mid-1990s to the present, as anti-violence work has become embedded in community and campus organizations, non-profits, and the state. Across these different time periods, stories from life history interviews illuminate men's varying paths--including men of different ethnic and class backgrounds--into anti-violence work. Some Men explores the promise of men's violence prevention work with boys and men in schools, college sports, fraternities, and the U.S. military. It illuminates the strains and tensions of such work--including the reproduction of male privilege in feminist spheres--and explores how men and women navigate these tensions. To learn more please visit somemen.org

Excerpt

Women cluster at the edge of a river, washing clothes. Suddenly, one of them spots a basket floating down the river toward them. She wades in to see what it is, discovers to her horror a crying baby in the basket, and pulls it to shore. A few minutes later, another basket floats toward them and a second woman wades out to rescue the baby. When a third basket appears, one of the women proceeds to hike upstream. “Wait,” one of the group exhorts, “you must stay here to help us rescue the babies.” “You rescue the babies,” the hiking woman replies, “I’m heading upstream to find out who’s putting the babies in the water, and I’m going to stop them.”

We don’t know the origins of this story—it has the feel of an Old Testament parable—but we have heard several versions of it in recent years, especially as a metaphoric fable that captures the approach and goals of activists who work to prevent gender-based violence. This “upstream-downstream” story has recently become a central metaphor in various health prevention campaigns, especially among those who work to prevent gender-based violence. For instance, since 2005, the Virginia Department of Health Division of Injury and Violence Prevention has published Moving Upstream: Newsletter for the Primary Prevention of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence. More recently, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) in 2012 also deployed this metaphor in its continued efforts to build its “PreventConnect” national network of gender-based violence prevention workers, dubbing the current effort “Moving Upstream 2.0.”

The violence prevention community’s adaptation of the upstream-downstream fable often reflects a gendered division of labor: for several decades, it has been almost exclusively women who have labored downstream, carrying out vital and exhausting “rescue work” with a depressingly steady stream of survivors of rape, domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. In the 1970s, when a small number of men became . . .

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