by Lyn Twyman
Recently I had the opportunity to co-present a workshop at the National Organization for Women's (NOW) annual conference in Tampa, FL. The workshop was about how survivors of domestic violence could be resilient after experiencing abuse. I shared my own personal story of resiliency, what that means for me as a survivor of child abuse and intimate partner violence, and coping techniques. After my presentation, participants in the workshop shared their experiences and their own heartfelt stories of triumph over abuse.
During the entire NOW conference, hundreds of feminist women, and men, gathered during that weekend to discuss issues affecting women and families in this country and around the world. Men like Barry Goldstein, activist and battered mothers advocate, and Ben Atherton-Zeman, spokesperson of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, only to name a few, represented that segment of male society who fight for the equality of women, protection of children, and the declination of the age old, destructive misogynist ways of thinking. They were welcomed speakers among a sea of activist women.
Whether you agree with all that NOW as an organization represents, one thing I saw was their ability to engage men in the conversation of solutions to ensure a progressive future for both women. All movements start from one point but in order to be sustainable, they must be willing to adapt and grow into a progressive effort that meets the needs of society in modern times. Among many great initiatives, that is one initiative NOW is managing to do.
Often when we talk about social ills like domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, we speak in terms of how they affect women. And women are often the ones to carry the torch to create support and resources for survivors. There are more women representing these issues too like there are women flooding church pews. There is an overwhelming unleveled scale of women compared to men on these serious issues that require the participation of men, the imperative engagement of men both young and old.
If we want to see a drastic shift take place in the way society views domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, men can no longer be side line participants in the conversations and there must be an active recruitment to engage well intentioned men to ally alongside women who have taken these issues by the bridle to see effectual change take place.
We also need to pay closer attention to how misogyny has damaged men and has failed male victims. The misperception that as a man you should tough it up if you are assaulted, or that you can just take it and move on has drove countless men to live lives that are less than fulfilling, lives filled with denial, depression, addiction, abuse and yes, like many women re-victimization. We also do ourselves a disservice when we alienate men from our lives, when we fail to acknowledge their role in helping to create solutions. We also poison our posterity when we allow rhetoric and misogynist imagery to permeate our mainstream society, from both men and women, and do nothing about. I am talking about the men and women who portray both sexes like nothing more than sexual objects.
There are many men that want to get involved and fight alongside women to help bring change, despite what negative they have been taught by their fathers or society. Unfortunately some of them have been turned away by women who failed to recognize the need for change and allow men to take part in the solution with programs and services.
So take the time to look at your work and find ways to increase the engagement and participation of men. Men are a vital part of the equation to solving women’s issues and issues that are perceived to be just women’s issues. There are countless positive, inspiring, spirit filled men out there that are crusaders for protection and seekers of justice. The issues that often begin with female victims affect all of us. So be a part of that progressive change and embrace the men who raise their hands and ask, ‘How can I as a man help?’