Author: tyler perkins – contributor
The ‘Man Up Against Violence’ movement was started to address a problem that happens to be worse in Saskatchewan than almost anywhere else in Canada. When it comes to gender-related violence, we have been letting people down for years. Many people misunderstand this issue. They see it as a women’s issue, because it happens mostly to women. The reality is, however, that it is very much a men’s issue, because men are the perpetrators of violence a vast majority of the time. Men have been victimizing women, girls, boys and other men at pandemic rates in our society. Now, the point of this movement is not to condemn all men as violent, but rather to empower men to make their voice heard in the conversation about masculinity.
‘Man Up Against Violence’ has given me an opportunity to see just how important all men are to an issue that has been widely ignored in the past. We can ignore the problem, sure, but what will that do for us? People have been stressing that women should be the ones to change in order to stop violence. Teaching women self-defense and asking them to be more careful when drinking may seem to make sense to some, but in reality, that attitude does one thing: it blames the victim for someone else’s actions.
It is a well-known fact that rape and abuse are extremely underreported. So, instead of creating a safe environment for survivors of abuse, we have been blaming them to the point that they feel they cannot come forward. Because we are so intent on denying the fact that our attitude towards women has been causing violence we have been blaming victims mercilessly. Men often look at me in a perplexed manner and ask, “I’m not committing violence, so how am I the problem?” That is because although you haven’t committed violence at this point in your life, you have been normalizing it. Before that, it was normalized for you. We have been telling men that violence can be a convenient way to get what you want. On top that, men are often told that to truly “be a man,” you’re going to need to have a lot of sex. So, we’ve been telling boys and men that to “be a man” they need to have a lot of sex, be tough and to use violence if necessary and we’re surprised that we have a sexual violence problem?
There is an answer to all of this. It’s quite simple, really. Men need to stand up and make this our issue as well. We need to be aware of our society’s misogynistic past in order to confront the issues that we are faced with. We need to accept violence prevention as part of our masculinity. People who stand against violence should be rewarded and those who commit violence, or stand idly by while others do, should lose respect as a man. After all, is it truly manly to allow others to abuse?
As men, we were born with privilege. I’m not saying it is right, but it is true. Men have been shaping our society for our benefit during our country’s entire history, but it doesn’t have to be our future. Every man has a say in what our collective masculine identity is and should be.
If you have been telling yourself that this isn’t a problem in your life or on your campus, then you are willfully blind to an issue that is demanding our attention. The point of Man Up Against Violence is not to condemn all men as perpetrators as violence, but rather to empower men to stand and take ownership of our collective masculinity. If we can do that, we can start to discourage violence as a masculine activity and eventually we won’t have to worry about being seen as aggressive or violent simply because we are men. I challenge everyone on our campus and in our community – men and women alike – to critically consider what we see as manly, so we can stop producing violent people. It is on all of us.
Spokesperson, MUAV “Redefining what it means to man up!”