My 1987- Men's Anti-Rape Organizing Writing
I wish to also strongly acknowledge the ideas of numerous activists in the Feminist Women's Movement. Of particular note I would like to thank Andrea Dworkin, Susan Brownmiller and Diana Russell. Without many of these women's important work there would not be a Men's Movement. Our debts to the Women's Movement can not be overemphasized.
II. WHERE DOES ONE BEGIN?
III. CLARIFYING WHERE ONE IS AT
IV. DOING SOMETHING AS A GROUP - THE EARLY STAGES
V. GROUP LEADERSHIP
VI. DECISION MAKING WITHIN ONE'S GROUP
VII. HOMOPHOBIA AND INTERNAL COMPETITION
IX. MEN'S REACTIONS TO ANTI-RAPE WORK AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
X. DEALING WITH MEN'S ANGER TOWARDS WOMEN
XI. WORKING WITH WOMEN
XIV. COMMUNICATION OUTSIDE ONE'S GROUP
XVI. HOW POLITICAL SHOULD ONE'S GROUP BE?
XVII.SOME SUGGESTED WORKSHOP POSSIBILITIES
XVIII.ENDING RAPE AS A RADICAL VISION FOR MEN
One can focus on:
1) providing financial or other support for rape victims and existing organizations that help
2) consciousness raising/education within one's anti-rape group,
3) trying to do consciousness raising/education work with:
a) already supportive men,
b) potentially supportive men,
c) apathetic men,
d) hostile men,
e) e) helping professionals,
f) f) law enforcement or other public officials or
4) direct action such as:
c) guerrilla theater,
d) creating or supporting artistic endeavors.
e) One could also focus on counseling:
1) male rape victims, 2) male rapists, 3) significant others of rape victims or perpetrators.
You may be able to come up with various other areas as well.
Goals clarification is generally necessary. If one's focus is limited to one rally, march or workshop, one must focus on doing this action effectively and efficiently. As one's goals become larger and longer term, it becomes more and more important to take the time to clarify feelings, possibly at the expense of focussing the group outward for some time. The personal and group clarity and unity can be very useful later on, when one faces difficult times. Accepting and understanding the feelings of one's peers can be critical in doing any future actions.
2) whether the group should be men only, men and women, or men only, but working with women's groups,
3) what levels of time commitments one is willing and able to make and what commitments one needs from others to keep going,
4) what reasons the individuals present have for joining the group and what they expect in the short/long runs from the group
5) how decisions will be made by the group,
6) trust among group members and
7) education/class differences within the group.
Unless one wants to have a group of three or four members one must learn to accept different levels of commitment and different visions within one's group. There can be a fine line between commitment to the cause and watering things down to the point that active members will lose interest in the group.
Finally, it is most important to acknowledge personal and group successes. Part of this process involves looking in new ways at what you are accomplishing. In MSR in our early days we celebrated how many men we had reached with our new brochures. If we had instead asked how many rapes we had concretely, for sure, prevented, we would have never seen the influence that we have had.
Anti-rape work can be stressful and it is often quite difficult. As men we may have few peers who understand our commitment. Women may be either extremely supportive or extremely suspicious of us. Men may be very hard to talk with. If we spend our time in our groups building up resentments of each other and in other ways making ourselves more vulnerable, it is unlikely we will stay committed.
Building friendships with the men we work with is very important from the beginning. At first it is understandable that we are cautious. Having male friends who spend time not talking about sports and women in distant ways is often a new experience for many of us.
V. GROUP LEADERSHIP
Men's anti-rape work can be lead in a variety of ways. These can range from being dominated by one individual either within or outside of the actual work group to a totally decentralized, anarchistic group. I would like to discuss some of the pro's and con's of a variety of these structures.
For such a group to succeed it is important that it be very focused, minimize potential conflicts within the group, and have adequate resources to strengthen it. An example of how this might be possible would be for a college leader to find at least one male ally who could work within the group and perhaps plan a rape awareness week in cooperation with existing women's groups. If school resources could help pay for publicity and the goals are not too ambitious, a few people could develop an effective program that could be expanded upon, if it was successful.
Potential problems with this approach are that an external person needs the support of others, who may have conflicting goals. An undergraduate student may not see things the same way as the Dean of Students. There can be an imbalance of power which can be disruptive, as the person in control may be accountable for expenses and have monetary control. At the same time there is a need for volunteer labor which pushes things in the other direction.
Another disadvantage of such an approach can be that the resources of the leadership can easily be strained. If a staff person in a Dean of Students Office is in charge s/he may have numerous other responsibilities, and not be able to focus significant effort into such a project. Particularly when such a program has evolved out of some type of local crisis situation, adequate resources can be available. This can be a very big advantage, particularly if the funding is not only short-term.
Conflicting commitments or lack of interest in the group by one or two can threaten the survival of the group as a whole. I think that this type of a group is most likely to survive in the long run, as it can be most easily focussed and the most steady of all the leadership situations.
One can then assume that smaller groups and individuals can be entrusted with some decision making. This can help avoid exhausting meetings that accomplish little. The weakness of consensus decision making is how much time it can take up. Some consensus models require only consensus to be reached on "major" issues (although defining them is not always easy). Other models require two members or a small percentage to block consensus, although they necessitate hearing dissenters out.
Fortunately he backed off, apparently fearing I would hurt him. We can't separate necessary competition (if there is such a thing) from an unhealthy view of ourselves and others. We can never be good, because being good means being on top, and we are never on top.
We have very limited skills at talking out many of our feelings. We may not physically attack a woman in such a situation, but we may verbally abuse her. We are reasonably close to being physically violent. We wouldn't say that any man, except perhaps a father or brother, had a definite responsibility to listen to us with no if's, and's or but's, but a woman is expected to be available for us now!
For many of us, when a woman doesn't respond as we want her to at any moment, some form of violence is "asked for". We don't identify this violence with football, where a defensive back must hurt the wide receiver to get some respect. We also don't identify it with our fears of losing "our women" to other men, who may be better competition.
As men we must bear our burdens inside, and women must help us cope with the difficulties in our world. We resent women who seem to be able to confide in each other so well. We also fear the intimacy with other men, because they can use whatever we tell them against us. There are no instant answers to our homophobia. We must explore it and seek to comes to grip with it in healthy, constructive ways. We must realize that it was not built within us in a day. It will take a lot of concentrated focus to deal with it effectively.
Focusing on dating issues is often necessary on college campuses. Students are concerned about misunderstandings and miscommunication and will often be happy to talk, if the discussion focuses on their needs and interests. It can be relatively easy to bring rape issues into such a discussion in ways that would be difficult if the workshop title was "acquaintance rape".
For many men discussing options they (and their potential partners) may have, the feelings involved, etc. may be a welcome first discussion for them. Out of such a discussion men can begin to see how their uneasiness in dealing with women in a variety of social setting can relate directly to women's fears of sexual assault or harassment. When men can see this, it can bring up a lot of issues in their lives. Discussions can then productively go a long way.
Dealing with men's harassment can be harrowing at first in one's work. Hearing men say that they like to or want to rape women is not pleasant. It is important to keep one's cool, but to also not stifle one's feelings in such situations. Men may in some cases make more reasonable statements in such a situation if you handle it well, or they may just disappear.
It can be useful to reflect on these issues beforehand. One can examine where men may be coming from, when they make rape jokes or other crude putdowns. For some men working against rape threatens them. We might help stop some of their personal power, which they wield over women. Although they may either greatly over- or under-estimate our strength or influence, this can be useful both for these men and for us.
More commonly men make rape jokes out of a mild defensiveness, often to appear cool to their peers. Getting extremely irate and defensive in such a setting is counterproductive. It may confuse the man who has made what he thinks is a very mild, small statement, which he may soon forget.
The common part of much of men's anger towards women is that they generally have not talked through their feelings in more than a superficial way and they have not focussed on what their feelings are at all. "She ______ me over" or similar anger is often the depth of the feeling that the man has experienced.
One can acknowledge one's anger towards her, one's sadness at the loss of the relationship etc. There is a difference between this and saying that the girlfriend deserves to be raped or otherwise attacked, or have a window broken in her apartment or on her car.
In Madison we formed a men's only group and we have found that the best way for us. We did it this way for a variety of related reasons. We felt that forming a group with women would inevitably be perceived (or actually) compete with our local Rape Crisis Center and other women's groups. Doing this would negate the valuable work that they had done for years. They had helped us build up our sensitivity to the issues. We also felt a need to work out our issues among other men, and then talk with women when we felt a little clearer on our issues.
One of them then asked a very general question about our reaction to the film. We were normally very talkative, with members having trouble getting a word in. This time we spoke infrequently and with very few words. Our resentment of each other grew, as our supposed unity crumbled. The women were supportive. We were the ones with the trouble. We decided that if we couldn't handle two supportive women present, men who might not know each other or us might have a lot of difficulty with women present. In recent years we have done more and more work with mixed groups.
paranoia, even if it is not initially directed at you, watch out! Things can explode easily as they did in Madison at us.
Preventing burnout in men's anti-rape work requires a mindset where one recognizes that one is working on a cause for the long-run and that no matter what one does, there is going to be much more work for a long, long time. It is much easier to intellectualize this concept that to accept it at an emotional level.
One may have significant others, children, outside jobs, interests in a variety of other areas, etc. It is important not to neglect these important parts of one's life. Balancing these commitments is often not easy to do. Your group may become very task oriented and people may start to feel stressed out. It may be good then to take a weekend day to spend time together with others in your group. You may want to be hiking, in a hot tub, canoeing, at the beach, at a museum or doing many other things.
It is especially important to focus on burnout issues when an individual or small group is doing a large percentage of the group's work. If they burn out, there can be a tremendous void that is difficult to bridge. It is important to recognize one's individual and collective limits at all times. When one starts out, few people may show interest in a group. As the work develops, the number of inquiries can grow tremendously. It is easy to feel that one must be everywhere one is requested to be. This may not always be possible. It is easy for individuals to commit a group to things and then feel that they personally must be there, when others are unable or unwilling to go.
appear, even if promised.
A bad side of media coverage can be the desire of media people to dig in and make one look foolish and bad. When Men Stopping Rape first put out our pamphlets, the media had a heyday with our suggestion that "men consider the feelings that we would have if we wore a dress and other female identified clothing in public". We were trying to get at the fear that we would have of being physically assaulted and ridiculed by men we did not know in downtown Madison. There are not a lot of ways that most men can imagine the fears of sexual assault and harassment that many women experience constantly. Very quickly we were "suggesting" that men be transvestites, according to various local media. We didn't back down on what we were saying, although in later brochures the wording was modified somewhat.
If one is going to be severely hurt by negative media coverage, I would suggest minimizing one's efforts with the media. One's words can easily get twisted and/or misquoted and if one is already vulnerable, this can make a new group feel very, very bad. If one is confident of that one is talking about, this can work to one's favor. Our early negative publicity gave us a lot of visibility, when we were having trouble getting public exposure. It also helped us in the long-run as various media and non-media people saw how serious we really are. The fact that we didn't disappear like many others do after a little initial hype gave us a lot of respect in the community.
the editor axed all of Chuck's words. He believes that his message was too radical and unacceptable for one male editor.
It is important not to underestimate the "fiefdoms" that can exist. In dealing with a public school system one may potentially need to deal with people such as the:
2) Curriculum Coordinator,
3) Social Work Head,
4) Health Program Coordinator,
6) Department Head and of course
Avoiding contact with the Social Work head may result in her/him believing that you are infringing on her/his area. This may result in complaints to higher ups which may end any hopes you may have of getting in to the schools.
Within a University one can seek help from the Student Government, Dean of Students Office etc. One can sell baked goods, buttons, t-shirts etc. One can get small amounts of money from sympathetic local businesses crediting them visibly on whatever one is raising money for). One can do work for special events or businesses in return for a donation. Local and national churches and fraternal groups (particularly when one is or knows a member) can help out. Direct mailings may become more useful as a group becomes more visible to the public. Door to door soliciting appears to be very difficult in our experience. If solicitors are paid, it will increase the necessary paperwork with State and Federal authorities significantly, if one is properly incorporated as a group.
Such dependency can influence the direction of the group in negative ways. If one wishes to have an office and a telephone, one may need regular income. In other instances one may wish to only raise money for particular needs as they come up. Money can be a savior or a noose around one's neck. MSR has been fortunate to have significant funding through University Student sources. This has allowed us to print many brochures, posters etc. for distribution in the University Community.
It is hard to change men unless you can challenge them. We have found that some men come back to us and say that our brochure didn't make sense at first, but now it makes perfect sense. This has helped us feel successful in what we do. It is necessary to be in touch with one's needs and beliefs. It also helps to evaluate how one's approach is working locally.
It is important to focus the discussion on feelings with "I statements", avoiding long monologues etc. This can help avoid "scholarly discourses" which frequently leave people frustrated and disempowered. If there are long silences at the beginning, the facilitators should be prepared to start the discussion talking about their own feelings through their experiences. Fishbowls can start slowly, but they often build momentum relatively quickly. They can leave the audience feeling positive and empowered.
One type of workshop with men can be just focusing on rape myths. Where do we learn them and how are they so wrong? Men can be greatly intrigued and disturbed learning that roughly 80% of all rapes are among people who know each other. Learning that at least one in eight of them statistically may have been sexually abused as children is pretty hard to walk away from calmly. Men can get very defensive about sexist jokes and catcalls and this can provide the basis of very good discussions.
Similarly at the other extreme men who actively support rape in a variety of ways may have very good reasons for continuing to perpetuate rape. Whether their insights into these issues recognize this or not, their behaviors may help to continue their visions of a reactionary world around them.
We understand that the victim of acquaintance assault in many ways may be more victimized than the person violated by a stranger. S/he has faced a traumatic situation where a person s/he has trusted and perhaps loved has betrayed her/him. S/he may still have to face this person in her/his daily life and be reminded regularly of the assault.
As men it is difficult to view rape as more than a minor beating we might suffer in a fight. Most of us do not fear sexual assault the way we might fear being beaten in a "rough" neighborhood of a large city. We often view sex (and rape) in very concrete terms. When we first look at sexual assault as an issue we may think of sexual assault as brutal force by a stranger. As our views of rape expand, we become aware of gray areas for us as men. Women oftentimes view rape much differently from us. If we listen to them we may become confused. Have we been fed a lie about what rape is? Are we in a totally different world from many women?
Can we ever really feel the fear that many women have of rape?
When we start looking at our needs to check things out (particularly with women) we can easily open up plenty of bags of worms. Women friends may start to talk about how we are the aggressor sexually and they don't like it. We may become immediately defensive, because we feel that we are trying our best, and being attacked in spite of it. We may then try to lighten up and feel that they are not taking the initiative.
The trust that these (generally) men seek, is to allow them to continue to rape others both figuratively and in some cases literally. Power often equates with money, maleness and whiteness. Black women must be wealthy to have any power, but they are still "niggers" and "cunts", when others don't see or respect their money, if they haven't lost it.
We must live positively as men. We must help create a new vision of what being a man is, to help end rape and to help make ourselves into whole people. We must communicate as ourselves with both women and men. We must confront things we oppose. We must figure out how we can best work to make positive alternatives. We must celebrate our successes and accept our failures.