Currently we are in the middle of the global 16 Days of Activism. A global campaign to address mens violence against women and girls. There’s a clear role for men in this work. Some thoughts.
In the last decade my work has taken me down many paths. On all these I have learned. I’ve learned new skills, new ways of thinking. I’ve developed curiosity and courage. For me I’ve been guided both by these experiences but also from the interactions I’ve had with others. The relationships I’ve developed over this time have shaped me. They have transformed me and given me the lens that I have today. My job now is to help shape others. Leaders create leaders.
American writer Joseph Campbell said, “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” I agree with Campbell, when you become the most authentic version of yourself you are better able to show courage. Courage is external, fear is internal. Leaders create leaders.
Leadership means different things to different people. For me I tend to look at the qualities of the leaders who have inspired me. Oprah Winfrey showed me the power of compassion. Nelson Mandela taught me to be tenacious. Joe Maddon a past manager of the US baseball team The Chicago Cubs taught me to about the power of the relationship to support success. It was police inspector, Jim Gray who taught me to live by my values. It took me a few years to have the courage to live by my values, but my old police inspector through his consistent actions left a mark on me. As we say in policing “every contact leaves a trace”. Leaders create leaders.
It’s in these traits of leadership that we help shape men’s response to violence against women and girls. To be clear I’m not saying that men need to take over and lead on this issue. Far from it. Women have been at the forefront of addressing men’s violence for many decades now. Through their leadership we have seen changes in our country’s laws. We have consistently seen mass activism and a raising of awareness of the issues taking place. Lives have been saved through the leadership of women, and not just the lives of girls and women but boys and men as well.
In my view we need to see similar leadership from men. As men we should be inspired by women’s leadership and not feel attacked by it. Sadly, a feeling of attacked leads to a sense of ‘going with the crowd’ resulting in so few men speaking out. Don’t get me wrong there are men doing the knowledge and doing the work but it’s nowhere at the level that’s needed.
Above I provided a range of traits of leadership that I have developed over the years. There are others including: vision, empathy, being a role model, a good listener, and a good talker. When I deliver active bystander training, I often start with an activity that asks a group to consider traits they see in leaders that they admire. I do this because framing active bystander training in this way is helpful. A leadership conversation is a more aspirational approach to preventing violence. This is especially true when working with boys and men.
In real life situations when bystanders assess a situation, consider their responses, and take action, they are performing a basic leadership process. Reinforcing these traits throughout a training is important because it reinforces the idea that active bystanders who interrupt abusive behaviours, signal disapproval for abuse are being leaders, in their workplaces, sports teams and in their peer groups. Also being an active bystander requires someone to possess the qualities of a leader because it’s not easy to intervene. For men this is especially true. Challenging a male friend, interrupting their behaviour isn’t exactly a ‘high five’ moment for men. They risk ridicule and isolation.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. These 16 days provide a focus on the violence by men against girls and women. Worldwide men’s violence against women and girls affects more than an estimated 1 in 3 women (UN Women), a figure that has remained largely unchanged over the last decade.
Men’s violence isn’t simply an issue for women. It’s also a men’s issue. Simply not being abusive isn’t’ enough. That stance is passive. Men have a clear role in preventing the violence being committed by other men. If not, men will continue to be judged by the actions of other men. Any culture will be defined by the worst behaviour its willing to accept, that includes male culture.
‘That Guy’ Scotland is a campaign that seeks to engage boys and men. It aims to give men the tools to be leaders and allies to girls and women. When we see boys and men become leaders in the way I’ve discussed above in their peer groups we will start to see the diminutions in men’s violence that are needed.
Check out https://that-guy.co.uk/ for useful information and tools that will help you the leader that society needs to address this issue.