Men in the Movement: CAPS’ Initiative to Involve Men in Gender Equality

As part of events going on throughout April geared towards sexual assault awareness, UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) created a lecture specifically tailored for men entitled “Men in the Movement.” This event was designed to educate students, especially young men, on violence and sexual assault.

The program began by clarifying that although violence and sexual assault are often seen as women’s issues, the goal of the presentation was to portray these problems as human issues in an attempt to make men more accountable and expand the conversation beyond gender.

“Men in the Movement” was defined as: getting men involved in the movement against gender-based violence and increasing bystander intervention.

The room was filled with young men and most were affiliated with one of UCLA’s fraternities. The talk was largely geared towards Greek life, and how men are both affected by sexual assault and can stop gender-based violence.

Using the video below, the presenters showed the scenario of a young man in a fraternity describing the methodological way he and his fraternity brothers planned to sexually assault or rape (although they did not describe their actions under such terms).

This horribly disturbing video shows how women are conceptualized as targets for males, while the violence that is committed against them is rhetorically minimized by the perpetrators.

The presenters used this example to explain that men should care about their fellow human beings and become an active force in stopping these crimes against women and humanity. The lecture went on to demonstrate that not only are women victims of sexual violence, but men can be as well.

Some facts:

• Heterosexual men commit 96-98% of all sexual violence against males and females.

• Rape and sexual assault of men and boys can occur in all-male settings.

For some young men in the audience, the second fact was very unsettling. Men being victims of other men was troubling for these students to come to terms with and understand as a fact.

Students were then asked what it meant to be a “man” and what masculinity was. While men responded with “strength” and “showing emotion makes you a pussy,” the presenters explained that heterosexual male survivors of sexual assault fear that the attack will make them gay, emasculate them, and make them “less of a man.”

The main reason why men do not report or speak up about their assault is because of shame. It was explained that this is due to the social construction of masculinity and presenters showed the Ted Talk below, titled “A Call to Men,” as a way to bolster this point.

This video describes how men are taught to deny their emotions, which leads to men feeling isolated and possessing unexpressed feelings in order to maintain the facade of “masculinity.”

As the point was continually made that men should become allies against abuse and assault, the need to understand that sexual violence affects everyone (if not an individual personally, then at least someone close to that individual), was seen as essential to caring about women, as well as men.

In response, one student argued that this talk seemed very “feminist” and is an “anti-male” issue. Others stated that the movement seemed very distant to them, that they are not a rapist, and do not know anyone who has been raped to connect to this issue.

However, the presenters stated this issue is not one side against another, but an issue of humanity. They argued that we, as people, have a responsibility to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable enough to open up about these issues, and that many of us cannot relate to this issue because there is no dialogue. By ending traditional ideas of “masculinity” and becoming more aware, others can be free to speak up, and thus change the culture.

What do you think of this presentation? 

 

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