Did you know that over one million women and men participated in the first International Women’s Day on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland? This was almost two decades before women were declared “persons” here in Canada thanks to the tireless work of the “Famous Five”: Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Nellie McClung. In 1977, the United Nations designated March 8th as a global day of recognition and celebration of the movement towards gender equality and of the many contributions women have made around the world.
One such important movement that grew out of efforts primarily by women was to provide shelter for abused women and bring this private issue into the public eye. Last month women around the world danced in recognition of the rising epidemic of violence against women during “One Billion Rising”. Activities such as these and “Take Back the Night” and the December 6th Vigil are inspiring and empowering ways for females to stand up for equality, safety and respect. They help to honour victims and give survivors a collective voice. We at FCCCND are proud to participate in and support our partner agencies in these important events which are often organized and executed primarily by females who work to increase awareness and strive for change.
When I set out to a do a blog in honour of the 36th International Women’s Day I was thrilled to see that Canada’s theme for this year was: ““Working Together: Engaging10 Things Men Can Do Men to End Violence against Women.” Canadian Michael Kaufman was the first male I read that spoke of the harm done to both men and women by a society based on patriarchy. Michael along with a few other men started the White Ribbon Campaign 15 years ago inviting men to wear white ribbons as a “pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” They recognized that abuse survivors are the mothers; daughters; sisters; wives; girlfriends; neighbours or co-workers of men and thus domestic violence is not just a women’s issue. Along with educational material, the White Ribbon Campaign organizes the popular event “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”. I had the distinct honour to see Michael live a few years ago in Brantford where his passion for this work was so evident. It is no wonder that he was amongst a group of international delegates who recently participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’s 57th session: “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”
In 2008, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region launched an exciting new program Men Against Rape Coalition (M.A.R.C.), renamed MASSVE later that year to train male allies to educate and empower males to learn about healthy relationships and challenge sexist attitudes. The Centre brought Jackson Katz to speak on this gift of engagement and I along with several of my colleagues had the pleasure of hearing him discuss how traditional masculinity which he calls the “Tough Guise” increases male vulnerability to risk taking and violent behaviour against women as well as other men. This idea is vividly portrayed in the case examples from Terry Real’s book “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”. Both men encourage today’s male generation to connect with a vital part of their humanness – their emotional and relational sides to buffer against violence and depression.
I witnessed this in my work with male participants of the Partner Assault Response (PAR)Dad program when even just one of the men realized the ways in which traditional gender socialization has set him up for emotional disconnection and a false sense of superiority. An important shift happens when he joins with other men to challenge sexist attitudes and behaviours and reconnect with his emotional side. Men have a tremendous role to play in increasing emotional and physical safety for both genders.
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Nicole Mar 2013