One of the myths that often surrounds working in the field of intimate partner violence is that those doing the work hate men. To some that might sound a bit extreme, because it is, but it is nonetheless something that we hear rather frequently. But as the saying goes, the myth is far from the truth.
Myself and others that I work with, now as well as in the past, are feminists. And feminism, in its simplest of definitions, is a belief in and practice of equality. So in fact, we have no hate toward men. We are however against the violence, misogyny, and oppression of women and other marginalized people; we are believers in love.
So on Father’s Day, we at HAVEN will celebrate those men in our lives and in our community who lift others up, who work beside us to remove barriers, and who treat and respect women as equals. Many of us are fortunate to have had strong loving men in our past – fathers, partners, mentors, coaches, teachers, brothers, uncles, and friends. These men have given us their understanding, acceptance, love, freedom, and equality. Men, who through their behavior demonstrate daily that they too are feminists, even if they might be reluctant to label themselves as such.
I am one of these fortunate and grateful women. During my life I have had a number of men who accepted me for me, who cheered on my success and motivated me to move through my failures. They have given me a safe place to let go and be emotional and free. I have had men beside me to help push open what seemed like a closed door but still respecting me enough for me to do the final push versus taking on the stereotyped role of rescuer. And they have also been open to me being their caretaker and problem solver as well.
So for these men – my father, brothers, grandfather, partner, teachers, and friends – I say thank you. On this Father’s Day, I honor the contributions that you have made in my life and the lives of others. I thank you for challenging me, honoring me, and loving me – no matter what. To my son, nephews, colleagues, and friends, thank you for taking the path of love, respect, and equality.
Unfortunately, like so many other women, I have also had the reality of experiencing the flip side. Men who wanted to rescue me, control me, belittle my success, threaten me, and hold power over me. I have experienced sexual harassment in the work place, inequality in pay, being shut out of opportunities, and abusive tactics. But with a history of positive actions of the other aforementioned men, I have been able to defiantly stand up for myself, see the inequality or misogyny, and move on.
Sadly I know that many other women and children have not had the same positive male role models. We see it daily in our work. At HAVEN we strive to give them the opportunity to experience, via our male staff and volunteers, acceptance and equality in behavior and relationships.
And for the men in my life today – who continue to not just respect me but respect all women – I not only thank you but I also challenge you. Your challenge is to become yet a stronger voice and make an active visible stand. I ask that you call out other men, and women, who oppress and cause harm. I challenge you to become positive role models for young boys and men by demonstrating non-violence, making your stand known in the voting booth, and by continuing to learn and practice bystander intervention. By doing so, you are making the world a safer, more accountable, and equitable place.
“I call on all men and boys everywhere to join us. Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us – men and boys – refuse to tolerate it.” Ban Ki-Moon, UN General.