Written by Kelsey Rose, Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society
We are often asked by men how they can support the work we do at the Women’s Centre. The first opportunity we point to is our annual event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, coming up in Whistler April 20, 2014. This march gives men the chance to take a visible stand against violence by literally walking in women’s shoes to raise much needed funds for the Women’s Centre, and to show the Sea to Sky community takes violence prevention seriously.
But Walk a Mile is just one day a year. The question then becomes, how can men act as allies in the struggle to end violence all year long, in more subtle ways than walking through Whistler or Squamish in red pumps?
The good news is that men are in a position to make positive change. But why should they?
Men should care about violence against women because it is a terrible, abhorrent thing, and because ending violence is simply the right thing to do. The idea that this violence might affect your sister, your mother, or your best friend is too often true, as we know that 1 in 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime, and that 95% of partner violence involves a male perpetrator and female victim; stats like these are readily available.
But at the end of the day, men should stand up against violence against women not because it directly affects them, but because it affects anyone at all. Violence against women is an issue of humanity, and we all share a responsibility to put an end to it.
Thankfully, every day more and more men, including many in the Sea to Sky Corridor, are coming to share this understanding. More men and women are recognizing that being a feminist means to believe in the fundamental equality of men and women, it means sharing the collective belief that all people should have the basic human right to live free from violence, oppression, and abuse.
As the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.”
When we see other identity groups as inherently different or separate from ourselves, it is a slippery slope toward deciding those “others” are somehow less-than, and therefore deserving of ill treatment they may receive. If our global society accepts that it is reasonable to subjugate 51% of the world’s population, what will it not accept? The prevalence and often acceptance of violence against women as the norm is closely interrelated to many other forms of subjugation or “othering” based on race, class, ability, ethnicity or country of origin. Standing up for women’s rights is, in a way, standing up for all those marginalized in our world.
Equality is not just an idealistic goal; it is the fundamental foundation upon which any healthy society is built. Together as allies we are a much stronger collective force for positive change. We are all on the same team.
The Women’s Centre envisions a world where our services are no longer needed: a world that is free from gender and sexual violence, where men, women and their children can live happy and healthy lives free from violence and abuse. We hope and trust this day will come eventually, but women alone cannot end the violence perpetrated against us.
Change starts from within and extends as far outward as you allow it to. Get involved in your community, don’t wait for others. Challenge those around you on their sexist views, right in the moment. Think critically about mainstream media coverage of gender violence, rape culture, and victim blaming. Challenge yourself to listen with an open mind and be willing to shift long held beliefs. It is difficult and uncomfortable when our misperceptions on gender violence are challenged, but once we know, we cannot un-know.
There is no one right way to be a feminist or an ally. History will be kind to those who create opportunities to fight for justice, equality and empowerment, and who do so with selfless intentions, simply because it is the right thing to do. When the world wakes up one day and violence against women is finally a thing of the past, which side of history do you want to be on? To quote Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”