It felt good to see a photo float across my Twitter timeline that captured Indian men in Delhi publicly rallying for and apologizing to Delhi women for their silence and blind-eyes concerning acts of violence toward women there. The public apology was an effort aimed at getting Delhi men to “think more introspectively and to take responsibility” for their contributions to rape culture.
Whether we are discussing Rick Ross’s promotion of date rape in his latest release, "U.O.E.N.O.," (or his denial that his lyrics describe rape), or the recent verdict that found young men guilty of rape in Steubenville, one thing is certain: we need to see more rallies like the one in Delhi and like a recent demonstration in Dallas where men do more than commit to not raping or being violent toward women. We simply need more men to become allies as we fight for women’s safety and full humanity.
As a Black woman intent on lending her voice to causes that seek to uplift my community, country and world, and who is constantly in the presence of other Black women doing the same, I often wonder where our men are when we talk about rape. We are, after all, always rallying and marching and fighting (as we have always been) for causes that seek to demand protection, honor and respect for Black men. It shouldn’t seem odd to suggest that more men must stand up against factors and mindsets that normalize rape and violence towards women.
I reached out to a few men I admire in order to gain insight on how they feel men can contribute to conversations and actions surrounding this very important human rights issue. Kiese Laymon, brilliant essayist, cultural critic, Associate professor of English and Co- Director of Africana Studies at Vassar College, had this to say on rape, violence against women, and a rape culture that makes all boys potential rapists:
“This [work to end rape and violence against women] is work we all need to be doing. It's tough for me, too, because rape culture cradles and nurtures boys. This is fact. But we're never, or rarely, taught to accept the fact that we are all potential rapists… Because culture is so great at encouraging rape, we've got to do a better job as writers to change that culture, but we also have to have those hard, shameful conversations with all our boys. You really obliterate rape culture by insisting on patient, loving relationships with women where hard questions are asked and space is respected… A world where women don't have freedom or control [over] their bodies is an evil world. Rape is evil and all of us men need to consider how that evil has seeped into all of our minds, bodies and actions. If we haven't or don't seriously consider this, we should never be in a relationship with a woman again.”
My long time Twitter friend Jamil Smith is the segment & digital producer for MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry." He provides a fresh political perspective for African Americans and all Americans as a writer and contributor to Ebony.com and The New Republic. Smith had this to share about efforts to teach men how to end violence against women:
“We can teach men and boys these facts [about rape and violence against women], but the key is making these notions endemic to what we consider manhood to be. We as men must be responsible for recognizing that being violent against women doesn't make you a man, and for understanding our privilege in this rape culture of ours. And as much as we need to welcome women as teachers in this respect, we fellas need to make this our mission, too. In almost every instance, it's our hand striking women, it's our guns pointed at them, it's our bodies violating theirs. Women can fight to end domestic violence, but the burden to end it needs to be on men. Also, we can't forget that men not only have to not rape, but must be a part of defusing the culture that makes this kind of behavior permissible. Speak up when you see street harassment.
"Allies are not born, they are made. Whether they become allies due to good parenting, good schooling, or bad experiences, we need to welcome brothers who are willing to work constructively to end violence against women. And those who aren't yet allies need to be heard, and we need to make an effort to persuade them.”
It is only right to add that there are organizations already doing the kind of work both Laymon and Smith describe. Men Can Stop Rape and Ring the Bell serve as excellent examples of how men can work in their homes and communities to eradicate rape and violence, and the culture that deems them acceptable. As women, we realize that we can’t confront rape and violence alone. Brothers, we need your help. Today.
How do you think men can work to stop rape and violence against women?
Josie Pickens is an educator, writer and cultural critic. Follow her musings on Twitter: @jonubian.