Tag Archives: respect

The Pixel Project

Recently, Responsible Men became an Awareness-Raising Partner with the Pixel Project.  I highly encourage you to take a look around their website and support them in any way you can.  One way Responsible Men is supporting the Pixel Project is by sharing information.  So, have a look at the information below:

The Pixel Project, a global Web 2.0-driven awareness and fund raising campaign working to end Violence Against Women (VAW), is proud to launch The Pixel Project Wall of Support on 8 March 2010 in honour of International Women’s Day.

The Wall of Support is a gallery of video endorsements from people worldwide who support The Pixel Project’s mission to get men and women to work together to end VAW. Endorsements are uploaded to YouTube and displayed on the Wall of Support galleries in the Community Buzz section of The Pixel Project’s website.

By showing a human face and voice with every endorsement, The Pixel Project hopes that this global chorus of voices against VAW will ignite conversation and focus public attention on the urgency of ending gender-based violence afflicting one in three women worldwide.

Each endorsement will be counted as an “action” towards UNIFEM’s “Say NO – UNiTE” campaign’s bid to raise 1 million grassroots actions against VAW by November 2010.

Guidelines for submitting a video can be found at http://www.thepixelproject.net/community-buzz/wall-of-support/. For further inquiries, contact Chrissie Moulding at info@thepixelproject.net.

I will be submitting a video soon and  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  This would be easy to ignore, but preventing violence against women is too important.  Please take a moment to show your support.  The Pixel Project has provided very clear instructions and even some assistance in writing the script.  All you have to do is record and post to YouTube.

Today is International Women’s Day and I can’t think of a better way for everyone, especially men, to show our love and support for the women in our lives. Let your voice be heard and speak out against violence against women!


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One Leg at a Time

WOW…seriously???  I mean…seriously???  Dockers, what are you thinking?  Take a look at this new ad campaign that Dockers is putting out there and tell me what you think:

So is it that Dockers is of the opinion that their pants will somehow make men more “manly”.  I hate that this campaign is calling for a return to the days when a woman’s place was in the home cooking dinner and minding the kids and that men are the ones doing “real work.”  And that somehow our world has gone off its tracks and landed in a feminized (and therefore chaotic and broken) world that could be fixed with a healthy dose of testosterone.  If only we could go back to a time when men were in charge then the world would be one big Shangri-la (but not in a frilly, fluffy, emotional way – that wouldn’t be manly).  I get that the ad is trying to be funny.  However, funny sexism is still sexism.  It is just more palatable and easier to dismiss as harmless.

I happen to have a different opinion of what is wrong with the world today.  Try this on for size.  I feel that society has lost its way, at least in part, not because of feminization but because far too many men can’t (or won’t) let go of the past.  Far too many men have remained in a state of suspended animation – frozen in that mindset that men work so they don’t have to have a hand in child rearing and house cleaning.  Well fellas, women work too (they always did – we just didn’t call it that).  In most families today both parents have full time jobs outside the home.  Gone are the days of the bread winner and care taker roles.  Nowadays, both parents need to share the responsibility of raising the children and maintaining the house.  Unfortunately, many men have been reluctant to engage and the results have been catastrophic.  We know that something has to change, but many men are afraid of that change.  We have a fear of the unknown.  Unfortunately while we are “sitting idly by” cities do crumble and children do misbehave.   In my opinion, you can add to that list that family relationships crumble.  Children are forced to raise themselves (or let their television or X-Box do it).  Divorce rates skyrocket and children’s grades plummet.  How about things like childhood obesity? Dating violence? Self mutilation?  Is it possible that they are also symptoms of this larger problem?  I think so.

Please don’t mistake this for male bashing or that I am blaming all men for the world’s problems.  I certainly am not.  After all, I am a man and I know plenty of other men that are wonderful partners and fathers.  I also know a large number of men that aren’t meeting their potential as partners and fathers because they feel like they cannot be masculine and be a loving and engaged partner and father at the same time.  I can certainly understand that.  The messages men receive from all around us is that men are supposed to be anything but engaged and loving.  Most men, I feel, are at a crossroads.  We feel like it isn’t safe to be authentic, yet we can see that problems in our families, in our schools and in our communities has reached critical mass.

It is time for men to engage, in meaningful ways, in our families and in our communities.  It is not enough to bring home a paycheck and make sure the yard looks nice.  Those things are important, but they will not ensure that the world our children and grandchildren will live in will be a place of equal opportunity for everyone where people’s differences are celebrated rather than shunned.  I truly believe that the majority of men in this world want to be really great guys (and often are).  What I think we need is a way to bring these men together so that we can meet one another (either in person or online) and see that we are not alone and that we can be considered masculine by our peers.  That would be the permission we need to be more visible as engaged partners and fathers.  That is why I started Responsible Men in the first place.  Now all I need is guys who are willing to take that small step forward to say “I am one of the Responsible Men.”  Are you willing to be that guy?

If the world were set up so that men could feel safe about being authentic I imagine it would be a very different place.  I imagine in that world the advertisements might look something like this:

Maybe a good place to start is to recognize that regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other ways we classify people, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

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pay attention to the man behind the curtain…

In light of the fantastic response to my last article “I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” I decided to write a follow up piece.  My colleague, Pat McGann from Men Can Stop Rape, commented that he had written a piece about how the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are actually counter stories to societies definition of masculinity (no brain, no heart, no courage).  I started thinking more about the characters in the Wizard of Oz as metaphors for issues like gender, power and oppression.

Throughout the movie, we are told that in order to get what we want, we must go see the “great and powerful Oz”.  It is the Wizard that has all of the power.  He is the gatekeeper.  He can provide the Scarecrow with a brain, the Tin Man with a heart, the Lion with courage, and above all else he can get Dorothy back to Kansas if he feels like it.   Once they reach Oz, he quickly demonstrates his power by refusing to see them and then by declining to help them unless they bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West (a daunting and seemingly impossible task).

Overcoming great odds, and a gaggle of flying monkeys, the 4 travelers return to the Emerald City with the broomstick.  This time around, Oz tries to turn them away by using  intimidation and fear.  Take a look:

The Wizard represents power.  In our culture that translates to wealthy, white, straight, Christian men (the power elite) since it is generally wealthy, white, straight, Christian men who are the “decision makers” in America.  That has not changed much since our country was formed.  The Wizard wields his power in order to maintain control over others (refusing to see the travelers) or to gain more power (obtaining the broomstick) in the same way that the power elite have done for decades.  If you need examples, how about slavery, denying women the right to vote, the ban on gay marriage, “golden parachutes” for corrupt CEOs, and even the whole concept of being “one nation, under God”.  Of course these are the ones you can’t miss, but isn’t it reasonable to think that there are smaller, less noticeable things that also serve the power elite at the expense of the “have nots”?  How about Capitalism?  On paper it seems like a good idea, but in practice it’s a system that makes the rich get richer often at the expense of everyone else.

This is what brings me back to the sexy Halloween costumes.  Not only do these costumes sexualize and objectify women for the pleasure of straight men, they also put more money in the pockets of the CEOs of the companies that make them.  Each time we purchase on of these costumes, we support the current social power structure because the power elite are making money at the expense of women.  To back this claim up, I did my homework.  Let me lay it out for you as best I can.  Spirit Halloween is owned by Spencer Gifts (another company known for selling products that sexualize and objectify women). Spencer Gifts is owned by ACON Investments which was co-founded by Bernard Aronson (ACON also owns Mariner Energy, which was purchased in the aftermath of Enron and since it’s inception in 1995 has managed over $1.5 billion in investments).  In addition to his work with ACON, Aronson currently serves on the Board of Directors for Liz Claiborne, Royal Caribbean, and the Global Hyatt Corporation and has strong ties in the political world.  In fact, he once served on the White House Staff as Deputy Assistant to the Vice President (1977-1981) and as the Director of Policy for the Democratic National Committee (1981-1983).  He also serves on the board forth Democratic National Institute.  Make no mistake, this guy is a heavy hitter and has a tremendous amount of power and influence.  We must pay attention to the man behind the curtain for it is he that is shaping the world we live in.  He only has power if we continue to grant it to him.  Like the wizard, power is often an illusion that we help create and proliferate.

Of course it is not only his fault.  After all, this is a Capitalist society.  People will only sell what others will buy.  Some will say that if women don’t want to be objectified or sexualized, then they shouldn’t buy or wear the costumes.  I agree with that to a certain (small) extent.  However it becomes problematic when you realize how very few options there are for women.  Nearly everything is intended to be sexy.  Also I’d like to point out, as I did in the last article, that  you have to look at what would motivate women to buy and wear these costumes.  For many I have to think that being sexy is one of the few ways women are granted any power by men.  So should women give up the small amount of power they have?  Or is the better solution for men (particularly those that are white, straight and Christian) to be more willing to share the tremendous amount of power we have by building equality for everyone.

It seems obvious that the latter is the only viable option if our goal is to create equality.  If we can agree on that, then why can’t men agree to do it?  Why is it so hard for men to share the power that we have?  Is it that we don’t know how or don’t feel safe doing it?  If you think about it, the power we have is not something we earned.  It was granted to us at birth.  It has been passed down through history from father to son.  To break the cycle, all it would take is a generation or two of men who believe in equality for all to teach their sons differently.  All it would take is to tell our sons things like “pink is just a color”, “it’s OK to cry when you are upset”, “solve problems with your brain, not your fist” and “regardless of our differences, we are all just people.” Small changes bring about big changes.

I wanted to leave you with something a little different this time.  I came across two great videos on Facebook the other day.  I did not intend to make them a part of this blog, but when I blog, I let the article write itself.  Sometimes, I end up in unintended places.  I hope you can appreciate that.  Anyhow, the first video was created by a teenager from a teenager’s perspective.  While it isn’t about preventing violence or building equality, I think it captures what is at the core of my message – doing something to make change happen.  Here it is:

The second speaks to the things that we, as adults, pass along to our children.  This one is about the things we pass on to children.  It is from Child Friendly Australia and it is a little hard to watch, but very powerful.  Take a look:

Thanks for reading.  Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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I’ve a Feeling We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

Finally it’s Autumn.  I love this time of year.  In Austin, the weather cools down to a balmy 92° and thoughts turn to things like turning leaves, football, chili, and Halloween.  Ah, Halloween – the one day out of the year where us grown kids can act like our children and nobody will give it a second thought.

Now if you’ve known me for a long time, you know that I have not always been a fan of Halloween.  In fact, I can remember several times in college when I, along with my roommates Pat and Springer, would sit and drink beer with all the lights off in the house so the trick-or-treaters would think we weren’t home.  I hated Halloween.  For me, that tradition more or less carried on until I had a child of my own.  Once my son was born, something changed.  The more he understood Halloween, the more he got into it and the more I got into it.

My son is 5 now.  Last year was the first time he actually cared about his costume.  We shopped at places like Spirit Halloween and Party City to find a Wall-E costume because, in his mind, nothing else would do.  Sadly, none of the costumes we found met his exacting standards.  So, being that I have a degree in art, I decided to make a costume for him.  Check it out…

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Pretty cool, huh?  At first I was sad that I wasn’t able to find a costume all ready to go, but it was fun making this with him.  I was also saddened by what I did find in those stores.  So this year I decided to write about it.  In order to research this article, I visited www.spirithalloween.com to see if anything had changed.  They have costumes for babies all the way to adults.  They are also separated by gender and style for convenience.  I started by looking at costumes for men and then for women.  Quickly I was overwhelmed by the stark differences between the male and female costumes.  In fact, it was so bad that I had to find a way to simplify it so that I could even put it into words.

For this article, I wanted to be able to compare apples to apples.  I wanted you to see just how entrenched male and female gender roles really are in our society.  I decided to focus on a set of costumes to which most, if not all of us can relate…the characters from Wizard of Oz.

First, here are the “standard” costumes for Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy:

all_four

I’d say this pretty much what I expected to find.  They seem true to the original movie wardrobes.  HOWEVER…I also found a series of costumes called the “Wicked of Oz”.  Here are the same 4 characters from that line:

all_fourWhat I noticed right off that bat is that the male characters, in this version, appear more powerful because they are more menacing.  Meanwhile, the female character (Dorothy) became more powerful by seeming sexually dominant – down to the black latex corset and knee boots.  She looks like a dominatrix.

These gendered expressions of power are found throughout pop culture.  Nowhere is it more evident than in the world of superheroes.  Male superheros are powerful because they are physically dominant machines that leave collapsed heaps of criminals in their wake.  The lines between hero and villain are often blurred because of the violent nature of many heroes today.  For female superheroes, their power is expressed in their sexuality.  Take a look at these examples of  Batman in the film The Dark Knight and Silk Spectre from the film The Watchmen and you will see what  I mean:

Batman-Dark-Knight-Solo-FP2062SilkSpectre

Batman is the embodiment of raw power and anger who is always teetering on the brink between good and evil.  Silk Spectre, on the other hand, radiates sexuality.  In fact, her story line in the movie is that she is involved in 2 sexual relationships with 2 other superheroes (Night Owl and Dr. Manhattan).  Oh, and she is the daughter of a superhero who was beaten and raped by another superhero (The Comedian).  Both characters are powerful, but they arrive at their power by very different means.

But I digress.  Where was I??? Ah, yes…KANSAS.  I was stunned (but not surprised) at the divergence of the character paths in the “wicked” costumes.  So, I decided to see if there were any other interpretations of these characters costumes.  I did a search on the site by each of the character names (Scarecrow, etc.).  What I found was nearly unbelievable.  Check it out:

SexyOz

This is wrong on so many levels I will have to focus on just one in this particular post.  These outfits scream SEX regardless of the character contexts.  These costumes make the models look like a strange amalgamation of naughty school girl meets farmer’s daughter meets St. Paulie’s Girl meets “Diamond” from the local strip club.  All of them play on male (generally speaking) sexual fantasies.  They also reinforce the cultural belief that women’s bodies are the most valuable currency women have in order to “purchase” power from men.  In a patriarchal society, men are the keepers of power and women are forced to use their sexuality in order to share in that power – even if temporarily.

I think these costumes send the message to girls and women that females should always exude sexuality or should always give off a sexual vibe.  For boys and men, the message is that females are always looking for sex or to be sexy.  If you combine that with other messages that tell males that “real men” are tough, strong, in control, devoid of emotion (other than anger) and hypersexual, then it is easy to see why some men don’t take “no” for an answer when it comes to sex and/or why some men don’t accept responsibility for getting consent (they put the onus on women to say no rather than actively seeking an enthusiastic “yes”).  It is also easy to see why some women give in when being pressured to have sex even if they don’t really want to and why some women don’t classify or report an unwanted sexual encounter as a sexual assault.  The lines around intent, sexuality, consent, appropriate vs. inappropriate, wanted vs. unwanted are blurred.  Everyone is confused and some men (and women) are taking advantage of that confusion.

Thankfully, most men treat women with dignity and respect (I really don’t like the word respect, but I don’t have a better one in this case).  Most men do not abuse, assault or rape women.  However, I think on some level we all have a hand in paving the way for the men who do.  We are all part of a culture that accepts the sexualization and exploitation of women.  By accepting those parts of our culture, we are creating space and therefore opportunity for the small number of men who see women as sex objects and pressure, coerce and force women into having sex.  When we say things like “I don’t abuse or rape women, so it’s not my problem” we are actually saying that we have no influence on the world around us.  If that were true, then boys who grow up in abusive households wouldn’t frequently grow up to be abusive themselves (for example).

The reality is that men must challenge our own socialization.  We must think critically about the world around us and how we are influenced by it.  If we are ever going to live in a world that values men and women equally, men must join women in challenging anything to the contrary.  We must also be willing to pass on to the next generation a set of attitudes and beliefs that reflect and promote gender equality.  We can do this through schools, community centers, churches, sports leagues, etc. but for these values to really take root and flourish, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MY FOLLOW UP POST CALLED “PAY ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN”

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the app of my i

Sometimes a new “thing” comes along that causes a shift in our culture.  I don’t mean in the way that electricity or cars or the internet changed us, but smaller things that might seem less important, but that help plot the course ahead.  Often we don’t recognize these things in the moment. It is only in hindsight that we come to know these thing as cultural icons.  One of those icons is the Apple iPhone.

The iPhone has taken the country by storm and is only just beginning to show signs of slowing down.  There is a very good chance that you know at least 1 person with an iPhone…there is an even better chance that you know 7-8 people with an iPhone.  At it’s peak, Apple was selling a whopping 20,000 iPhones every single day.  Well over 4 million of them have been sold in all.

So you may ask yourself “what is so cool about an iPhone anyway???”  Many users will tell you that their favorite part of owning one is the applications or “apps”.  You can get apps that do just about anything you can imagine.  Some are tools. Some are games.  Some are novelties.  Many are very useful.  Some are just for fun. For example, take a look at the iBeer app:

Personally, I think that is kinda cool.  I’d much rather have a real beer, but I can see why people think that app is cool and fun to have.  Part of owning an iPhone is the competition for having the coolest apps.  That can be fun too.  Check out this popular one called Wobble:

I thought that was kinda neat when I first saw it.  However, it would be naive to think that Wobbling a pig’s nose is the most common use for Wobble.  If you do a search on You Tube for Wobble demos you will find the majority to be something like this:

Ug!  I am not sure who to angry with.  Should I be mad at Apple for approving this (and many other apps that aren’t “adult content” but objectify and sexualize women)?  Probably. In their defense, it is the users of the app that choose how they use it.  The app itself is not inherently indecent or inappropriate. Also, Apple has a fairly strict policy banning adult content.  However, they have nothing in place that bans the blatant objectification of women.

How about I point my lazers at the app developer?  Clearly the app was designed for making breasts wobble.  Even their own marketing suggest it…see:

wobble

I’d say that the developers are  a pretty good place to start.  However, they are a business and by definition are bound by the law of supply and demand.  There is a demand for this type of product, so they are supplying product to meet the demand.  That is what businesses do.  While it is horrible for them to profit from exploiting women, they aren’t stealing money from people.  Consumers of their content are freely giving their money to the developers.

So, I guess I am angry with all of the people (the vast majority of whom are men) who purchased this app.  Why can’t these men understand that every time we support a business that exploits women sexually we are reinforcing a culture that allows for violence against women to occur???  Why can’t men understand that things like this are more than just harmless fun?  Wobble, combined with the hundreds of thousands of other little things embedded in our culture that objectify and sexualize women, does massive damage to women (and men for that matter).  Ask any woman that has been physically or sexually assaulted.  Ask any child that witnessed or experienced abuse in their home.

Most people can see that one cockroach in your house isn’t a huge deal, but having thousands of them would be horrific and unacceptable.  Do you get my point? If you saw a cockroach in your home, you get out the bug spray and take care of it or you’d call an exterminator, right?  But when we come across things like Wobble or an ad for Axe Body Spray or a billboard for Skyy Vodka we remain silent and right it off as no big deal.  Well, it is a big deal. We have to speak up and we have to be more responsible consumers and citizens.  Tell these companies to stop exploiting women.  Educate men on how damaging these products are to women.  Support men in our efforts to change our behavior and our culture.

ACTION STEP:

Forward a link to this blog to 5 people, particularly men.  BUT – don’t treat it like any other forward.  I hate those and so does everyone else I know.  If ending sexism (and ultimately violence against women) is important to you, tell the people you are going to send it to that it is coming and that it is really important to you that they read it and pass it on to 5 more people.  Tell them face to face or on the phone (not in an email) and let them know that you mean it.  It is important that they hear your actual voice so they know this is personal to you.

We must build a critical consciousness around the root causes of violence against women in our society.  This will be a giant step in the right direction. What if we could get 1,000 people to view it this week or 10, 000 by this time next month or 100,000 in a year?  Think about the impact that would have.  One small action on your part could be enough to tip this issue toward gender equality.  I challenge you to make it happen.

Don’t let one rotten app spoil the entire bushel.  Take action today!!!

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Worth a Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So I am wondering which words you would choose to describe the advertising practices of Nikon – the camera company. Take a look at some of these Nikon ads:

Nikon1

Nikon2

Sadly Nikon, like so many companies, has chosen to exploit women to sell their products. We’ve come to expect it from beer companies and the like (not that being a beer company makes it alright), but a camera company??? Seriously? I mean do they really think they are going to sell more cameras by showing “hot girl on girl action”?

I am honestly insulted that companies resort to this tactic. I consider myself to be a typical guy who like a lot of stereotypical guy things. I like football, buffalo wings, classic cars and stupid movies. However, I am smart enough to recognize that when companies use women’s sexuality to sell their products they are degrading and marginalizing women. That allows men to see women as sex objects rather than human beings. It is in that space that domestic and sexual violence exists.

I know that a lot of men who will read this will say that there is nothing wrong with “sexy”. In fact, my friend Andy said those exact words when I was encouraging him to stop buying American Apparel t-shirts. I told him about their horrible advertising practices like this:

outrage

I get that these images are intended to be arousing so that we, as men, associate that feeling with that product (that sounds strange but it is true). It is about pleasure. If we associate a product with a pleasurable feeling, we are more likely to buy it. Some men can’t see past the sexual nature of these images and see the real damage they cause. In fact, this never registers with most men until a woman close to them experiences domestic or sexual violence. It is time for men to be enlightened.

Most men are good guys who believe that violence against women is wrong. They just don’t realize how violence against women comes about and why it still exists. They also don’t realize that they may be contributing to it by supporting these companies (and thousands of others), by laughing at a sexist joke, or by staring at a woman’s chest instead of her eyes during a conversation. These things seem innocent enough and are an accepted part of our culture, but this is where men must check themselves and each other. We must begin to change our culture so that these sorts of behaviors no longer go unchecked or unnoticed. If we do this, we will begin to create change. It will take time, but it will happen. It starts now…

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Part of the problem or the solution?

Are there ways that I am contributing to the problem of violence against women? Are there things that I do or say (or don’t do or don’t say for that matter) that make violence against women a viable option in society? Sadly, I find the answer to be yes. As an advocate and activist who works to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault, it is very difficult to admit that. Of course I don’t directly perpetrate verbal, emotional, physical or sexual violence against my partner. However, there are times when I have remained silent when I heard another man making a sexist joke. I have remained silent when family or friends told my four-year-old son not to cry when he is upset. I have purchased music CDs that contain lyrics that objectify, degrade and sexualize women and listened to radio stations that have advertisements and promotional events that do the same.

Do any of these things, if isolated, incite a single act of domestic violence? Not likely. My guess is that they actually seem fairly innocuous at a glance. At worst, they are considered to be in bad taste and frequently they are simply ignored. I have heard people say “if you don’t like what you hear on the radio, change the station” or “when I heard that joke I just tried to ignore it.” Upon closer inspection, however, these examples do a tremendous amount of damage because they reinforce gendered social norms. The messages we receive are that women’s value in society is connected to their sexuality and their bodies and that men are supposed to be tough, strong, powerful and always in control. When we multiply these examples by the millions of times they occur in society every day of our lives and by all of the other examples being proliferated in the media and by people in positions of power, we have a culture that allows domestic and sexual violence to not only exist, but become more normalized.

As a man, it is my responsibility to constantly examine my own attitudes, actions, and beliefs.  I must also hold other men accountable as they should do for me.  Change will only happen when men admit that not being abusive is not enough to end violence against women.  We must all speak up, speak out, and take action.  We also must teach out children to respect all people regardless of gender, race, or any other category that defines us and to think critically about the information we consume and how that shapes male culture.  Until then, we will remain part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

For more information about Responsible Men visit www.responsiblemen.net.

Until the violence stops…

Ted Rutherford -Responsible Men

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