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Shifting the Lens: Engaging Boys and Men in the Prevention of Violence
Written by Alejandra Aguilar, Program Specialist at the Partnership

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Gender pronouns: She, Her, Hers

A crying baby is handed over to an adult to calm, and every single time, the adult would ask: What is it? – Because inadvertently, when meeting someone, the first clue we need in order to figure out how to respond is their gender.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Community Training Institute, facilitated by A Call to Men and hosted by PolicyLink and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color in Oakland. At this training, all of my feels were fired up at one point or another, because even though we spend a lot of time discussing how gender and social norms contribute to the constructs that perpetuate violence, this time it was different. We were actually engaged in a conversation that was uncomfortable at times (and were invited to feel it, to let it be… accepting that discomfort can also help move us forward), a conversation that created space for us to dive deep into some of our own internalized responses, a conversation that was genuine and brave!

As a result of these constructs, marginalized individuals respond to what is being done to them (the containment) through acts of induced self-hate. This internalized RESPONSE is referred to as Internalized Oppression. An example of this is an act of violence between two Black men, commonly called, “Black on Black violence.” This connotation comes from a space of blame and a lack of responsibility. – The question for all of us is: How have our own constructs added to the way in which we blame boys and men for the cause of intimate partner violence, without holding ourselves accountable for the way in which we have all contributed to these norms that guide our behavior? As we look at how to go about engaging boys and men in the prevention of violence, it is important to take a step back and start by analyzing the constructs that contribute to keeping all of us “in our place.” For example, when looking at marginalized groups, Tony Porter, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of A Call to Men, offered a different way of understanding what Marginalized means. When addressing the intersection of oppression, commonly referred to as intersectionality, it’s important to examine how various socially and culturally constructed categories such as gender, race, class, differing abilities, sexual identity, religion, age, and other identities interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels. How do they contribute to systemic social inequality, keeping those of us who fit in multiple marginalized groups CONTAINED (as demonstrated in the image)? Simultaneously, those who are in a dominating or privileged group remain with greater access and invisible advantages, treated by society as superior or having greater value.

Girls of color, from a very young age, are taught to develop this “high tolerance for pain.” So when we use the term Resilient, that may have a different connotation for a woman of color who has been contained to believe that she must endure, rise above, and continue forward. However, as many of us women of color shared at this training: WE ARE TIRED! TIRED OF HAVING TO PUSH FORWARD! TIRED OF HAVING TO CARRY SO MUCH OF THIS ON OUR SHOULDERS! JUST PLAIN TIRED!

Thanks to the conversation that was facilitated so beautifully by A Call to Men staff, we were all able to hear each other, to understand where the other was coming from, and to center ourselves on a space of change. A change that will only be made possible if we continue to listen to each other, to challenge the gender, social, and racial constructs that were created to keep us all in our place.

We invite you to join us as we continue diving deeper into this conversation. We can do this! Si Se Puede!

To learn more about A Call to Men visit http://www.acalltomen.org/

We would also invite you to check out their Educator Guide, full of amazing activities that can support your discussions with boys and men in the prevention of violence: http://www.liverespect.org/

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