As part of Women’s History Month, Lynn Rosenthal, the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, discussed the ways we can work together to stop crime and violence against women. Rosenthal asserts:
…we need to highlight the fact that most men are not violent or abusive in their relationships. To these men I would say — speak out. Let it be known among your peers that you do not support or condone abuse. This is important, because men who use violence in their relationships often assume that the men they know do too. We need to change that belief system, and its other men who can most effectively get that message across. In some of the gang rapes we have heard about, many people knew what was happening, but chose not to intervene or get help. I know that it is not easy for men to step forward, but it can make a real difference.
Street harassment is a symptom of a greater culture that accepts gender-based violence as being OK. When we give statistics saying 80-100% of women experience street harassment, common sense will tell you that it is not one singular man who is traveling the world like Carmen San Diego and perving on women.
But it is important to point out that there are very many men who know what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to me (and to you and to her and to that other girl over there.) There are a number of men who know that it’s inappropriate and dangerous to grope, follow, and rape. There are men who understand the threatening tone a wolf whistle can set, men who are cognizant of the fact that a woman wearing a dress does not give them an invitation to comment on her appearance, men who tell their friends to knock it off when those friends harass girls, men who serve as mentors for boys in our community, and men who recognize that women on the street are someone’s sister, wife, mother, girlfriend, cousin, daughter, friend. And to those men, we say thank you. We simply cannot beat street harassment without you. We cannot build an entire movement with representatives from a single community. Hell, Hollaback started with a combination of both women AND dudes. So, to the real men, we respect you right back. We welcome you as our allies, and we salute you for the actions you take (and for those you don’t).
Now, let’s roll–we’ve got work to do.