30 11 / 2012

Hey guys, you know what’s really cool?

…Empowering Women! And there’s never been a better time to tell you how than during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. Just a little recap for those of you who may not know: the 16 Days Campaign runs from November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to December 10th (International Human Rights Day). Throughout the 16 Days, participants advocate for, and raise awareness of, gender-based violence as a human rights issue.

Here’s the thing: from personal experience I have concluded that a good number of college men either don’t think there is a place for them in the women’s rights movement or just don’t know how to go about it. I’d like to ask you to try to think of a woman you care deeply about, whether it be your mother, sister, aunt, daughter, friend, girlfriend or wife. Next, I’d like for you to think of her being in the position of the women in the following scenarios from my own experiences.

I have witnessed how objectified and undervalued women are in society. Walking past a group of guys on campus bragging about how many girls they “bagged” at the frat party the night before is all too common, or a girl hurriedly walking past a male passerby who is whistling and calling out to her. To some, these situations are thought of as nothing more than the norm. But the reality is that they illustrate dangerous views about women. In the situation above, the woman is not viewed as a human being, but rather as a lifeless object one feels they are entitled to stuff in their “bag.” Or, just as a body that only serves as eye candy.

Take a second and think of this happening to someone you love. The terrible reality is that these are only a few of the very severe realities that women all over the world face. Thinking of women as nothing more than an object gives permission for some to treat them as such. And this very view makes violent actions towards women permissible and often excused.   

But boys, this is a call out to you. The answer is yes, there is a place for you in the movement to end gender-based violence. And no, we all don’t hate men. We look to the attitudes and behaviors toward women that are continuously perpetuated throughout society. Great news, these attitudes and behaviors can be changed and stopped. However, women alone cannot stop them. There needs to be a call out to the entire human population from the entire human population. It is possible to break this cycle, and the time is now. Women and men can work together to both end gender-based violence and guarantee the rights to women as human beings.

How are you going to help, do you ask? First, question your own attitudes and behaviors. Do they disrespect or pose harm? If so, take the time out to inform yourself on how these attitudes and behaviors contribute to the culture of violence. Lead by example and spread awareness. You must recognize that violence against women is a serious issue, and should not be the reality. Challenge your friends and show them that what they think is “really cool” is really not. The objectification of women should totally not be a status lifter. You can also offer your support to those who have had or are having bad experiences.

Finally, get involved. I know what you’re thinking, “But I’m gonna get made fun of!” Seriously? By the same people who dismiss and simply ignore these issues? Reality check: you have power, brother, and you can make change. You are refusing silence and ignorance surrounding an underrepresented issue while giving a voice to those who may not have one. Silence is taking the side of the oppressor, and oppressing women is definitely not cool.

by Dina Mansour

Dina Mansour is a 3rd year student at Rutgers University studying Political Science and Women and Gender Studies with a minor in Social Justice. She is currently an intern at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and full-time advocate of human rights for all.