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As a fitness instructor, nothing infuriates me more than hearing stories of women getting creeped on in the gym.

NOT OKAY. And you don’t have to take it. This is not a fact of life. This is harassment.

The gym is a place where you should feel safe, supported and empowered. If that’s not how you feel at your gym, it may be time to shop around.

Please consider the following:

1) There is absolutely never an excuse for you to tolerate harassment when you are PAYING for services. In a gym setting, it is the management’s JOB to keep you safe and make you feel welcome.

2) If it feels creepy, it is creepy. Don’t waste your time and energy playing the, “Is it in my head? Maybe he’s trying to be nice…” game. Life is short. You are busy. You know a creeper when you see one and it’s not your mission in life to take care of their feelings.

3) Businesses should have sexual harassment policies in place to protect both their employees and their customers. At my , our instructors watch to make sure that students treat one another with respect. When students approach any of us with concerns about classmates’ behavior, we take immediate action to deal with the situation in a way that makes the person who has been harassed the most comfortable. Usually this has involved having a conversation with the person whose behavior is inappropriate.

Once, a young man tried to bond with one of our male kickboxing instructors by saying, “I’m only here to pick up girls. I tried it before with yoga but that didn’t work out so I thought I’d give this a try.” The instructor firmly stated that the women at our studio were here to work out and that they were not interested in that kind of attention. He explained that “pick up” behavior is distracting, uncomfortable and inappropriate in this setting. The young man stopped attending classes shortly after that, and we were 100% satisfied with the outcome. We would rather lose one customer than have several people feeling uncomfortable.

Steps to take if you experience creeping or other harassment at your gym or class:

1) Report the incident to the instructor/manager. Ask if they have a harassment policy. If not, be clear about what you would like to see happen from this action. “Will someone from the gym please talk to this person and ask him not to stare at other members? Please let me know when that conversation has happened.”

If the behavior continues…

2) Try again. “You know, on (date of last complaint) someone told me they would address this situation. Did that happen? I’m still experiencing harassment and that’s not something I should have to deal with as a paying customer.”

If the behavior continues…

3) Last chance. “I’ve now complained twice about this issue and it has not been resolved. If this is not addressed I will be leaving this gym (and telling everyone I know exactly why I left).”

OR you could take the shortcut and deal directly with the creeper.

“Hey! Stop staring at me.”

 

 

 

How Martial Arts Empowers Women

22 Aug

If you watch martial arts movies, you know that martial arts is extremely male-dominated. This often leaves women wondering if there is a place for them in martial arts classes. Am I strong enough? Will I get hurt? Will there be other women there? Will I be taken seriously? Will I be harassed?

Janice earned her black belt after 50!

Anyone can do martial arts. Male or female, any age, even people with physical or cognitive disabilities can learn to do martial arts. If an instructor tells you differently, that only demonstrates their ignorance.

Any well-qualified instructor who has integrity should make ANY new student feel welcome and supported at their school. If this is not the feeling you get from an instructor, look elsewhere! Remember, the rules for authority figures are the same for anyone else– if it feels disrespectful, it is disrespectful.

Reasons women benefit from martial arts training:

1) Feel stronger and more connected to your body. Martial arts training develops balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, speed and power. You will be amazed at what your body can do! How hard you hit has very little to do with how big you are. When you feel good about what your body can do, you feel good about your body in general.

I trust Jennifer Endres (now 5th degree Master Instructor) to strike with control in close quarters.

2) Get comfortable setting physical boundaries.Working in close quarters with classmates to practice self defense techniques may put you outside of your comfort zone initially, but you will quickly find yourself becoming more confident and less intimidated by other people who are in your space. You also learn to set clear physical boundaries through communicating with your practice partners.

Did I mention how fun it is?! Laughter is a great stress reliever!

3) Let go of stress and anger in a healthy way.There is something about the physical process of throwing strikes, in the air or on bags, that literally shakes stress out of your body. This, combined with the grounding of stance work and learning healthy breathing techniques makes martial arts an excellent stress reliever, especially for those of us who feel we need to keep our stress to ourselves (a common concern for many women).

From my 2nd degree test-- The woman in red is my mom, Master Mary Murphy. The 4th degrees on either side of me are now Master Instructors as well! There's no end to the opportunities for learning...

4) Develop a sense of achievement and success. Regular practice leads not only to significant improvement in technique, but to opportunities for rank advancement. There’s something very satisfying about tying on that shiny new belt, a visible reminder to the whole school of what you’ve accomplished through persistence and practice! Plus, rank trumps everything else in a martial arts school. When we line up to take a drink at the water fountain, it’s not “ladies first”, it’s “white belts first”!

If you are in the Madison, WI area, check out to schedule a free trial class.

Women’s World Cup– You Win Some, You Lose Some

28 Jun

When I was a little girl, I always secretly wanted to play sports but (besides martial arts) I felt like I missed the boat and wasn’t good enough to play with the other kids. I especially wanted to play soccer, because it was the most physically intense sport I ever saw girls playing. As I got older, I realized the other cool things about soccer: it’s a way to connect with people all over the world, all you need is a ball and some open space, and it’s one of the most amazing workouts that exists!

USA's Abby Wombach battles for the ball against North Korea

Last year I started playing pick up games with some girlfriends while we followed the Men’s World Cup (more commonly referred to as “THE World Cup” because, you know, women’s sports don’t count). It was so exciting because bars downtown would open at 6am for games and they would be packed with loud, enthusiastic, international crowds of fans. I wore my Mexico jersey in the street and got stopped by strangers every time who wanted to talk about the games. When it ended, I looked forward to the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

Now, the Women’s USA team is ranked higher than the Men’s USA, so I thought that soccer fans would come out for their games at the very least. I was wrong. The bar that opened for all the Men’s World Cup games was only open for USA Women’s World Cup games, and in today’s game vs. North Korea I was one of 5 people there watching (including the bartender). It kind of pissed me off.

Here’s some other things that piss me off about the world’s response to the Women’s World Cup:

1) It’s difficult to find information about it. Sports Illustrated dedicated a whole issue to the Men’s World Cup, and I could barely find a Women’s World Cup SCHEDULE online before it started, let alone information about the teams and players, history, etc.

2) As with most women’s sports, and there is (MUCH) less money put towards it. On the bright side, the opening games were almost sold out in Germany this year and reports say that turnouts are on the rise as time goes on.

3) I can’t stand to look at the USA Women’s jerseys this year. Why? They managed to make a soccer jersey that looks like it’s being unzipped to show a little cleave:

Soccer jersey? Or sexy nurse? I hate these things!!!

4) By the way, when I was looking for those jerseys I found instead “Football WAGs” (thats: “wives and girlfriends”) in in the 2010 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Yuck!!

Objectifying women is so patriotic.

5) There’s still a lot of homophobia and other issues of discrimination surrounding women’s sports, according a .

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE:

Christine Sinclair of Canada and Kim Kulig of Germany

FIFA is launching a campaign called to encourage girls to play soccer, and it’s easy to be inspired by these players. They are awesome, that’s why. Not only are the women footballers great athletes, they play with integrity. It’s commonly known that male players are much more likely to go down in attempts to get fouls called against the other team, but the women are known for avoiding that kind of game-playing.

Check out the and as well.

Now readers: go forth, play and support women’s sports! USA! USA! ;)

Men Who Want To Protect Women

15 Jun

Most fathers, brothers, boyfriends and more are good men who respect and care about the women and girls in their lives. Many of these men feel protective of these women and girls, and I can understand why. The world is not a very good place for women in a lot of ways. 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

I’m concerned, however, that some men may have some poorly informed ideas about how to best support the safety, comfort and happiness of the women and girls they love.

Threatening, intimidating or fighting bad people doesn’t help women.

Often it’s just a joke, but sometimes it’s more serious. The sentiment of “If anyone messes with you I’ll mess him up!” is not only misguided, but could cause more harm than good.

1) Telling a woman that she essentially needs a bodyguard sends her the message that she is a victim who can’t take care of herself and is deeply disempowering, not to mention insulting.

2) Violence and posturing are the problems here, not the solutions.

3) Often the best way to stand up for someone is to help them stand up for themselves. My mother recently moved to Texas and several women there told her, “Oh I don’t need to learn self defense– my husband has a gun!” Her response: “Where is your husband right now?”

Instead of saying, “I’ll protect you,” try things like, “I”ll stand by you if you need to tell that guy off” and “No, you’re not overreacting. He has no right to treat you like that.”

Warning women or girls to distrust men or to live in fear detracts from their quality of life.

Women don’t need to change how we dress or where we go in order to protect ourselves. Over 90% of violent crime is committed by men. Those men are the ones who need to change their behavior.

Rather than warning women or girls “what guys are like” or “how some guys think”, men who care about women should spend that time and effort talking to other men about how to respect women and how not to commit sexual violence.

Women: Expecting the men in your life to protect you is dangerous for everyone involved.

While women and children are most often the victims of sexual assault, men are much more often victims of violence in general. Women are taught to avoid conflict in our society, while men are taught that “a real man doesn’t back down from a fight.” That’s how a lot of men get hurt.

I would not want or expect any man in my life to take a punch for me, any more than I would want to take a punch myself. I write mainly about keeping women safe, but honestly one of the biggest social lessons a man can learn to keep himself safe is to avoid conflict. Repeat after me: “Hey man, I don’t want to fight.”

Tips for everyone to protect your loved ones:

-Don’t laugh at sexist, hateful or. If you can, confront the joker about why it’s not funny.

-If someone you know feels unsafe, don’t brush off their feelings. Encourage them to get out of that situation in their own way.

-Understand the warning signs of and .

-Recognize that nobody “asks for it” when they are raped or sexually assaulted. , including children.

-Empower your loved ones. Don’t let them underestimate themselves or put themselves down. Build their confidence by believing in them even when they don’t believe in themselves.

SlutWalk Chicago Highlights

7 Jun

The Women’s Movement is BACK, baby! What an exciting day.

For those of you who have not yet heard about SlutWalk events popping up all over the world, these are marches protesting sexual violence and particularly the use of slut-shaming and victim blaming to justify sexual violence, rather than holding perpetrators accountable. Yes, there has been some controversy. See my previous post or Jessica Valenti’s wonderful Washington Post for more information on the debate around SlutWalk. See this for more on the ideology behind the Chicago event.

Ok, so while the weather reports warned of thunderstorms, thousands of protesters of all ages, races, body-types, backgrounds and genders gathered in Thompson Plaza in Chicago on Saturday, June 4 to march against sexual violence, against victim blaming, against slut-shaming and FOR women’s rights. The weather stayed sunny– and HOT– and it made me wish I was as scantily clad as some of the other activists around me. Yes, some were in lingerie, bikinis, and short skirts– people were dressed in all different ways, including at least one woman who marched in a hijab. I wore jeans (a very sweaty mistake) and a t-shirt reading “ASKING is the first thing I do with my mouth”. Others used bare skin as their message board to the world, writing things like, “This is not an invitation to rape me” or, more simply:

This woman was very nice. We chatted about sunscreen after the march.

Here are some things that I found really exciting about SlutWalk Chicago:

1) Holy MEN, Batman! There were tons of them, and they led cheers in booming voices that went a little something like this: “Gay, Straight, Black, White! All unite for women’s rights!” Heart-warming.

2) We ran into the Avon Walk For The Cure and sisterly love abounded!

We loved each other! Sisterhood!!

3) There were kids at the march.

Her sister's sign read, "I DARE U TO CALL ME ONE."

4) I wish I had caught this on video: A bus driver saw us, read our signs, beeped a funky rhythm and fist-pump danced at us until her light turned green. We fist-pumped right  back. It was awesome.

5) Most polite protestors ever. Sample conversations:

“Oh, excuse me! I didn’t mean to invade your space!” “You’re fine!” *warm smiles*

“May I take your photo? I love your signs!” “Sure!” “Thank you!” “You’re welcome!”

Speaking of signs, there were some great ones! I give you the beautiful, strong messengers of SlutWalk:

Blurry but I love it: "Just because I have BIG TITS doesn't mean I want to FUCK YOU!" Say it, sister!

Chanting: "Hey hey! Ho ho! Sexual violence has got to go!"

Powerful. "Nobody asked me what my rapist wore." This sign struck me the most deeply.

Haha I LOVE this one! Summing up the sex-positive messaging in SlutWalk.

Yeah, we've had ENOUGH!

No more victim blaming!

After the march we heard speakers, slam poets, and even a (hilarious) ! (My frequent readers know how I love female comedians…)

Other highlights of the speeches, for me, were from the Chicago Metro YWCA with her “chat-sy about consent” which we could start practicing now “or, you know, forevs” as well as an organizer (whose name I didn’t catch- did you? Let me know!) from the . Emily’s talk was empowering, silly and sexy as she discussed my favorite topic: consent! From SWOP, I learned a lot about how sex workers face additional challenges from law enforcement in reporting rape, and also that many cities have or are considering creating laws that would allow law enforcement to assume a person was soliciting based solely on what she is wearing and where she is standing. Alarming!

I was too tired to attend the after party and after-after-party, so I got a Slurpie (7-11s everywhere in Chicago!) and took a nap. It was a sexy fun day, and I ran into some organizers planning to bring SlutWalk to my hometown of Madison! Stay tuned for more info on that as it becomes available.

I’d love to hear your comments/questions! And remember:

“Women’s rights under attack? What do we do?

STAND UP! FIGHT BACK!”

All Girls Are Beautiful!

25 May

Three reasons you should love yourself just the way you are:

1) Images in magazines are not real.

2) Dr. Seuss put it best:  “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

3) All girls are beautiful.

Thanks to for creating these videos and more through their and .

When I started this blog, I thought to myself, “I’d better not get too political here.” So I pressured my brilliant activist sister to start a , instead. But you know, I’ve reached a point where I can’t not speak out against the blatant attacks on women by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin state government.

I’m talking about Governor Walker and his unquestioning, morally bankrupt Republican majority in the House and the Senate, whose latest genius idea (<- I must be angry if I’ve been driven to use sarcasm) is to defund family planning services in Wisconsin.

spell out how the proposed budget will affect family planning and health care services in the state:

All 12 Republicans in the Joint Finance Committee voted to:

  • Eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood health centers in Wisconsin
  • Against tens of thousands of women, men, and teens who rely on Planned Parenthood
  • Against lifesaving cancer screenings, HIV testing, birth control, and annual exams
  • Put the entire BadgerCare Family Planning program at risk. A program that provides 60,000 patients across the state with basic, preventive health care each year

Now, for those who may be thinking,“Well I’m opposed to abortion so I don’t know if the state should fund clinics like Planned Parenthood…” I can totally understand where you are coming from. That being said, only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s funding goes to abortion and exactly NONE of that funding comes from the state.

We’re talking about tens of thousands of uninsured, low-income and working class women and families losing access to BASIC health care such as cancer and STI screenings, breast exams and pap smears, annual check ups and access to birth control.

What will this mean for Wisconsin? A rise in unwanted pregnancies, STIs, and women dying of cervical cancer.

for the :

The medical director of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene says women will likely die of cervical cancer if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal eliminating $266,400 for cervical cancer screening prevails.

“I see at least 1 – 2 high-grade lesions every day during cytologic evaluations,” Dr. Daniel Kurtycz says in prepared remarks to…the Joint Finance Committee…. “Without follow-up, there is no doubt that some of these lesions will become invasive. Because cervical cancer takes at least two years to run its course, sometime after 2015, we will have women dying of cervical cancer as a predictable consequence of the funding reduction for testing in this budget.”

This cannot stand. Please by contacting your representatives or volunteering. Spread the word. Organize!

On SlutWalks And Sisterhood

13 May

Slutwalks, Sisterhood and Safety: Divided We Fall

I am relatively new to Twitter, and my head is SPINNING following the discussion around #slutwalks.

The Background: What is a SlutWalk?

In January 2011, a Toronto police officer addressed law students at a safety presentation saying “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Although he after a massive public outcry, his comments are part of a larger problem—1) That people mistakenly believe that rape has anything to do with what the victim is wearing, 2) That victims are routinely blamed for crimes committed against them while perpetrators are routinely defended and 3) That we as a society have consistently used words like ‘slut’ to shame women and attempt to control female sexuality to ever-changing standards of what is seen by whoever speaks loudest as ‘normal’ and ‘appropriate’.

In response to these issues, activists   on April 3, 2011 in the first SlutWalk, an international movement. Many activists have identified SlutWalk as an updated version of (TBTN) rallies.

TBTN marches (since the first in Philadelphia in 1975) demand an end to rape, so that the streets and the night will be safe for all. Many in the sexual assault prevention field have criticized TBTN as out of date because we now know that the VAST majority (75-85%) of sexual assault is perpetrated by someone the victim knows, often in a home and often involving alcohol use on the part of the perpetrator and/or the victim. The scenario rarely involves a strange attacker jumping out of the shadows.

SlutWalks, in contrast, aim to communicate that rape is part of a rape culture– and that culture needs to change. More specifically, a culture that says that women who dress “a certain way” are “asking for it”. A culture in which the media reports on what an 11-year-old girl was wearing at the time of her gang rape, and adds how difficult the aftermath was for the perpetrators and their families.  A culture that perpetuates the idea that men are animals with no self control who can’t and won’t hear the word no if a woman is ‘dressed like a slut’ because she is too attractive or, more accurately, because she is not worthy of respect.

Since the recent , in which Jaclyn Friedman gave a truly poetic and inspiring which is quickly becoming a part of the history of this movement, there has been a backlash against SlutWalks as a form of activism, including from some feminists.

The Controversy: Why SlutWalks make many people uncomfortable

1)      Some people think SlutWalks are meant to encourage ‘sluttiness’

First of all, that is not the point of SlutWalks. The point, as one protester’s sign put it so well, is that “Sluts don’t cause rape. Rapists do.” The point is, when women get dressed to go for a date or to go have fun with their friends, they shouldn’t have to think to themselves, “Hmm, if I wear this, will people disrespect, harass and assault me?” Rather, they should think, “What do I feel good wearing?” regardless of whether or not their particular brand of personal expression is seen as acceptable by others.

Secondly, this plays into what activists refer to as ‘slut-shaming’, which Jaclyn Friedman denounces so beautifully. “Because the secret truth nobody wants you to know is that, using nearly any definition, there’s nothing wrong with being a slut. Not a thing. It’s OK to like sex … And as long as you’re ensuring your partner’s enthusiastic consent, and acting on your own sexual desires, not just acting out what you think someone else expects of you? There’s not a damn thing wrong with it.”

2)      Some feminists take issue with the word ‘slut’

I don’t think everyone involved in SlutWalks agrees on this point, but some have stated they want to reclaim or take back the word ‘slut’. Many feminists, myself included, do not believe that it is possible to reclaim words in this way, because you can’t reclaim what was never yours to begin with. Slut is a derogatory word with no male equivalent that has been systematically used to justify violence of all kinds. On the other hand, it is a word that gets people all riled up—and hey, there’s no such thing as bad press! Many activists argue that using such an incendiary word brings energy to the movement, and on this point I believe they are correct. How else did the fire spread so quickly? There are SlutWalks being organized all over the world right now. It’s been less than 2 months since the first event was organized and young activists can’t get enough. Some people may be upset, but the point is to raise awareness of the issue and boy, has it got people talking!

3)      Some people think that women only ‘dress like sluts’ because they think that is the only way to get attention and love, because they have poor self esteem, because they have been brainwashed by the media, etc.

This is not about why women dress the way they do. It’s about women’s right to dress however they wish without fearing harassment and violence. Also, I think it would be an incredibly arrogant for anyone to make the assumption that they know about a person’s inner desires based on how they dress.

4)      Some people are offended when women are not appropriately ashamed of their bodies and sexuality.

I don’t know what to say to these people other than, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

SO. This is the Twitter storm I have been following for the past week, and I’m getting so dizzy, I feel a little sick. Here’s why.

As well-known young feminist and writer Jessica Valenti asked during the : “Why don’t you spend more time attacking rape culture instead of young feminist activism?”

Indeed, anti-SlutWalk feminists and do seem to be quick to come down on the free expression of other women on this one… While I may agree that Wente and Dines may be missing the point from up there on their high horses—can’t we just agree to disagree?

I understand why activists are bristling at seeing their movement twisted in the media by those who would probably be better off doing some supportive shrugging and saying, “Hey, it’s not my thing and I don’t quite agree with the messaging, but good for them for getting young people engaged in raising awareness of sexual assault and double standards!” What I don’t understand is why the response to opposing viewpoints has often been catty and downright mean.

I’m reading posts and tweets that criticize others for making assumptions in one breath, and go on to make assumptions about that person in the next. I’d like to see some more sisterhood at play here. I’d like to see young activists reaching out to SlutWalk-opposed feminists and say, “Hey, I’m sorry you disagree with our activist expression, but I respect you for working to support women in your own way. It’s a free country and women have been silenced enough without us trying to silence you for disagreeing. Thanks for stirring up debate and upping our press coverage. Peace, sister!”

Because ever since the inception of the women’s movement, women have struggled to stand united. We’ve got more differences that we do similarities, as a group. The women’s movement struggled to include lesbians and women of color and working class women. Now it struggles to include both women who think women can dress however they want and use whatever words they want, and women who think there should be boundaries in how we dress and speak. All these women agree on equality and a woman’s right to live free from violence.

United we stand, divided we fall. Let’s get it together, sisters.

And for those of you in my neck of the woods, join me at on June 4! Stay tuned for photos and more from the event.

Mom Power!

8 May

This Mother’s Day, instead of sending a card, I thought I’d share a little bit about how my mom has empowered and inspired not just her three daughters, but so many others…

I was brought up in my parents’ martial arts studio from the time I was born. My mom was proctoring black belt tests while she was pregnant with me. You know how little kids don’t realize right away that their moms have another name besides mom? Well, it took me even longer because all I ever heard anyone call my mom was ma’am. “Yes, ma’am!” “No, ma’am!” They didn’t want to have to do extra push ups! Basically, I had the coolest mom ever. When I was three, I told the neighbor boys (whose dad was a cop) that my mom could totally take their dad in a fight. As an adult, I now realize that, although true, that probably wasn’t a very nice thing to say … but I was just SO proud of her! Even at three years old, I recognized that it was something special to see a woman with a black belt– let alone running her own school!

Growing up studying martial arts, especially as a girl in a school with female leadership, I developed a strong foundation of self confidence that carried me though to adulthood unscathed by bullying and poor body image, cattiness and cliques. I owe it not just to my training, but to my teacher: Master Mary Murphy Edwards, 7th degree black belt.

This is my mom. Wouldn't you be inspired?

Once at Take Your Daughter to Work Day, my mom took me out of high school to the UW-Madison campus to watch her do a self defense demonstration at a Sex Out Loud event. I was used to seeing my mom teaching martial arts and throwing people around, but I wasn’t used to hearing college kids say in awe: “Wow, that lady kicks ass!”

My mother always told me, “It’s not the size of your muscles, it’s the size of your backbone that counts.”

When I was a teenager and started disagreeing with my parents, my mom stood up for me and said,

“I don’t want my daughters to back down to people just because they are older than them.”

Then there are the basic life skills– a different kind of empowerment. I complained bitterly growing up because my mom made me do chores. Now I know how to clothe, feed and clean up after myself and do household repairs and when I see other adults who don’t I think, “Wow. Thanks, Mom.”

In 2007 my mom moved to Texas, leaving me to run her martial arts school (can you say, “big shoes”?!). I still receive e-mails from students who studied under her years ago and want to get back in touch. And I still call my mom first when I need advice… about anything.

I guess what I’m saying is, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Mom power!

Happy Mother's Day!

When we think of sexual assault, men are often seen as the problem. It’s true that the overwhelming majority of sexual assault (and violent crime in general, for that matter) is committed by men, but it is also important to remember that most men do not commit violence.

Many men, in fact, go out of their way to prevent violence (and sexism).  You go, men! Let’s take a moment to recognize how awesome you are:

In Milwaukee recently, a have come together to respond to a string of attacks against women in their community.

In Wisconsin in general, we have a lot of great men doing anti-violence work. trains law enforcement to approach sexual assault cases with sensitivity. works for the and is a long-time member of . Some fraternity brothers at UW-Madison take a class through the School of Social Work () to change the rape culture for which fraternities (and college campuses in general, for that matter) have become so .

In the blogosphere, shout outs to Thomas at and at .

Then there’s the men I every day. They are AWESOME! Shout outs to Clint, , Scott, Marcus, Ted, Will, Robert, Doug, Jason, Andy and Marco who volunteer their time to serve as practice attackers for my women’s self defense classes. Shout out to Troy who, when a kickboxing student bragged to him that he was “only there to pick up girls”, stood up for the women at our studio and shamed the guy so he never came back! (Funny side note- he was worried I’d be mad about that.) The men I work with are so respectful, one of my kickboxers was telling me how she feels more comfortable as a woman at our studio than at places she’d worked out at previously with “macho” instructors. I reminded her that we have male instructors too and she said, “Yeah but your male instructors are great!”

I asked some of these men and others to share their thoughts about how men can work against violence. Here’s a few of the responses I got:

“What men need to do is really pretty simple: reject this culture. I believe it’s honestly not true that men are biologically sexually aggressive. The rejection of this culture in its most exaggerated form is obvious in the constant ridicule placed on the “bro” stereotype by everyone else, but there is still that undercurrent that seems to sometimes seep into otherwise decent men.”

“I’m dumbfounded that I still meet men who believe that women serve two purposes: Cleaning the house, and making babies. Those kind of men will never listen to women and change their ways. They feel they are right because so many of their friends think the way they do. Men need to voice their opinions more, so that those men still stuck in the dark ages will realize they are in the minority and at least consider changing their views. It won’t change all of their minds, they’re too stubborn. But with time and pressure from the rest of society, their numbers will dwindle.”

“Aside from the obvious one – “don’t commit sexual violence” – men need to be aware of the social & cultural forces that suggest that sexual violence doesn’t happen, isn’t a problem, is a joke, etc. Men should talk about these things openly, with one another and with women. They should understand what exactly constitutes sexual violence – that it isn’t always a strange guy jumping a woman in an alley somewhere. They should see adult men treating their female partners with respect.”

Men absolutely must be a part of the movement to end sexual violence. I send so much love and appreciation to the men who are already there. I challenge women who are doing this work to reach out to  men as allies, friends and brothers and welcome them.

P.S. Shout out to West High’s (directed by my dear friend, teacher and mentor ). High school kids perform about racism, sexism and other issues like these to elementary through high school audiences. Check out this video of Benny and Terri discussing consent in front of a very awkward high school audience. It’s pretty darn cute.


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