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Empowering Men for the Sake of Empowering Women

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“You know, I get it, it’s important to ‘respect’ chicks, but it’s cool to f___ chicks.”

“Okay– says who?”

Alexis Jones, CEO and founder of ProtectHer, stands on an auditorium stage at the University of Nevada with her head cocked and her brow quizzically furrowed. She is relating an interaction she had on her three year long tour of educating Division I athletes on what she describes as “pandemic levels” (Jones, 2017) of disrespect and violence towards women.

Jones goes on to explain that the athlete’s response to her challenge– “I don’t know”– is indicative of what she sees to be the root of this pandemic. According to Jones, the mindset of young men has been programmed so effectively by media that their definition of manhood has them reading from a script that “glorifies violence against women, is inherently disrespectful, that’s hyper sexualizing and objectifying” (Jones, 2017).

An example of these “pandemic levels” would be a 2016 study in which 54.3 percent of the intercollegiate and recreational male athletes that participated admitted to engaging in “sexually coercive behavior– almost all of which met the legal definition of rape” (Baldwin & Chandler, 2016 p. 6). These numbers were self-reported, and may not even reflect the full degree of such behavior in athletes.

Jones and her program, ProtectHer, are working to reduce these numbers. To do so, she emphasizes four things that need to change to help young men redefine their manhood– because “men are not simply the problem when it comes to violence against women, they are also the cure” (Jones, 2017).

First, Jones says they need to be made aware of their programming. This programming sometimes occurs through advertisements, where they are fed imagery of male success being contingent on wearing this suit, driving that car, having so many women hanging off of their arm.

It also sometimes occurs through pornography, the introduction to sex for much of the male population. Pornography is frequently shot through the male gaze with the male viewer in mind; women’s own agency is seldom considered or included in the medium. Jones proposes addressing this kind of media driven programming through education on sex and healthy relationships.

Second, “a conversation needs to be had about identity.” Jones says that society needs to “broaden its definition of manhood, because the consensus in the locker room, right now, is [to] be as rich as you can, be as famous as you can, and bang as many girls as you can” (Jones, 2017). Jones strives to deconstruct this shallow image of ‘a man’ and allow men room to feel and act with sincere depth.

Third, to the same effect, “a conversation needs to be had about respect.” Jones insists that “we have to imbue these young men with self respect so that they’re able to treat others with more dignity” (Jones, 2017).

With such high standards for basic manhood, men are given little room to falter, and as such, their respect for themselves is likely to fall. Jones suggests implementing more emotional education in schools, and helping men see reasons to respect themselves– their empathy, for example– beyond the kind of external validation they see through media.

Finally, Jones places a need on having “real talk with these guys.”

She says she has “yet to come into a locker room where they use words like ‘consent’ and ‘bystander.'” Using “real language and real tools” (Jones, 2017) that are better contextualized for these men– these athletes, coaches, brothers, fathers– and their lives, will make fighting for respect for women a more accessible cause to them, rather than one that makes them feel like they are set up to fail.

ProtectHer is all about designing this accessibility for men. According to ProtectHer’s website, it believes in “[activating] the power and influence of the locker rooms” (ProtectHer: Revolutionizing Sexual Assault Prevention Education, n.d.). In order to empower women, then, Jones believes that men must feel empowered in turn to unite with the cause. She has created an effort to reframe the issue of violence against women, sexual or otherwise, as a “human issue” rather than a “women’s issue.”

For more information on this topic, please refer to the ProtectHer website.

References:

Alexis Jones: “Locker Room Talk”? Says Who? at TEDxUniversityofNevada (Transcript). (2017, February 17). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://singjupost.com/alexis-jones-locker-room-talk-says-who-at-tedxuniversityofnevada-transcript/

Baldwin, J., & Chandler, R. (2016, June 02). Study: Attitudes toward women key in higher rates of sexual assault by athletes. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/ncsu-sat060216.php

Jones, Alexis. [Tedx Talks]. (2017, February 3). “Locker Room Talk.” Says who? [Video file]. Youtube. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCA6EF3y23k

Protect Her: Revolutionizing Sexual Assault Prevention Education. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://protecther.com/

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