“I have a
Sister. Mother. Aunt. Wife. Cousin. Daughter. Girlfriend. Grandmother. Friend. Coach. Teacher. Neighbor.
and I’m very protective of her.”
Men say this to show solidarity, to say, “Listen, I care because it’s personal to me. There’s a woman in my life. I can’t stand the thought of her being hurt, and that’s why I take this seriously.”
But as much as this is driven by well-intentioned desires to be allies in addressing violence against women, making this seemingly innocuous statement undermines the best of intentions.
- It suggests that women need male protection, as though the answer to these crimes is for each woman to have a male provide physical defense against those who would harm her.
- It suggests that the speaker might not care about violence against women if not for this particular woman he cares about. By extension, it also suggests that he may not care about other women that he does not “have” in his life.
- It undermines women’s empowerment efforts by subtly promoting paternalistic attitudes that posit women as vulnerable properties under the care of male guardians.
So what positive steps can men take to become genuine allies? Check out Men Can Stop Rape. They have resources that help men show their strength and become allies. April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is as good a time as any.