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Good news

November 25, 2009

Some great news from around the world today. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, has announced a Network of Men to stop violence against women. Members include Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

[Ban] said men must teach each other that real men do not violate or oppress women – and that a woman’s place is not just in the home or in the fields but in schools, offices and boardrooms.

I love that these two ideas are strung together in this way: that crucial to solving the problem of violence against women is not only that men stop harming women, but also that women become full and fully recognized people in their own right–not just in the home (though, yes, of course in the home as well!), but everywhere else they might travel in their processes of becoming. Ban situates the problem in a robust (and, I think, very accurate) way. Bursting through any barrier that stands between women and total personhood must be part of any comprehensive plan to end violence.

Furthermore, I’m so glad to see such powerful men making these claims. In a world that can value violence in disturbing ways, when men who do the work of making war step up to say that masculinity is nonviolent, who hold themselves accountable as role models to men around the world, something good is happening.

It’s critical to get men involved in this movement, not only for the safety and security of women (though obviously that’s quite important), but also to internally reformulate ideal masculinities so that men can feel good about feeling, about sympathy, about inclusiveness. So that men don’t need to spend so much of their lives dangerously proving that they are men.

Some final words from Ban:

“Break the silence,” [Ban] said. “When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act. Advocate. Unite to change the practices and attitudes that incite, perpetrate and condone this violence.”

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