Lili B. California

Education for a Healthy, Respectful Manhood, to End Violence Against Women by Lili Bernstein

Educating men and boys on a respectful, healthy manhood

Dear Mrs. President,

Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted in the US due to a “misunderstanding.” At least that’s what’s often purported within domestic violence cases. What is that “misunderstanding”… can we pin point the problem?

I attend an all girls private school in Los Angeles. In 9th grade, the PE class, Self-Defense is offered. Ever since I learned the idea that women are considered targets for sexual and domestic violence, I became an incredibly fearful person. When I went into 9th grade, I jumped on the opportunity to sign up for self defense. In the class, I learned how to fight off an assailant from behind, in front, and laying down. When I finished the course, I thought I was unstoppable. I convinced myself that the likelihood of me being assaulted was lower, now that I graduated a class. However, is that true?

There are two pieces to the puzzle that is domestic violence. Oddly enough, it seems to me that we forget the second half… that half being the men. Don’t get me wrong, self defense is an amazing tool to have under your belt, but it does not put an end to domestic violence. I realized as I entered 11th grade and as the heart of the election was in progress, that society has been teaching the victim what to do to end domestic violence for quite some time. Does that make sense to you? By teaching girls self defense we are putting the obligation on them to prevent this issue.

However, to address this issue before it even starts, we must educate our boys on sexual assault prevention. We must teach them what a healthy, respectful manhood looks like. As our President, I hope that you will shift this conversation to the root of the issue. We need to redefine what “masculinity” looks like. Research by the World Health Organization shows that men and boys who adhere to rigid, traditional notions of gender roles and masculinity are more likely to report having used violence against a partner. I hope you will educate our boys on the behavior that women deserve and should expect. Not all men are abusers, but it is time for good men to get behind this cause and hold their gender accountable. It is much more effective when men call each other out on issues of sexism, discrimination, and even abuse. Gender specific curriculum should be introduced to schools that highlights these issues. Additionally, male bystander intervention is an untapped resource in the world of violence prevention. I believe that men want women to feel valued and safe, they just don’t realize how active they need be in that conversation.

So perhaps my defense skills —heal palm, groan pull, elbow— will save me someday. But hopefully not because men and women will start coming together to make real change in the collective socialization of men and boys. As our President, I ask you to join me in this mission to end this gender polarization and unite us to stop violence against women.