WILMINGTON—Alongside national coordinators and area non-profits, the “Engaging Men in the #MeToo Era” event was part of an attempt to move beyond accusations to dealing with the root causes of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Held in City Hall, the event was co-hosted by A CALL TO MEN and the Wilmington Police Department; it was designed to serve as a conversation piece to call men in, not out, according to Tony Porter, A CALL TO MEN CEO.
“I know for some of us that’s been anxiety-provoking,” Porter told the audience. “Most of us over this period of time have taken a look at our own history, you know, so what have I done?”
A CALL TO MEN partners with area leaders and organizations to bring forth an inclusive message geared toward men to promote respectful manhood, according to Porter.
According to A CALL TO MEN’s spokeswoman Anna Marie Johnson Teague, Wilmington Police Department (WPD) co-hosted the event because of the department’s high number of homicides linked to domestic violence.
Linda Thompson, spokeswoman for WPD, said that though the department cannot discuss personnel investigations, all city employees are required to be familiar with the city’s zero-tolerance policy in place to address workplace harassment.
“The City of Wilmington has zero-tolerance for sexual or gender-based harassment in the work-place, that includes the Wilmington Police Department,” Thompson wrote in an email. “Employees are encouraged to come forward with any complaint or concern and it will be investigated thoroughly by our Human Resources Department.”
Thompson said that by exposing WPD’s employees to the messages of A CALL TO MEN, the department can respond appropriately to workplace harassment.
“I’m proud of the work we do every day on the front lines as we respond to domestic violence calls across our community,” Thompson said to the audience. “We don’t want to respond to those calls; we would rather live in a community and a world where we don’t have to.”
Porter said the wave of accusations that have come to light in during the #MeToo movement have caused men to reflect on their own actions and upbringing.
“Less value, property and objectification is central to the teaching of men,” Porter said. “When you talk about this collective socialization, we believe those are the three aspects of manhood that we have to challenge.”
Porter said cultural norms have collectively aided in creating a troubling reality for women. Nationally, one in four women is sexually assaulted during their four years in college. 80 percent of women don’t report sexual or domestic violence, according to Porter.
“Have a voice,” Porter said. “Just remaining silent lends to be affirming in respect as part of the problem.”
He said one-third of all homicides are related to domestic violence; it’s an issue Porter said stems from historical messages that surround gender dynamics.
“We do know historically women were the property of men; the problem with that is that it’s still tolerated today,” Porter said. “It’s at epidemic proportions.”
Not just perpetrators
Though aggressors are a major point of concern, panelists at “Engaging Men in the #MeToo Era” agreed men on the periphery play a major role in bringing about change.
Jen Adler, director of UNCW’s CARE center, said the onus to initiate a cultural shift is on men who haven’t committed crimes.
“Even the men that aren’t perpetrating violence are also hurt by this dynamic and also need to step up,” Adler said.
Often, when discussing acts of gender-based violence or discrimination, men are asked to consider family members or those closest to them. According to Adler, this isn’t always appropriate.
“When we’re talking to men we come from this place of, well you wouldn’t want it to happen to your mother or your girlfriend or your sister and I think that’s only one very shallow level that we need to be hitting,” Adler said. “This really is about humanity.”
For more information on the #MeToo movement and training initiatives geared toward getting men involved, visit A CALL TO MEN’s website.
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