Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 28 October 2017

Leadership and the end of Abuse

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about #metoo. It garnered some response, and led me down new paths.

First, I was pointed in the direction of a hashtag that has been adopted by some men, not unlike the one that I suggested. Have a look at #HowIWillChange on Twitter. It was a lovely idea, and many men are taking it seriously. A lot of women are using it, too, to cement their solidarity with other women. Some men are laughing it off or using it to proclaim that they’re perfectly good and righteous as they are, and that there’s no reason for them to change. One or two are abusing it.

This kind of individual reaction is inevitable.

Interestingly, it was the stuff I said about language that took me on a very real journey. An old college friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Rebecca Hains’s Facebook page. The writer had quoted an educator at some length, talking about a lesson plan on how differently men and women perceive their own safety. She was quoting Jackson Katz, and here’s what he had to say:

"I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they've been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, 'I stay out of prison.' This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, 'Nothing. I don't think about it.' Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted?
“Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don't go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don't put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man's voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don't use parking garages. Don't get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don't use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don't wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don't take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don't make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”

Of course, this is no surprise to women, although it might be to men. I agreed with it, and thought the lesson could easily go further, so I looked up Dr Katz to see what else he had done, and how he talked about the problems of violence in our society.

I found a TED talk from November 2012, although Katz has been working in his field since the early nineties. This clip is five years old, and has had about 1.8 million views. Some people are devotees of TED. I’m not one of them, but it’s not unusual for the talks to have viewings in the millions. Not for nothing, 15 of the 20 most popular talks are delivered by men. Go figure.

Jackson Katz has the advantage of being an ally to us all. He talks about violence. He talks about passive language, in much the same way that I talked about it in my blog, but he goes further. He talks about leadership, and he advocates for change. He advocates for the type of change that seems entirely possible and absolutely desirable, to me. Watch the talk, or read the transcripts. It’s so simple, I don’t know why Katz’s teaching hasn’t spread further and faster.

In the end, it’s about the will to change, and Katz also demonstrates how and why that will can be universal, even in the patriarchal society in which we still live.

Jackson Katz is my hero today… It’s always good to have one of those on the horizon.

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