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As men, we speak up for a great many causes. We speak up to cheer on our favorite sports teams. We speak up to support our political candidates. We speak up to pray. We speak up to debate our opinions.
It’s time to speak up for something very important, and often overlooked. It’s time to speak up against sexism. It’s time to speak up against friends who harass and objectify women and think nothing of it. It’s time to champion gender equality and sexual respect.
Sexual violence and gender inequality are real. According to most estimates, between one-third and one-fifth of women will experience sexual or domestic violence at the hands of a male friend, partner, spouse, or date during their lifetime. The MenSpeakUp campaign believes that men must play a prominent part in addressing these problems if significant progress is to be made. A society of mutual respect requires men to rethink how they treat and interact with women.
The MenSpeakUp campaign is part startup, part social movement. Beginning right here at Harvard, we aim to continue the important work of women and men before us and join those who are currently working toward our goals. Through the creation of a team of dedicated men and an online website, we plan to make a meaningful and measurable impact across our campus and society. We are a new resource for men who strive to serve as positive examples of respectful manhood, who desire to take action against all forms of sexual violence and gender inequality.
The problems of sexual violence and gender inequality cannot be solved unless a higher bar is set for manhood. Many men already care about gender equality and nonviolence, but not enough of them speak up against joking references to rape or against other behavior that is demeaning to women. Too many men have stood by silently as a peer told a joke about domestic abuse; too many have failed to confront a friend known to sexually exploit women; too many have excused media that favorably depicts sexual violence as entertainment.
MenSpeakUp will provide a support structure for courageous men to voice a new approach. We need men with willpower and fortitude to step outside the traditional thinking of these problems as “women’s issues” in order to help resolve them. We hope to catalyze the Harvard community toward much-needed change.
That change will not come easily. Reshaping social norms is difficult. It begins with the creation of a constructive atmosphere. MenSpeakUp plans to highlight the perspectives of men who will broadcast a positive and inclusive message to change men’s attitudes and actions. We want to tap into and amplify the Good in men and turn passive observers of injustice into active campaigners for equality and respect and to facilitate a comprehensive discussion.
MenSpeakUp’s website, menspeakup.org, launches today. The website and associated media will serve not only as the official student and alumni group website for MenSpeakUp, but also as a platform for Harvard’s public-service announcements, blogs from students and prominent supporters, and pledges of support from campus leaders. The goal is to stimulate constructive debate and deliver responsible and thoughtful content leadership on the Web—a space where such leadership is often wanting.
This website is the culmination of our efforts. We hope that it will fulfill its promise of providing an online platform for men who are concerned about the levels of gender inequality and violence in the world. We believe that these are the majority of men (despite what the media, tradition, or casual male demeanor might suggest). We very much encourage the participation of women on the website, as a dialogue between the sexes is of utmost importance in changing men’s perceptions of the problems at hand.
This site offers something different from many past men’s efforts, as it dares to feel at home on the Internet, an arena that is arguably hostile to the site’s mission. Many Web surfers know that they are always just a few clicks away from material that is misogynistic or treats violence against women casually.
We have the privilege, responsibility, and opportunity to work for gender equality. We shape the world we live in.
Raúl A. Carrillo ’10, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies concentrator in Lowell House and president of the Latino Men’s Collective. Hugo Van Vuuren ’07 was an economics concentrator who lived in Quincy House and is the director of the Idea Translation Lab at Harvard. Gordon Braxton ’08 (HGSE) is the prevention specialist at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. All are founding members and leaders of MenSpeakUp.
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