A Few Good Men in the Tundra

The Albany Times-Union’s “Strange News” headlines are among my reliable sources of daily amusement.  Unexpectedly, today’s blog inspiration comes all the way from the manly military and oil town of Anchorage, Alaska, where a few dozen men walked a mile in high-heels on Friday to raise awareness and funding to end sexual assault and violence against women.

I like this for two reasons:

1.  Men are taking the initiative to speak out against rape and domestic violence. This is critical to ending the culture of silence that surrounds these behaviors.  A lot of guys have the attitude that if they see their buddy acting coercively or violent toward a woman, it’s none of their business.  But, if one of your buddies is walking in high-heels to make a public statement that this behavior is not okay, you might start thinking twice about whether you have support, instead of counting on the people around you to keep their mouths shut about it.

Thomas at Yes Means Yes writes:

“…if we are going to put a dent in the prevalence of rape, we need to change the environment that the rapist operates in. Choose not to be part of a rape-supportive environment. Rape jokes are not jokes. Woman-hating jokes are not jokes. These guys are telling you what they think. When you laugh along to get their approval, you give them yours. You tell them that the social license to operate is in force; that you’ll go along with the pact to turn your eyes away from the evidence; to make excuses for them; to assume it’s a mistake, of the first time, or a confusing situation. You’re telling them that they’re at low risk.”

We need to create a rape-unsupportive environment!

2.  They are sending the message in a fun, self-effacing way. Guys can laugh at other guys wearing high-heels, and they can laugh at themselves wearing high-heels.  “Busting balls” — poking fun at each other and being able to laugh at yourself —  is a cornerstone of male camaraderie.  In this sense, the element of humor makes the message more widely palatable.

I consider myself to be sensitive to feminist concerns and receptive to feminist messages.  But, anti-feminism is common in conservative rural communities.  Men are more likely to hear anti-domestic violence and anti-rape admonitions and consider them part of a litany of other “fem-nazi” (in Rush Limbaugh’s parlance) propaganda.

So, in short, to the extent men in conservative America can take up the mantle against domestic violence and rape in a fun, “hey, that’s not cool, man” way, we’ll go further in changing the culture.

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