#WorldGender Conversation: What is the Role of Men in the Fight for Women's Safety?

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Demonstrators shout slogans as they are surrounded by the police during a protest rally in New Delhi December 27, 2012. Several hundred people gathered in India's capital on Thursday in a bid to rekindle mass protests over the gang rape and ferocious beating of a young woman, who was airlifted to Singapore overnight for special hospital care to save her life.

Credit:

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Women’s outcries for safety became more audible in the aftermath of the gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi last December. Increasingly, male voices are entering the discussion as well.

Take Ali Shahidy, for example. He initially wrote an essay about becoming a feminist in Afghanistan under a pseudonym. As “Salim Hussaini,” he wrote candidly for the Women Under Siege website:

Growing up in Afghanistan, I had already watched my father beat my mother—but that was seen as just another part of daily life. Then the cycle of violence continued when I myself became an abuser. I began to beat my sisters and harass girls in the street. I restricted my sisters’ movements, how they looked, and who they spoke to. Afghan customs taught me that the honor of my family was more important than the physical and psychological well being of my own siblings. I was following accepted cultural norms without shame.

Confronted with his sister’s abusive marriage, however, Shahidy changed his mind:

To help my sister, I had to fight with mullahs and our elders; I had to struggle with practices, beliefs, and values that filled my life since birth… After helping Soraya, I knew I had a responsibility to fight for women’s rights in a larger way.

The World is hosting a discussion with Shahidy along with a panel of other prominent voices (see below) about the roles of men when it comes to movements for women’s safety.

Join this conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments below. Or, Tweet using the hashtag #worldgender.

[View the story "On Men's Roles in Movements to End Violence Against Women" on Storify]On Men's Roles in Movements to End Violence Against Women

#worldgender conversations on social media

Storified by Angilee Shah· Thu, Apr 11 2013 10:40:13

join us for #worldgender video chat 10 ET to talk abt role of men in stopping violence against women post-Delhi bit.ly/ZJCbjkJeb Sharp
#Worldgender activist @alishahidy: "Why I’m breaking the cycle of violence in Afghanistan" ow.ly/jXIlk via @womensmediacntrPRI's The World
"A radical change wasn't easy at all" @alishahidy on becoming a feminist in #Afghanistan #worldgenderAngilee Shah
.@alishahidy: #vaw in #Afghanistan starts early in the family -- fathers beat wives, brothers don't learn how to respect women #worldgenderAngilee Shah
Richard Tolman at U of Michgan: For better or worse, men have a lot of power to influence other men #worldgenderAngilee Shah
@angshah Big difference between mentality of "Protecting" women/girls versus "Respecting" women/girls #worldgenderChristine Vyrnon
Sunil Bhatia discussing invisible dominant power of men (akin to race relations/whiteness) that is hard to admit and confront #worldgenderAngilee Shah
Pretty low bar to clear. MT @torystarr3 I think many men in their hearts don't support this kind of violence. -Richard Tolman #worldgenderAlex Johnson
Its tough to face sometimes how far equality has come but yet how far we truly have to go #worldgenderAdam Dennis
thanks @jebsharp and all the speakers - male and female - speaking about women's rights and safety @pritheworld. #worldgenderMeera Subramanian
Kathleen McGee writes on Facebook: In the news coverage of the protests in India I was surprised to see men standing up with women in the protests but not in Egypt...and not in the United States...why is this? why the reluctance?
Thanks so much to everyone who tweeted, watched, commented on our #worldgender chat about men's roles in #vaw prevention. More soon!Angilee Shah

In our last discussion about gender and women’s safety we asked if the protests that followed the rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi, India last December signaled a sea change in the global movement for women’s safety. Three new panelists will join Jeb Sharp to answer your questions this week:

Ali Shahidy now works independently for women’s rights and safety by raising the issue using his real name. He hosts seminars and talks to men in Kabul about why culture in Afghanistan should change. He started a Facebook page to highlight successful Afghan women as role models.

Richard Tolman is a professor of social work at the University of Michigan. He studies the effectiveness of interventions into violent and abusive behavior. He queries aggressive masculinity and how gender roles can negatively affect both men and women.

Sunil Bhatia is a Media scholar at Connecticut College. He was in Delhi in January and saw women on the front lines of protests. Bhatia teaches about gender representations in media and writes about the complexities of representing others. In one essay at The Feminist Wire, Bhatia examines Nicholas Kristof’s coverage of violence against women.

How have men helped in the fight for women’s safety? Should there be any limits to men’s participation in movements meant to empower women? Where do men’s representations of women’s movements succeed and where do they fall short? Do organizations that focus on men draw resources from those that focus on women? Or, are efforts to demand women’s safety and rights benefiting from, or often seeking more men’s involvement?