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What We All Can Do to Stop Men's Violence Against Women

What We All Can Do to Stop Men's Violence Against Women

By Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting

A good friend of mine, and fellow change-agent, Tracy Knutson offered me an opportunity this week that I couldn’t pass up- an opportunity to be a part of a men’s leadership session with Dr. Jackson Katz, a world -renowned subject matter expert on the issue of men’s violence against women. If you haven’t had a chance to check out his TED Talk on-line, you need to take 15 minutes and watch him, as nearly 2 million others have, share his views on why domestic violence is a man’s issue.

When I was asked to participate in the session with Dr. Katz, I jumped at the chance. I was curious to see what he had to say, and wanted to learn about his philosophy about Domestic Violence being a man’s issue. I’d seen his YouTube video a few times before meeting him and knew about some of the messages that he would bring to the discussion, but there were also a few things that surprised me when we started to talk about why it was important to have 30 male business leaders come together for a leadership session on addressing Domestic Violence.

The biggest surprise was that Saskatchewan leads the country with the highest rate of police –reported family violence amongst the provinces. It’s also near the top when it comes to self-reported family violence according to a recent Stats Canada report, released earlier this year. This blows my mind. As someone who hasn’t been exposed to domestic violence, I can’t imagine that these numbers would be accurate. I don’t know of anyone that has been a victim of domestic violence. My family wasn’t affected by domestic violence. I don’t know of any of my friends that have been impacted by domestic or family violence.

But in a way, that’s the whole point isn’t it? Most family and domestic violence isn’t reported. It’s not something that people really talk about, and even worse yet- it’s not something that generally others see. It happens in the home, with the doors locked and the shutters pulled down so nobody can see what men do to abuse their spouses. So how WOULD we know if this horrible thing is happening around us? And if we aren’t connected in some way, shape or form, why would we get involved?

But IT IS happening. All around us. Whether we see it or not. 

If we don’t get involved in reversing the trend, changing the culture and lending our voice to social change – it’s going to keep happening. The stories of rape culture that we see on television on University campuses, the vicious attacks on Aboriginal women who all to often even go missing or murdered, the stories of women being drugged or abused when they are too incapacitated to consent- all things that we watch on our TV screens on read about on-line and think “what the hell is going on in this world?!”. But we take a wholly passive approach. And if we want change, we need to take greater responsibility. We need to own the issue. All of us. And here’s how we are going to do it.

Change our language about men’s violence against women.

Dr. Katz talked about the passive language that we use when we talk about men’s violence against women, like "Sue was a victim of violence". The way that the majority of domestic violence is presented to the masses rarely even mentions the aggressor (overwhelmingly the aggressor is a man by the way) and even speaks of the event as past tense, as if to say “its in the past and what’s done is done”. The ownership of the action is placed squarely on the victim. It’s a cheap parlour trick to take your eyes off of the issue at hand, but an effective trick none the less.

We need to start talking about men’s violence against women in a way that includes the aggressor and as the catalyst and OWNER of the action. Women are the victims of the violence and the act of violence is not something that they “experience” – it’s an act of dominance through abuse and violence in an attempt to control their partner. 

Start to have open and honest conversations.

If you want to change a culture, you have to start to talk about the issues that you wish to see altered or modified. It’s got to be open and honest, and in a space where people feel safe and trusted. MOST people seek to understand, but tend to stay silent out of fear that there will be repercussions if they say something stupid. But this is too important an issue to let that stand in the way.

I was really appreciative of Dr. Katz’s approach yesterday in that he created an environment for the men in the room to ask questions, be engaged and try to understand the issue in a way that they never have before. Stories were told rather than stats, bringing us closer to the issue and real-life examples were presented to bring the issue to life for us all.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that I like that says “Once you see, you cannot un-see”. To me, this is one of the critical pieces of understanding this issue. Once you know that men’s violence against women exists, and how our current social norms accept existing actions that support the violence, only then can you engage people in the desire to shift the culture.

We all have a role to play.

Dr. Katz spoke about the bystander effect, of which he is one of the architects of in the men’s violence against women movement. This mirrors the approach that I tried to take with the I Am Stronger campaign back in the day when I ran the anti-bullying campaign through the SaskTel Corporate Social Responsibility Department.

The idea is that we all have a part to play in the issue. This isn’t just about the two people that are involved in the act, but also everyone around them. The approach that we took through I Am Stronger was more about being able to stand up and speak up at the time of the actual act of bullying, but that isn’t necessarily the same situation for men’s violence against women, due to the fact that most men’s violence against women happens outside of the public eye. What isn’t different however, is the role that bystanders can play in influencing social change.

When someone in your circle speaks about women in a sexist or pejorative way or if there is a scenario you witness a situation where men degrade women in any way, you need to understand that your silence is consent.  Engaging bystanders in the process opens up the accountability and the responsibility of us all to act on influencing the social norms that contribute to men’s violence against women.

One of the other reasons that I absolutely love the bystander approach to dealing with social issues is that the bystanders hold the power to change things, and change things quickly- all they need to do is stand up and be counted, and lend their voice to the cause. The real challenge is creating a compelling enough story for them to get involved and be willing to stand up and challenge the status quo.

Leadership (and more importantly leadership from men) is vital.

Influencing social change and creating an environment that rejects men’s violence against women is one thing, but if the behaviours that we wish to see aren’t modelled by those in leadership roles, then the intent of the culture change becomes lost or at the very least less powerful. It’s up to the leaders of organizations and our communities to speak loudly and model the behaviours that they wish to see changed in their culture for things to truly change.

Want to see what speaking out looks like at it’s finest – check out this video that was played at the conference featuring the second in command of the Australian Army Chief Lieutenant David Morrison address inappropriate behaviour within the ranks.


Now, am I suggesting that you go to the extremes of Chief Lieutenant Morrison goes in the video? I guess if the shoe fits…..

But what I do think you have an opportunity to do, what we all have an opportunity to do, is to speak up and say “that’s not right” when something, well, isn’t right. To call out behaviours, teach our children and reinforce positives when they happen in our world. If you are more comfortable with “clicktavism”, then share some posts of positive stories of people standing up against violence on social media. We all need to act at a level that we are comfortable with, so do what you can – just don’t do "nothing" anymore.

Men need to lead that charge for change. 

Dr. Katz spoke about the idea that exists today in which men are not seen as the current owners of the issue of men’s violence against women. Let’s take advantage of the lack of understanding use it to our benefit.  We can build an army of male leaders who we can educate on the issues of domestic violence (once they see......), and help influence social change.

Like it or not, when it comes to dealing with issues that require others to see the world through another communities eyes (whether it is Aboriginal issues, disability issues etc.), the message is almost always more clearly understood when it is presented by someone from outside that community. The thought that there is an ally outside of the given community somehow creates the belief that the information shared is presented without secondary agenda. Sad, but true. 

In this case – men addressing the issue is against the norm of what the majority of the public have seen, and that helps drive home the message of male ownership of men’s violence against women.

The last thing that I will say on this subject is that the leadership event I went to was organized entirely by women- smart passionate and visionary women who understand that getting men to start to talk about this issue is exactly the kind of push for social change necessary for this issue. 

Now what? 

Where do we start? What do we do?

We get involved. Make small changes. Push the envelope. We become willing to take risks to change behaviours. We teach our kids and our friends what men's violence against women is and how to treat each other with empathy and compassion. We take responsibility. We start to change things. Together. We be human. 

This is a great visual about inclusion. But it's wrong....

This is a great visual about inclusion. But it's wrong....

Written by Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting

I have come across this really great visual a few times over the last several months (most recently on the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy Facebook site) , and although it very beautifully demonstrates the difference between inclusion, exclusion, integration and segregation, there’s been something about it that bugs me.

The differnce between inclusion, exclusion, segregation and integration

After really thinking about it, I started to realized that there are a couple of things that could be changed/ edited to make this a better representation of what true inclusion is all about.

The green dots should be different.

I get it. the green dots are supposed to represent those who are “typical” - those of us who are able bodied, caucasian and without barriers. And that is fine- it’s a reality that we should acknowledge. But when we talk about true inclusion, we are talking about creating a culture that strives for equity and embraces, respects, accepts, and values difference.

And that isn’t just about the differences in the blue and red dots. That’s also about the green dots too- we are all unique individuals with a rich and wide level of diversity as well, so why shouldn’t this be acknowledged in the visual as well? In fact it’s a critical piece of the definition.

The red and blue dots need to be different too.

If we are using a people first philosiphy, and moving beyond the idea that you as an individual are your physical or cognitive ability, or the colour of your skin, or your sexual orientation is something that inclusion is all about. The colours are vital to the overall visual, but by just using colours, you are potentially continuing to reinforce the labelling of individuals and not taking into account who they are beyond the visual differences that you naturally identify when you see someone who isn’t just like you.

By changing the size of the dots, you are making a distinction that everyone is different, while at the same time connecting the different coloured dots to green coloured dots - afterall, we may look different, but we may also share experiences, religious beliefs, backgrounds, opinions and more. These parts of who we are make us uniquely us, but also give us the chance to connect with others through common connections.

The inclusion circle needs to “pop”!

My biggest issue with the diagram above is this - it just doesn’t represent the incredible impact that an inclusive culture truly is!

Inclusion isn’t just about bringing different people into the center and making their lives better- if it’s done properly, it actually makes everyone’s lives better. It creates a culture of understanding, empathy and belonging. It makes people more open and caring. It reinforces our natural instincts to be kinder to each other.

I am not an educator, and I know that inclusion has it’s supporters and detractors when it comes to classrooms. But consider this- outside of the obvious benefits for children with disabilities who have been given the opportunity to develop prosocial skills and be a part of their natural peer group, typical students in an inclusive environment are not adversley affected, but rather in general experience positive academic outcomes for students overall.

And when it comes to businesses developing a more inclusive environment, I think I will leave that to this amazing video of Mark Wafer, a Tim Horton’s owner who believes in the business case for inclusion to make that case for me.

My version of the inclusion graphic.

My thoughts and views are my own, so I encourage you to take this or leave it - or better yet, in the spirit of inclusion, send me a note and tell me how it could be better! I would love to generate greater discussion on inclusion, and if you have a suggestion for me on how this could be a better representation of such an important topic for us all, I would love to hear from you.

Isn't this better?

Introversion and Extroversion

Introversion and Extroversion

Written by Scott McBeth - Chief Development Officer, Affective Consulting

I stumbled on to a Ted Talk the other day, and I'd like to tell you about it. I have watched it a number of times to date, and I am so moved and inspired by it, that I feel compelled to share it with you.

In Susan Cain's talk entitled, "The Power of Introverts," she talks about the manner in which we celebrate and even favour the extrovert, in Western culture. She talks about how our schools and workplaces are largely designed around the idea that we should all strive to work in ways and environments where significant group work and high levels of stimulation dominate; environments where extroverts typically thrive. Introverts,  not so much. Extroverts are often favoured, or rewarded with leadership positions over introverts, even though there is no reason to believe that they are better positioned for success in these roles, based on their extroversion alone. What happens to our introverts?

In a lot of ways I feel like Susan Cain could have been speaking directly to me. I have felt like I have been misunderstood, in this way, for much of my life. This talk really explains a lot of what I have encountered and struggled with internally, through my years. Her insight validates me. It makes me feel like I can just be me.....but where do we go from here?

Each of us is capable of creative thought, innovation, or meaningful contribution, but the way that we get there can be very different.  I believe that we need to get better at honouring and valuing the diversity in the creative process, and how we get there. We need to allow people the opportunity to work in alignment with their natural strengths and instincts. When we begin to move to a more balanced representation of this thought, and to a more introspective thought process, we will start to harness the power of diversity in thought, and diversity in people. I find that thought very inspiring.

Scribblenauts and Supported Employment

Scribblenauts and Supported Employment

Written by Kevan McBeth, Founding Partner - Affective Consulting 

My 6 year-old son crawled up on my lap a few weeks ago and asked me to help him play this new game he’d found on the iPad, called Scribblenauts. For those of you who are in the same age bracket as I am, who grew up with dot matrix printers and Commodore 64’s (don’t judge!), the easiest way I can explain Scribblenauts is it’s an old-school text based adventure game (like Zork) on Steroids. Instead of typing in “Hit troll with axe”, now all you do is type “axe” into the field at the top of the Scribblenauts game, and an axe appears which you can arm your character with- so you can now watch him hit the troll with the axe instead of imagining it (How fun!).

The reason why my son came to me in the first place was that he needed me to help him with a scenario in the game. He had his character and a companion at the edge of a body of water that they needed to cross. In the water was a blood thirsty shark, patrolling the waters and seemingly removing any chance of the two characters safely crossing the channel by swimming. He needed an alternate way to get across the water, and thought I could help. I typed “bridge”. But the bridge was too short to fit across the body of water. I typed “boat”, but when we loaded the two characters on the boat, the boat sank from their weight. I typed in “snorkel” thinking that I could maybe try to masterfully steer the two characters to safety across the water with some fancy swimming and timing of the shark’s moves.

Let’s just say it didn’t go well.

Finally, my son said “Hey! I know! Dad- type in “Lightning”!! I looked at him strangely. Lightning?! Really?! How would lightning help us?? I reluctantly typed in lightning. Carter then placed his little finger on the lightning bolt and brought it down to the water and released. The lightning bolt electrified the water, killing the shark. He then instructed me to type in “scuba” as we did before, and he placed the scuba gear on his two characters. They swam leisurely across the water and onto the other shore.

Level cleared. Problem solved.

I sat there for a few minutes and marvelled at the genius and simplicity of my son’s solution. It was staring us right in the face the whole time, I just didn’t see it. Because I wasn’t being creative. I was thinking logically, but I didn’t explore the idea of doing things differently to remove the single barrier (the shark) from getting us to our goal on the other side of the water.

To me, this is the perfect analogy for supported employment. As Human Resource professionals, managers and business owners, we get caught up in trying to make our systems and approaches to employment fit the situation of employing an individual who may need job customization or natural supports to be a part of the workplace. If the bridge is too short, or the boat can’t hold us all, we stay stuck on the shore. Issues like “there needs to be enough work to be full time”, “they need to meet the full qualifications of a position to work”, “our workplace is too small to have a supported employee” or “the work we could find for someone isn’t enough to be meaningful” are all short-bridge solutions we try to apply to the situation. Because those are all we tend to know.

Supported employment isn’t about trying to find work for an employee with a disability, its more about our inability to think creatively about what meaningful work really is.

But if we aren’t able to think outside the box, and allow ourselves to see the creative solutions, we miss an opportunity that could lead to developing a meaningful work opportunity for an employee with a disability. Someone who may love to come to work for you for 4 hours a week. Someone who could take that little extra bit of work off the plates of your employees, allowing them to focus on their core work responsibilities and duties. Someone who could bring energy and passion to your workplace on a daily or weekly basis.