“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community
When I was a classroom teacher, it took me a while to learn to focus more attention on students’ positive rather than negative behavior. Once I made that my practice, though, it never ceased to amaze me how effectively it worked in turn to positively influence student behavior and classroom culture. I remember thinking it worked like magic. Aside from making classroom management easier, another important reason for reacting with calm discipline to students’ violent, abusive, or otherwise frustrating behavior was to model healthy communication and conflict resolution skills. It was important to me to present a positive alternative for my students in the hopes that it would influence them to do and be better.
Since “to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction,” it can be exceptionally difficult to consciously defy physics and address a negative with a positive. Doing so requires immense consciousness, strength, and discipline. When someone yells at us, it is natural to experience feelings of anger and want to yell back. When someone hits us, it is natural to want to hit back, or to run away and simmer with rage until it explodes elsewhere. When we experience or witness sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, it is easy to become passionately angry and focus on the collective and overwhelming problems that perpetuate a culture of rape, abuse, and violence.
Focusing on the problems is essential. By doing so we educate and inspire a will to act. This is why prevention educators spend a great deal of time teaching people to recognize and name negative behaviors. These are the statistics. This is not okay. This is abusive. This is unhealthy. This constitutes sexual assault. That is rape. This is what harassment looks like.
As we focus on the problems, though, we must go further. To truly empower and inspire those we seek to educate, we must not only teach what is wrong, but also communicate and promote what is right. What do healthy relationships and healthy masculinity look like? What would it mean to only engage in consensual, respectful, informed, pleasurable sex? How would it enrich your life to live in a world free of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence? What would individuals’ lives be like if we worked together to prevent them from experiencing assault or abuse? What would our community look like if we did that?
“In campaigning against men’s violence against women, remind yourself of what you are for. Feminist activists and scholars have developed visions of an eroticism based not on inequality and violence but on consent, safety, and mutual pleasure. They wish to create relations between and among women and men which are just, empowering and peaceful.”
-Dr. Michael Flood, “Men Speak Up: A Toolkit for action in men’s daily lives,” White Ribbon Policy Research Series No. 4
The details will differ, but the general vision should be shared. In the spirit of passionately and assertively promoting the positive, we want to hear from YOU. Tell us: by taking a stand against sexual violence, what are you fighting for? Let us know in the comments section below, by sending us a Facebook message, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts.