Friday, August 12, 2016

The Women's Resource Center

is a community based (not government associated) organization that provides: "...specialized services catered to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,..." for the Cleveland County (Norman, Oklahoma) community. All their services are provided at no cost to those who seek them.
I've been attending training there for the past few weeks so I could serve as a volunteer for them. I was the only male (shocker) out of a group of 11 or 12 people who were wanting to volunteer. (I'm basing that notion of 11 females and 1 male on external appearances only)

I was a little apprehensive about doing this mainly because I figured that few men volunteered. My apprehension partially had to do with the "real men don't do this sort of thing" nonsense. Sadly, just because I have some limited awareness about societal messages about masculinity doesn't mean I'm not still influenced by them. That's one of the paradoxes (whee) of recognizing some of the goofy and harmful socialization messages we get...I see that they're crap but they still can make me shaky or uncomfortable or apprehensive. Jeez.

And...I'm also aware that this is a shelter/organization for victims who are almost always females who have almost always been harmed by...guess who...males.

So...I was, in part, reluctant to attempt to help because I am conscious of being a member of the group (males) who are almost always the source of the violence that harms those who seek help there and I didn't want my presence to create or invoke fear or discomfort from victims.

The training is finished now and I think we've figured out some ways that I can sometimes assist WRC as well as avoid making folks who use their services be uncomfortable. (and those ways of assisting appeal to me)

A number of things from this effort has helped my comprehension. Most especially is some increased awareness that we all swim in a rather nasty ocean of what is called the "rape culture". I hope you'll take the time to read about it if you're unfamiliar with what's meant by that phrase.

If you do some investigating you'll notice that it (rape culture) has to do, in part, with "normalizing" violence toward and domination of a less powerful group. Does that sound familiar?

I'm going to summarize something here and in doing so I'm cognizant that summarizing a number of ways...risky and misleading (maybe it even can be thought of as violent). Because when we summarize something we obliterate the end...the details are pretty much everything.

Think of it like forest and trees. The old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees has to do with getting so focused on the details (trees) that we don't see a bigger picture (forest)...well that works the other way too...we can get so focused on the bigger picture (forest) that we neglect to comprehend that it is the details (trees) that are the sole makeup of the forest. Always remember (and I'm reminding myself here too) that you can have details without a bigger picture but you can never have a bigger picture that doesn't consist of details.

Sorry for the pedantic sounding digression (I probably was a teacher for too long) but I wanted to give some context before I made a summary.

The summary is this...our culture (the USA) is structured...and very much so...maybe even almost totally...on the dominance of various less powerful groups by other more powerful groups. And we all participate in this stuff in one way or another...but...since being aware of this ugliness would be upsetting and uncomfortable (and maybe awareness would result in change so dominance depends in part on not being comprehended) we are all socialized to see this dominance/subordination as "normal" or to not see it at all because it has been made invisible.

This "normalizing" or "invisiblizing" of dominance (and the violence or threat of violence that supports and upholds it) is a necessary part of maintaining all this stuff because (in part)...we don't want to see ourselves as a**holes. We all want to believe we're "good people" and good people don't hurt others or dominate others or harm others or threaten to harm others. So...we hide truth from ourselves...we "normalize" violence...we make it invisible. And..."rape culture" is a way of naming and identifying an aspect of that "normalized" violence.

Part of the training for WRC included screening a documentary called "Tough Guise 2". It was a painful and enlightening look at the fact that most human originated violence is generated by...guess who...males (mostly white, cisgendered heterosexual males). We have a problem...and the problem touches all of us...some more hurtfully than others and quite differently depending on whether we're positioned as victims or perpetrators...but make no mistake...we all get harmed.

My last blog post touched on the fact that little boys get harmed and that harming often shapes them into adults who then tend to harm others. makes my head hurt to try to wrap it around all this...but slowly slowly I do think it is becoming more clear to me. Somewhat anyway. Maybe. isn't a pretty picture. One thing that is of utmost importance...and...that is I must always retain awareness of is that seeing the "bigger" picture is only a tool and only useful if it can help in interrupting this stuff. And the interrupting of it always has to do with reducing or eliminating harm to members of marginalized groups...and most importantly...without doing harm to different marginalized groups.

Maybe that's the useful thing that trying to get a bigger picture view allows is that it can sometimes assist in avoiding or stopping harmful stuff without inadvertently or accidental recreating harm. Hmmm...maybe that's a useful way to think of it...big picture stuff helps not recreate oppression and attending to the "details" means consulting victims and following their lead in terms of how to reduce and/or stop harm to them.

PETA serves as a wonderful example of how not to do activism because PETA often opposes harm by recreating harm. Routinely they oppose harming animals but their efforts often include making women into sex objects which in turn upholds aspects of rape culture or their efforts sometimes uphold racist notions. They seem to see the trees (they seemingly try to stop harm to victims) but are often oblivious to the forest (shifting harm to other groups of victims).

We can do better than that, I think.'s often not easy because we've all been thoroughly and totally socialized to not think this way. We see harm to living beings who have little power and we want to make it stop...but...way too often our efforts to stop the harming often simply shifts harming to a different group of victims. It's a trees and forest sort of problem and too often we leave out one factor or the other when that's exactly the way to not do it.

Here's where I console myself with something that seems really hopeful...and that is...we humans created this oppressively structured culture and that means we have the power to change it...we don't have to operate this didn't just fall out of the sky onto us. We humans made it this way and that means we humans can unmake it.

I'm trying to get some useful (and accurate) comprehension of this stuff...if you can help...please chime in.



Have Gone Vegan said...

Good for you for volunteering! :)

Because we're only going to lessen rape culture, assault, and oppressive gender roles/stereotypes that do great damage to all genders, by getting boys and men themselves involved in discussions and direct actions.

p.s. I gave Statistics Canada hell on their Census form by adding more options to their binary sex category (the only boxes were male, female), and explaining why in their additional comments section. :)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Have Gone Vegan. And thank you for the "good for you..." and also for going after Statistics Canada.

You're spot on in your notion that the way to ameliorate oppressive behavior is to work on the oppressors...ya gotta go to the source.