By Samantha Iniguez
The Women’s Center held a workshop on Thursday to discuss the role of boys and men in the fight to end sexual assault.
Outreach and advocate specialist Luis Mendoza encouraged all attendees to participate at their own leisure.
He started the conversation by asking the participants why they felt it was important to include boys and men in the discussion of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It is important to include men and boys in the conversation because they need to be educated on what is healthy and acceptable behavior and what is not,” Jonathan Cortez, a student at East Los Angeles College said.
Mendoza said because men are role models to boys, it is important they educate and correct themselves before they influence the younger generation to follow in the wrong footsteps.
Along with the responsibility to correct oneself comes the responsibility to correct other men that are participating in sexual or domestics violence.
Attendees also discussed the danger of enforcing gender roles and expectations.
Mendoza said that passing on old beliefs like “boys don’t cry,” “be a man,” and “pink is for girls” become negative teachings that later reflect in life when men repress their feelings of empathy adding on to the problem of abuse.
Mendoza said that using phrases like “toxic masculinity” to describe men participating in abusive behaviors, induces categories of masculinity.
In a Power Point presentation, Mendoza wrote when toxic masculinity is used, men find themselves making up excuse excluding themselves from what they might consider toxic.
When men are given an outlet to push themselves away from the problem because they think they’re not as bad as the next guy, they relieve themselves of the responsibility to speak up.
Turning a blind eye reinforces privilege and reinforces the collective socialization ,which allows all forms of violence and discrimination against women to continue because all men share the same values.
Mendoza said because men never know who is watching them and idolizing them, it is their responsibility to teach younger boys by visibly supporting gender equality and other forms of equality.
Cortez said because of this responsibility to learn and teach acceptable behavior, men are also accountable in correcting their friends and peers when they are contributing to the problem no matter how awkward the conversation is.
Mendoza shared with the room that violence against women, children and other men is also a man’s issue. So why are men so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?
He said men are not sure about what to say when it comes to abuse, therefore, they often stay silent on the issue because they don’t see other men modeling this behavior and they’re afraid of speaking up and being made fun of.
He said men should speak up and encourage others to speak up against abuse.
Mendoza said because men are the ones committing most of abuse, it is not until men take ownership of their involvement directly and indirectly, the situation will never improve.
He also said it is only when men stop allowing other men free passes because they’re peers, colleagues or family there will be a shift in gender norms and the way society values women.
He said in order for men to have a positive impact they must increase their capacity to be able to identify, learn and live the values that promote healthy relationships, provide spaces that are conductive to healthy dialogue and growth, as well as create spaces for boys and men to heal from their experiences.
Mendoza said most importantly men should always look for consent.
He said to keep in mind the acronym F.R.I.E.S., which stands for “Was the consent freely given, reversibly, informed, enthusiastic, and specific.”
Introducing consent at an early age is important.
This means teaching a child that “no” means “no” and it doesn’t mean “convince me.”
Adults should also respect children and ask for their consent before hugging and kissing them to teach children that consent goes both ways.
“Men must be allies to women by being conscious of their male privilege and support words with actions by taking responsibility for creating honorable leadership,” Mendoza said.
The Women’s and Men’s Support Center is located at F5-315 and is open Monday through Thursday. Their hotline number is 800-585-6231, it is bilingual and available 24 hours.