Guest Column: What it means to 'man up'
One hears this exhortation a lot these days, from friends, fellow gym rats, pro athletes and beer commercials. Heck, I use it fairly regularly myself. It sounds cool, masculine, authoritative, right? It provides a terse set of instructions on how to be and act like men. Two words conveying so much meaning: don't be a sissy, stop being a complete and utter wuss, be daring, quit whining, get tough.
Through my involvement with the Women's Resource Center's Violence Prevention Team over the last several years, I have been challenged to examine these instructions on a deeper level, to consider broader definitions of what it means to "man up."
Consider the mission statement for the new global initiative, The Man Up Campaign, which engages youth to stop gender-based violence: "Our call to action challenges each of us to 'man up' and declare that violence against women and girls must end." These words resonate with other definitions I found for "man up," be a stand-up guy, do the right thing, be a leader.
And it is so critical for us to stand up and actively oppose violence against women. A recent national survey by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that one in five women had been raped in their lifetime and one in four had been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Last year, the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan handled 1,001 calls to its 24-hour crisis line and provided emergency shelter for 139 domestic abuse survivors and their children. The agency also provided support, counseling and advocacy for an additional 876 domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors that were not in residence at the Safe Home. As a father of two daughters, these statistics frighten and anger me - they also motivate me to do my part to "man up" and join the work to end violence against women and girls.
In response to the Montreal Massacre - a deadly shooting of 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989 - a group of Canadian men "manned up" and started the White Ribbon Campaign as a symbol of men's opposition to violence against women, asking men to wear white ribbons as a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. The White Ribbon Campaign has since spread to more than 60 countries, becoming the world's largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls and promote gender equity, healthy relationships, and a new vision of masculinity.
The White Ribbon Campaign has arrived in Northern Michigan. On Jan.15, the Petoskey boys basketball teams will be "manning up" and wearing white ribbons to show their commitment to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Members of the Women's Resource Center's 100 Men Campaign will be on hand to lend their support and distribute white ribbons to all men and boys attending the game who will make the same commitment. I invite the men and boys of our community to join us for this game and in our commitment to work toward ending violence against women of all ages. What do you say?