Welcome to part two of our February 2019 Inspirational Interview with Joe Samalin, co-founder of MenChallenging.
Joe Samalin is a consultant and trainer on preventing sexual violence, and the co-founder of MenChallenging, an online campaign for men challenging gender violence. Joe has worked on domestic violence, sexual violence, and anti-stalking with a wide range of communities, including with fraternities and other groups of college students, for over 15 years. Joe enjoys video games and ultimate frisbee, is fluent in Japanese, and – sorry – is a cat person not a dog person.
In this part of the interview, Joe talks about how men can get involved and support the cause to end violence against women at any level of engagement.
6. Men who speak up and intervene when they witness their peers harass, assault, or attack a woman or girl are still very much in the minority. Even though the #MeToo movement has gotten some men to start changing their attitudes and to take action, many still choose to remain silent. Based on your experience, what would it take to successfully reach out to and mobilise this silent majority to take action to stop the violence?
The key is concrete, tangible culture change. We need to identify and transform the specific cultural norms of power and privilege that promote gender violence. We do not need all men to be feminist social justice warriors (though, again, we are fine with that!), but we need to change the rules and codes of our cultures that allow such violence to happen. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as teaching men how to intervene, support survivors, provide additional resources engaging men and boys, and making the connections between harmful gender norms and violence. The most traditional organisations focus on these areas.
MenChallenging is working to radically increase the number of men taking a first step on this issue, and through that, increase the number of men taking action in all of these ways and more.
7. What are some of the first steps you would suggest that men and boys take if they wish to become a male ally helping to stop VAW?
First, listen – especially to those most directly affected by violence. MenChallenging raises money for marginalized survivors because that is what we were told was needed by them. But do try to use the many resources available to men rather than asking others, usually women, to teach and do the work for you.
Second, remember this is an ongoing process. The minute you think you know it all and are doing everything right is the minute you are most likely causing harm. Be easy on yourself – admit and own when you mess up (you will) the – and do better next time.
Third, own your privileges, and actively, daily, hourly! Examine and challenge yourself to change the behaviors that take advantage of your privileges at the expense of and at harm to others.
Since this is a lifelong journey, find or build a community that can help hold you accountable, help you grow and learn. And that you can break bread and laugh with as well. Reach out to MenChallenging if you want help with any of this!
8. Tell us about MenChallenging’s plans for the future: You’re currently still building capacity and getting off the ground, so what are your plans for the next couple of years?
Right now we are piloting MenChallenging’s membership campaign. Our pilot goal is to recruit at least 100 members and raise a minimum of $10,000 for the organisations we are supporting. We will engage these members in further actions, such as through partnerships as with Roll Red Roll. As our membership grows we will create a peer mentorship programme, connecting men and others working on similar issues around the country with each other.
Finally, as we grow, we will identify additional ways that MenChallenging can best assist survivors and the organisations that support them, without replicating efforts already underway.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of MenChallenging to stop VAW and tackle toxic masculinity?
Spread the word – especially to men you know! MenChallenging is still young, and more men than ever want to help end gender violence but do not know what to do or how.
MenChallenging is looking forward to partnering with the Pixel Project and promoting your critical work moving forward. If your supporters are looking for specific actions that men can take, want support in engaging men, want more information on toxic masculinity or anything else, they can simply reach out to MenChallenging to learn more about what to do.
10. In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?
While it may not be possible to eradicate every single instance of violence against women and girls, it is possible to create a culture where such violence is not the norm. We must rewrite the cultural rules we live by so that when someone is violent, all the people in their community and in their life will let them know that such actions are not acceptable.
That is where initiatives like The Pixel Project and MenChallenging come in, with our ability to reach wide audiences and engage them in relatively simple yet powerful ways to challenge violence against women. The more people we reach the more we can turn the tide against violence and encourage more and more people speaking up and out to change our culture for the better.