Welcome to part two of our April 2020 Inspirational Interview with Brian Anderson.
In graduate school, Brian Anderson hosted a White Ribbon campaign. Now, twelve years later, he is the co-founder of Fathering Together, a global initiative to bring fathers together through storytelling, educational opportunities and community. Prior to Fathering Together, Brian worked with college men to understand masculine privilege and devise strategies to be allies for women and girls. As the proud father of two spirited daughters, he works to see a bright future for them, free of violence and filled with opportunity.
In this part of the interview, Brian talks about the importance of dads becoming role models and allies in the effort to end violence against women.
Part I of this interview was published on Sunday, April 26.
Photos courtesy of Brian Anderson.
6. Fathers are usually the first male role model in a person’s life and have a significant impact on their sons’ attitude towards women and girls. What would you recommend to fathers and father figures who are actively looking to role model well?
First, remember your sons are observing how you treat your wife, their sisters, friends, and other family members. Daughters are also watching and will remember how they were treated by you too.
Second, take the time to explicitly tell your children about your values and why you treat people the way you do. In the U.S., our culture doesn’t reinforce that men should be communicative or expressive with their emotions, but counteracting that norm means connecting on a deeper level with your children and providing them more life lessons. Third, watch your language too. Making judgments about a woman’s appearance or behaviour can teach children to objectify women and see them as less than men.
7. Besides working on being a good role model, what are some of the first steps you would suggest that fathers take if they wish to become a male ally helping to stop VAW?
Fathers have to do their internal work first. They have to work through their privilege, their emotions, and their communication skills. This is hard to do without a community. Finding a local group of men where you can be vulnerable and ask the questions you are afraid to ask in other spaces is key. It also takes accountability and holding other men to the same standards. So if you join a local men’s or dads’ group, you need to be prepared to stand up for what you believe and mentor others as well. In our online community, we are constantly on the lookout for members who want to host a “dads’ night out” to help connect in real life and build a strong network of support.
8. What are Fathering Together’s plans for the next 2 to 5 years?
We’re still waiting on our 501(c)3 status to be approved, so we are laying groundwork in three areas:
- First, we have a book of fathering stories coming out this year for Father’s Day. Our plan is to continue this as an annual tradition along with live storytelling experiences throughout the year to promote the importance of communicating and sharing stories.
- Second, we plan to launch a group for gender equity for our members to take an active role in mentoring their peers rather than just working on things themselves.
- Finally, we’ve been doing a lot of outreach to other organisations, like The Pixel Project, White Ribbon, and Promundo Global to provide more resources and information on a variety of issues our fathers need to be aware of.
4. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of Fathering Together to tackle toxic masculinity, sexism, and misogyny?
Right now, we are still growing our social footprint. So sharing our efforts via social media and inviting fathers to join our communities is critical. The more we can help fathers feel comfortable and empowered to share their experiences in a safe space, the more we all stand to gain. It is also critical to not give men a pass, but to not ostracize them when they make mistakes.
5. In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?
It sounds easier than it really is, but the best way to end VAW for good is to educate fathers about the importance of their role within the family and society. We must empower them to treat their daughters with love and respect and to teach their sons to view women and girls as equals. In this way, children will grow up in an environment they will want to see replicated in their schools, places of employment, and in future dating and social circles too.