Feeling burnt-out from #MeToo? So many stories, so familiar to many of us. The good news is important work is being done in the Netherlands to promote discussion and change.
This was clear at the recent event ‘Sexual Violence And Masculinity: How Can Men Do Better?’ hosted by Atria, Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History, Emancipator, and The Feminist Club.
The night kicked off with a screening of short-film “Een Goeie Jongen” (“A Nice Guy,” in Dutch, with English subtitles). The nice guy in question is Tom, a young, carefree student who parties with his friends and is in a steady relationship with Eloisa. One night, Tom crosses Eloisa’s boundaries. On the surface, not much seems to change in Tom’s life but on the inside an anxious struggle takes place. Will Tom be able to face his actions when confronted with Eloisa’s suffering? Or is his “good guy” image unshakeable?
The motivation for the film, according to co-director Joël van Dooren, is the disconnect between data on sexual violence and representations in the media. As much as 40% of Dutch women report sexual assault. In more than 80% of these cases, the perpetrator is someone known to the victim. Yet the media largely represents rapists as predatory monsters, far removed from our everyday lives.
The film forces us to consider the unthinkable – that ‘good’ people can do bad things. The film holds up a mirror to the viewer. We are forced to consider, how do I communicate about consent? How do I contribute to a rape culture? For example, letting that sexist joke slide, holding on to the unshakable belief that none of my friends could every cross the line. They are, of course, such nice guys! How does my privilege – be that as a man, as someone white or heterosexual – blind me to everyday violence faced by those with less power?
A panel discussion followed, in which Jurhaily Sling from Emancipator spoke about his work as a peer educator. Emancipator is an inspiring organization that engages men and boys in gender justice, through capacity building, advocacy and dialogue. Jurhaily goes into schools and runs workshops with boys. He works hard to create a space where boys can open-up and discuss some of the pressures they face. This includes pressure to ‘be a man’ with status attached to ‘getting’ girls. It’s clear that Emancipator is leading important conversations on harassment, consent and healthy relationships.
Discussion and debates inspired by Een Goeie Jongen and the work of Emancipator are important steps in the fight to end sexual violence.
At this moment in time, it’s clear that men and women alike need to be looking at ourselves and asking some challenging questions. It’s also clear that working with upcoming generations of men is a must.
What can you do to promote change?
- Follow Een Goeie Jongen (“A Good Man”) on Facebook. Keep an eye out for upcoming screenings, invite your mates along and get involved in the discussion!
- Support the White Ribbon Campaign and pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.
- Support the work of Emancipator (in Dutch). There are a number of ways you can do this. For example, sign-up now to be a peer-educator (Dutch speaking men aged 18-30 years old).
Sarah Pelham is a contributing blogger and works in the field of critical development studies. Sarah has her MA in Women and Gender studies from the Erasmus Mundus GEMMA programme. She is a feminist with a particular interest in gender, race and cultural representation.