Te Invito: How strong men can influence other men and be a role model for boys

The following information comes from Esperanza United’s Te Invito campaign, a toolkit of resources and information to encourage Latino men and boys to prevent domestic violence. This campaign asserts that being an ally to women and girls goes beyond supporting their causes. It is connected with self-reflection because as an ally, you really need to know yourself. It takes a lot of strength to be a good ally, but not the kind of strength that men usually learn about in society. Below is information from Te Invito on how to positively influence other men and be a role model for men and boys.

Influencing other men is an action that takes courage, but not the kind of courage that often leads to violence. As a man, you have influence and privilege (whether you want it or know it or not). That means that other men (and women) listen to you. Use this privilege to set an example and talk to other men about the fact that violence against women is wrong. At the beginning, this is not easy because from very early on, boys and men receive the message that there are consequences for leaving the “club” of traditional masculinity.  But times are changing and an increasing number of men are speaking out when they hear other men make sexist jokes, harass women on the streets, or try to justify or deny the fact that violence against women is an epidemic problem.

Here are some things you can do:

  • If you are volunteering your time or money for a women’s or girl’s organization, tell your male friends and colleagues why this is important for you and invite them to join you in supporting the agency.

  • If one of your friends or colleagues makes a sexist joke or harasses a woman in front of you, calmly and firmly interrupt them and explain that creating a hostile environment for and devaluing women, even “just joking,” are reasons why other men feel entitled to mistreat women and girls in more serious ways. You can say things like “I don’t think that’s funny,” or “Those kind of comments make me uncomfortable” or “if some men disrespect women, other men feel permission to abuse them.”

  • When other men devalue women in any way, remind them that they are also talking about their mothers, sisters, daughters and so on.

  • Learn to watch movies and TV with a critical eye. We are surrounded by messages that devalue women, minimize the violence that they experience, and limit the ways that men can express themselves and still be considered “manly”. When watching a movie or TV with friends, point out casually if there are sexist depictions of women and girls that bother you and explain why. This can also be an opportunity to discuss illustrations of traditional masculinity and the glorification of violence.

One of the most important roles that all men can play is being a role model to boys (and girls!), whether they are your own children or not. Frankly, the only way that we really can eliminate the problem of violence against women is by sending a strong message to the next generation that it will not be tolerated. We all know that children learn what they see, from very early on. Most men who use violence came from households where they witnessed their fathers (or father figures) being violent.  But many boys who grow up in abusive households do not become violent adults and the number one reason might be that there were other adults in their lives who were not violent and provided guidance and nurturing.

Here are actions you can take:

  • If you are a father of boys or girls, the most important action you can take to help your children is to be loving and respectful with your intimate partners (including present and past). It is also important to talk to boys about why it is important to honor and respect girls and to point out how society sends the message that women and girls are less important than men and boys, in all its manifestations (media, sports, pornography, peers) and that these messages are unjust.

  • Whether you are a father or not, there are probably boys in your life who could use these types of messages or role modeling. You might be a community (or professional) coach, or a Sunday school (or professional) teacher, or an uncle or padrino. All of these are opportunities for you to mentor a young guy. If the boy has experienced violence at home, you might be the difference between his adopting violence as a way of life or not. Think about it.

  • If you are a young man, you can have a lot of influence on your peers and younger men. Younger kids look up and learn from their older classmates, brothers, cousins, and friends. Send positive messages and model healthy attitudes for younger kids. Make sure that they know that it’s not cool to disrespect girls, and that it’s okay to try to walk a different path.

For more information, visit the Te Invito website at teinvito.org.