Why Men?

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

On the male point of view:

When interviewing school-based advocates in Maine to learn what their experiences held for best practices, and what would they do with a magic wand, a woman named Angel offered a true north for the play: “I hate to say this but I am female, so when I open my mouth in front of groups of students I can just see the boys tune out.”  Angel pointed to a void of male voices speaking up against violence.  Her remark made it clear to me that this one-person, multi-character play I was trying to imagine would need to be male characters.

I interviewed advocates in Maine and around the US who had something to say about dating violence and sexual assault prevention efforts in high schools and colleges.  The pool of men doing the work was fairly small at the time, and all to whom I reached out to returned my calls, read drafts, and talked through what they saw as challenges, opportunities, and successes.

As my friend Norma Bowles of Fringe Benefits Theatre in Los Angeles, California said in a workshop she gave at and Association of Theatre in Higher Education conference in the early 2000’s, the goal was to reach the ‘mass in the middle’ and activate them as allies.  Most men are not perpetrators; most perpetrators are men. I wanted to create a series of characters with whom most men and boys could relate.

In the Australian version of “You the Man” Officer Friendly” (which was a joking reference to the DARE campaign) is now Constable Friend.  One of my favorite lines of his is a good summation of the movement’s agreement of cultivating empathy as  a prevention and intervention strategy: ” Not one of us, myself included, needs to wait for something terrible to happen before we act like we care.”