By Central Oregon Coast NOW Member Dorothy Blackcrow
The eviction of #NODAPL Water Protectors’ three camps is scheduled to occur on December 5.
I spent three days around Thanksgiving in Standing Rock, ND, mostly at Standing Rock Community School. Around twenty of us Code Pink, Buddhists and locals chopped many varieties of squash, white, yellow and purple potatoes, carrots and celery, while others roasted 210 turkeys in the school’s ovens. Still others worked on stuffing and gravy, opening cans of chicken broth and cranberries. For two days we cooking & prepped food to feed 2000 people, including local Fort Yates residents, Jane Fonda, and school drivers who bussed many people in from the #NODAPL Oceti Sakowin camps to tables and chairs in the School’s Auditorium. One whole wall was filled with hand-drawn cards of encouragement from children all over the US.
As a result, I saw little of the camp – but it is HUUUUGE. Vehicles are a must to get around, since everything is so far apart: The Camp is to the north, where Highway 1806 is blocked off at the north gate; ten miles south is the Casino with showers, food, and other amenities, but no rooms available because of many photo-journalists and celebrities. Another ten miles further south is the Standing Rock Elementary and High School complex, and five miles further, Sitting Bull College. Further east is the town and Standing Rock Tribal Office in Fort Yates.
Since I had no car, it became clear to me that I could either stay at the Camp and take pictures, or stay at the High School and peel potatoes with the native women and children, and our work crew of twenty. So I took no pictures: for one, I came to help feed people – a basic native value – and two, I was overwhelmed by the invasion of photojournalists busy with deadlines for a story, who didn’t think to ask permission to film or interview natives, outsiders who didn’t notice that many Traditionals avoid or flinch at the intrusion of iphones and cameras.
On Thursday in the dark I attended a 5am fire and prayer circle at the North Gate Oglala camp with about a hundred at the beginning, but by the end of the prayers and speeches in Lakota, plus the Filling the Sacred Pipe Ceremony to open the day, about five hundred stood behind us in the circle. During this time large snowflakes fell gently on us, shining like small Water Protectors.
Newport Drum Circle and others at the fundraiser, Thank you for your support.
The Handless Maiden: A Lakota Mystery
Women are leading the way at Standing Rock to protect the waters of North Dakota, and bringing forth a global indigenous spiritual and ecological movement, which honors the integral health and respect of the Earth and people.
“Sacred Stones Camp was begun by women, as a prayer.”
A group of Lakota Sioux women from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, including LaDonna Bravebull Allard, established the Sacred Stones Camp in April by the Cannonball River in North Dakota to protest the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline through their land and water supply.
The crude oil pipeline is being built through sacred lands, burial grounds and medicine harvesting sites, and is a continuation of the abuse of human rights, treaties, and nature.
The Cannonball River is a tributary of the Missouri River, the longest river in North America, and the pipeline has already been laid close to the shores of Lake Oahe, a dammed off section of the Missouri River which is the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux, as well as for millions of other people.
The Dakota Access Pipeline would carry 440,000 gallons of fracked crude oil a day through the pipeline from the Bakken Formation, which reaches through parts of Montana, North Dakota and Canada.
The pipeline was supposed to pass the Missouri River just to the north of Bismarck, but due to the concerns about potential oil leaks polluting the drinking waters of the state capitol, it was rerouted south through land delineated to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, thus putting the risk directly on the tribe’s immediate and only water supply, as well as the water for the millions of people downstream.
My heart and prayers are with Standing Rock and the Water Protectors who are calling for a halt to the Dakota Access Pipeline which not only threatens their water, but it runs through land that was illegally taken from them.
Through these challenging times, it is easy to wallow in feeling helpless, angry, upset and appalled at the abusive treatment of the indigenous people and water protectors, by militarized forces protecting corporate fossil-fuel interests, that is aggressively using violent tactics against women, elders, medics, youth and horses.
This is what indigenous people have been dealing with for hundreds of years, and this monumental gathering of indigenous people from over 300 tribes coming together in prayer and unity is an incredible demonstration of resilience, connection and the power of people to stand up for what is right.
“It’s people who are gathered together in prayer and unity and coming together for the first time, really, in history. This is a historic moment for tribal nations to come together like this. We’ve got people who are historic enemies camping alongside each other, learning to live together and be together in this space…
Private security uses dogs and mace on Native American women and children protecting sacred sites being destroyed right in front of them, while North Dakota police are watching. People are out exercising their first amendment rights and being met with militarized response in incredibly dangerous situations: guns drawn, mace, planes flying overhead…We hope grassroots media gets the real message out, that we’re gathered here in unity and prayer to stop this from happening.
Standing Rock is an unprecedented movement of people from global tribes and backgrounds coming together to stand up in prayer for the Earth. This is happening because of the strength and commitment of many dedicated women who have started and sustain these efforts.
The healing of our waters and earth has a new feminine spiritual leadership, that is guiding an ecologically focused partnership model of living.
“One of the most beautiful things I feel right now, is that you see these amazing, empowered women who are stepping up and really reminding us young men, and men in general, that our role is to let the women lead, and yet, we’re their protectors and we stand side-by-side, but the women are supposed to lead with their hearts.”
The strength of the women supporting this movement is inspirational. They are honoring and bringing awareness to how protection of the waters is intrinsically connected to the protection of our food, herbs, women’s wisdom, birthing wisdom, children, communities, Earth, and sustainable living.
Many midwives, herbalists and healers have traveled to Standing Rock to set up health clinics and support for the camps. Women healers are speaking up about the vital nature of traditional and sacred reproductive health care and birthing support for women.
“Sovereignty for indigenous people is only going to come about through the support of women and women’s health, in the same way that we defend and protect Mother Earth is the same way that we need to defend and protect women and the next generations of children being born.”
The first baby was born at Standing Rock in September and has been named Mni Wiconi, meaning Water Is Life in Lakota, also the words seen all over Standing Rock and that express the heart of this movement. She was born naturally without medical assistance, a sign of great blessings upon the camp. New birthing tipis have been constructed for the more expected babies to come.
In the heart of the sacred lands under attack, new life is coming forth, dedicated to continuing the protection of water and health.
What’s happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline is a continuation of the abuse and violation of the rights and health of indigenous people which perpetuates both the raping of the Earth and women.
“The way we treat the earth is inseparable from how our society treats women.”
The Bakken formation in North Dakota, as well as other sites of extreme extraction, have become lawless “man camps”, which are already hubs for violence and sex trafficking of women, girls and boys, particularly affecting the indigenous population. This is well documented in a submission to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on “Extreme Extraction and Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Great Plains.”
In North Dakota, extraction from the Bakken deposits has increased over 300 times since 2006, and human trafficking and violence has similarly risen in the state.
Many indigenous women have been forced into prostitution or become victims of trafficking, and there is inadequate funding of the Tribal police and legal system to combat the influx of criminal activity led by national and international drug cartels due to the labor camps.
It is so important to pay attention to how women’s leadership and health are integral components to the Dakota Pipeline opposition, and how environmental racism impacts indigenous women disproportionally.
Women are strong, women are healers, and will keep this movement going forward. Midwifing a healthy future for all the generations to come is a sacred path that women and men from all backgrounds are called to.
The connections and movement that is happening at Standing Rock is creating new relationships among global tribes that will support all future stands against fossil fuels and the destruction of sacred lands and health.
There will continue to be prayer, the grandmothers and elders will always remember the sacred ways of healing.
No matter how much of traditional ways has been lost, the time is now for rebirth.
People are coming together at Standing Rock, to protect the water and indigenous rights, and in the process have created a model sustainable village with schools, kitchens, wind turbines, solar panels, health clinics, birthing spaces, ceremonial circles, and are sharing wisdom for sacred and sustainable living.
Water is the “first medicine;” it sustains us in our mother’s womb, Spotted Eagle says. It’s used in ceremonies to heal people. The steam it gives off in a sweat lodge, for example, purifies. Water can clean a spirit when it’s bleeding. It can calm a person and restore balance.
Water is healing.
Through the protection of our water, we can find a way to bring healing to the earth, to people, and spiritual feminine leadership is bringing light to the way.
Mni Wiconi – Water is Life!
Photography by Jade Beall
Jade Beall is a mother and world-renowned photographer from Tucson, AZ, creator of A Beautiful Body Project, and dedicated to celebrating truthful images of women’s beauty. Find her work at: www.jadebeall.com
Cover photo of Dona Lyn, from Southern New Mexico, facilitating support, prayer and ceremony on the front lines of Standing Rock.
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For many Americans, “Children of the Plains” was a startling glimpse into the poverty and despair affecting the lives of Native Americans. Five cousins share a single bedroom with a collapsing ceiling. People carry the scars of generations of alcoholism and addiction. They spend their days broken and weeping in the quivering grass of the hills where their ancestors — Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull — captured Custer’s American flag at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876; where the 7th cavalry massacred the Lakota and poured their bodies into a mass grave at Wounded Knee in 1890. This is what happened to the first peoples of this land. This is the lot left to their children.
Now, from impoverished reservations in the West, to Congress and the White House in the East, there is a growing bipartisan movement to document and address the lack of resources and opportunities in Native communities.
In June 2014, President Barack Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — the people of Sitting Bull — on the border of North and South Dakota, becoming only the eighth president to visit an Indian reservation while in office. During his visit, Obama met with Lakota and Dakota youth, whose stories of forestalled opportunities, drinking and suicide moved him to tears. After the president’s visit, the administration increased its efforts in Indian Country, producing reports, programs and initiatives designed to support Native youth.
After Obama’s visit, in November 2014, the Department of Justice released a report detailing Native children’s unhealthy exposure to violence. The DOJ report was soon followed by the White House’s 2014 Native Youth Report on the state of education in Indian Country.
Together, these reports told an alarming story of overwhelming poverty, epidemic suicide, combat-level rates of PTSD and low educational attainment among Native youth. Here are some of the more striking statistics:
More than one in three Native children live in poverty.
The high school graduation rate for Native students is 67 percent — the lowest of any ethnic group in the country. At Bureau of Indian Education schools, the graduation rate is 53 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 80 percent.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native youth aged 15 to 24, and occurs at 2.5 times the national rate.
Twenty-two percent of Native youth suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — exceeding or matching PTSD rates among Afghanistan, Iraq and Gulf War veterans, and almost three times the 8 percent rate of PTSD in the general population.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a bill in January to create a commission on the status of Native children.
Last week, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) introduced the House version of the bill.
The legislation would create an 11-member commission to study the programs, grants and services for Native children that are already provided by agencies and tribes. The commission would then produce a report and work to advance the longer-term goal of increasing coordination between service providers, making better use of resources and strengthening partnerships with the private sector to measurably improve outcomes for Native children.
Heitkamp, who served as attorney general of North Dakota from 1993 to 2001, has a strong background working with tribes in her state. When she arrived in Washington, D.C., in 2013, she made Native children a top priority. At her first bipartisan dinner with other women senators, Heitkamp’s colleagues asked what legislation she hoped to introduce while in Washington. She reportedly told her colleagues that “[her] passion is Native American children.” Murkowski overheard Heitkamp’s answer and crossed the room to talk to her. They quickly became friends — and out of that friendship, a bipartisan bill to create the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children was born.
“When you give the statistics, it should be a national emergency,” Heitkamp told The Huffington Post. “I give the United States government an ‘F’ in protecting children in Indian Country. It’s been bad for a long time, and we haven’t addressed it, and we’ve let it get worse.”
Cole, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and one of only two Native Americans in Congress, said the federal government has a responsibility to Indian nations.
“A lot of these kids are growing up on trust land, on reservations, where we really are the people that are supposed to be providing decent education and a decent set of opportunities and a secure and safe environment — and historically, the federal government simply hasn’t,” he said.
“An extraordinary amount of land was surrendered in exchange for certain commitments that, by and large, haven’t been kept,” he added.
Robert Looks Twice and the Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge, who live on land promised to them in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, know this well. The vast majority of the land promised to the Great Sioux Nation in that treaty, including the sacred Black Hills, was illegally seized by settlers in 1876. With their land taken and the basic services guaranteed to them by the federal government neglected — including education, housing and healthcare — the Lakota, like Native peoples across this continent, have struggled to live with dignity in the wake of dispossession.
The proposed commission makes no promises regarding broken treaties and makes no legislative commitments. The last Congress passed only 22 out of 122 bills and resolutions related to Indian affairs, so it’s unlikely that this legislation will be able to break through the partisan gridlock. Nonetheless, lawmakers and stakeholders from all political backgrounds are hopeful.
Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who founded the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth after retiring from Congress, says that now is the time.
“Timing is everything, and I think that the president of the United States went to an Indian reservation this past year, and we had a White House youth event dealing with the issues and opportunities for Indian children, so there’s been a lot going on,” he said.
Despite tensions between Obama and the Republican Party, Cole offered the highest praise for the current administration’s record in Indian Country.
“The president has an excellent record on Native American affairs — one of the best records in the 20th century, without a doubt,” he said.
“Indian issues really aren’t Democratic or Republican-focused, they actually cut across,” he added. “It’s actually one of the areas [where] we cooperate.”
Ahniwake Rose, executive director of the National Indian Education Association, says a bipartisan bill has been a long time coming. “This commission that [Heitkamp] has offered up has really been what education stakeholders across the country have been asking for.”
Rose says the commission’s holistic approach to the range of issues affecting Native children can bring lawmakers together to improve the situation. “What’s interesting about this commission is that it will be able to start moving forward and offering some legislative changes,” she said. “Instead of just maybe being a study that sits on the shelf, this can really do some impactful, meaningful change.”
Dorgan says that starts by engaging Indian nations. “You have to engage tribes and tribal authorities,” he said. “You have to engage parents and children, because if you don’t have engagement with the affected people, you’re not going to ever begin to solve these things.”
With 566 federally recognized tribes across the country, that is no small task. “Our nations are so unique that a cookie-cutter model won’t work,” said Rose.
Despite the vast and deep-rooted challenges of working in Indian Country, Rose is hopeful.
“Our population is small and it’s really easily hidden,” she said. “That will be the power of this commission: to shine a spotlight on these faces and on these stories, so that every senator and every congressperson is able to relate and bring those stories to the work that they do.”
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Every year, our Nation pauses to reflect on the profound ways the First Americans have shaped our country’s character and culture. The first stewards of our environment, early voices for the values that define our Nation, and models of government to our Founding Fathers — American Indians and Alaska Natives helped build the very fabric of America. Today, their spirit and many contributions continue to enrich our communities and strengthen our country. During National Native American Heritage Month, we honor their legacy, and we recommit to strengthening our nation-to-nation partnerships.
As we celebrate the rich traditions of the original peoples of what is now the United States, we cannot forget the long and unfortunate chapters of violence, discrimination, and deprivation they had to endure. For far too long, the heritage we honor today was disrespected and devalued, and Native Americans were told their land, religion, and language were not theirs to keep. We cannot ignore these events or erase their consequences for Native peoples — but as we work together to forge a brighter future, the lessons of our past can help reaffirm the principles that guide our Nation today.
In a spirit of true partnership and mutual trust, my Administration is committed to respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations and upholding our treaty obligations, which honor our nation-to-nation relationship of peace and friendship over the centuries. We have worked to fairly settle longstanding legal disputes and provide justice to those who experienced discrimination. We have taken unprecedented steps to strengthen tribal courts, especially when it comes to criminal sentencing and prosecuting individuals who commit violence against Native American women. And next month, my Administration will host our sixth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, part of our ongoing effort to promote meaningful collaboration with tribal leaders as we fight to give all our children the tomorrow they deserve.
Today, as community and tribal leaders, members of our Armed Forces, and drivers of progress and economic growth, American Indians and Alaska Natives are working to carry forward their proud history, and my Administration is dedicated to expanding pathways to success for Native Americans. To increase opportunity in Indian Country, we are investing in roads and high-speed Internet and supporting job training and tribal colleges and universities. The Affordable Care Act provides access to quality, affordable health insurance, and it permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides care to many Native Americans. And because the health of tribal nations depends on the health of tribal lands, my Administration is partnering with Native American leaders to protect these lands in a changing climate.
Every American, including every Native American, deserves the chance to work hard and get ahead. This month, we recognize the limitless potential of our tribal nations, and we continue our work to build a world where all people are valued and no child ever has to wonder if he or she has a place in our society.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2014 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 28, 2014, as Native American Heritage Day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Written by Tara Culp-Ressler
Thanks to the latest reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the U.S. government is beginning to take steps to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence within American Indian tribes. On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that three tribes will participate in a pilot program that will allow them to prosecute non-Native men for abuse against Native American women, an initiative that will eventually be expanded to additional tribes.
There are 566 federally-recognized Native American tribes across the country. But since a 1978 Supreme Court ruling prohibits tribes from exercising criminal jurisdiction over outside defendants, they’ve been hampered from going after perpetrators of domestic assault. Even if a woman called the tribe’s police chief to report an incident of domestic abuse, there was nothing law enforcement could do if the aggressor wasn’t a member of the tribe.
“Can you imagine responding to call where there is clear evidence of a crime committed by an individual and you cannot arrest them? I think the community felt cheated,” Michael Valenzuela, the police chief of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, told the LA Times. “It made police officers and victim advocates feel powerless.”
Under VAWA, that’s about to change. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon will be able to expand their justice systems to crack down on domestic abusers.
“These critical pilot projects will facilitate the first tribal prosecutions of non-Indian perpetrators in recent times,” Attorney General Eric Holder explained in a statement. “This represents a significant victory for public safety and the rule of law, and a momentous step forward for tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”
Sexual crimes are a huge problem on Native American reservations, where nearly 40 percent of women report they have experienced some type of domestic violence. And an estimated 80 percent of Native American rape survivors say they were assaulted by non-Indian men, since the current legal system essentially empowers serial rapists who know they can get away with it.
Nonetheless, the expanded protections for Native American women were a sticking point in the fight to renew VAWA last year. Republicans resisted approving the latest version of legislation because of its provisions relating to LGBT, immigrant, and Native American women — and even after brokering compromises for the first two groups, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) dug in his heels against giving tribes more authority to go after rapists. It took a year of partisan infighting to finally approve the current version of the landmark legislation.
Other tribes will have the option of participating in the new pilot program, too. Their requests to opt in will be approved by Associate Attorney General Tony West, who congratulated Native American leaders on a historic step forward.
“The old jurisdictional scheme failed to adequately protect the public — particularly Native women — with too many crimes going unprosecuted and unpunished amidst escalating violence in Indian Country,” West noted. “Our actions today mark a historic turning point.”
This post was originally published in ThinkProgress
November is Native American History Month. In celebration, we will throughout the month highlight Native American women of achievement.
We start with Elizabeth Marie Tallchief (known as Maria Tallchief), whose father was a member of the Osage Nation. Born in 1925, at the age on 22 she became a ballerina with the New York City Ballet, where she stayed until 1965. Tallchief, a protoge of George Balanchine (to whom she was married briefly), was considered America’s first major prima ballerina. She was the first American ever to dance with Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet. Tallchief was called “one of the most brilliant ballerinas of the 20th Century” by the New York Times. When she was no longer dancing professionally herself, Tallchief was active in promoting ballet in Chicago. In 1981 she founded the Chicago City Ballet and remained its artistic director for many years.
Tallchief was the recipient of many honors, including induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was also awarded a National Medal of Arts, and in 1996 received a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievements. Tallchief was twice named Woman of the Year by the Washington Post. She has received many honors from the people of Oklahoma for both her artistic accomplishments and her involvement in Native American causes.
Tallchief died on April 11, 2013 of complications from a broken hip.
May 13, 2013 |
In the immediate aftermath of the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial, many men, both prominent and not, spoke out against sexism, misogyny and what has become known as “rape culture.”
“All men should be feminists,” Grammy-winning singer John Legend announced. “If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place.” Olympian sprinter Andrew Reyes, Virginia Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron also got into the act, pledging their allegiance to the movement to end rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse.
One of my favorite reactions came from a young man named Charles that went viral on Facebook. Charles was photographed holding a hand-lettered sign  that said, “I stand with Jane Doe because when I became a victim of a sex crime, no one asked me if I was drunk or what I was wearing or what I had done to make it happen.”
For at least some men, it seemed to be a click moment. Nonetheless, questions lurked in many women’s minds. Were these outspoken men truly embracing feminism or were they simply appalled by one horrendously awful incident? And, if they were claiming to be feminists, what exactly did that mean? Were they seeking to break down a rigid binary that positions men and women as gender opposites, or were they instead focusing more narrowly and working to end the behaviors that too often result in sexual assault?
Most women, whether part of the organized women’s movement or not, wanted to support this apparent groundswell of pro-feminist and anti-rape sentiment. At the same time, suspicion and distrust began to kick in. After all, the past four decades have seen overt anti-feminist backlash and the development of men’s groups that are hostile to the idea of women’s equality and the breakdown of ironclad gender categories. For example, Promise Keepers , an evangelical Christian men’s group, reinforces the notion of male dominance within (always heterosexual) marriage and family life. Secular groups such as the National Coalition for Men  are equally male supremacist and promote the idea of male victimhood, purporting that women batter men and boys as frequently as the reverse. Their response to the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) speaks volumes: “Boys, men and fathers increasingly will die at the hands of their violent mothers and wives as our worthless elected officials rush to issue press releases and pat themselves on the back, claiming victory for having ended ‘the War on Women.’”
Proof that women batter as frequently as men? It’s nowhere to be found .
In addition, a mythopoetic movement inspired by poet Robert Bly and Jungian psychologist Joseph Campbell encourages the cultivation of men’s “inner warrior” and masculine voice. While some mythopoets are apolitical, other mythopoetic strands posit men as sexism’s primary victims—yes, trumping women—because of socially imposed rules about gender roles and propriety. This ideology has led them to oppose the notion of gender as learned performance (a theory put forward by Judith Butler, Michel Foucault and others) and instead champion a worldview in which male and female are distinct species.
But let’s get back to the burgeoning movement of 21st-century male feminists, purportedly egalitarian individuals and groups that are taking aim at misogyny and the double standard that continues to limit who and what men and women—however they self-define–can be.
Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York City Chapter of the National Organization for Women , welcomes the spike in men’s involvement. “Just as in politics, you can’t get anything accomplished if you don’t work both sides of the aisle,” she says. What’s more, she says women’s attitudes toward men have shifted. “The Catholic Church abuse scandal ignited a change and people now realize that men can be victims, that abuse is as hurtful to men and boys as it is to women and girls.”
Recognizing this, writer and advocate Mandy Van Deven says, is an outgrowth of efforts to promote intersectionality, the linking of oppressions. “The idea of gender equity did not really permeate broad activist circles until the last decade or so,” she says. ”When intersectionality became more of an organizing principle among liberal and radical activists, when people began to talk more about social justice as a multi-issue movement, it opened the door for men to feel more comfortable in feminist spaces.” The downside, she says, is that movements are sometimes taken over by those who have traditionally held power, and money and attention can then get diverted from programs benefiting women and girls and given to programs run by and for men. Lastly, she says, some men who take on feminist issues “act as if they’re special and more deserving of accolades” than the women who’ve been working on these concerns for decades.
Still, for the most part, contemporary feminists are eager to include men in their organizing efforts. Choice USA , a national reproductive justice group, recently launched Bro-Choice, “to disrupt the dominant narrative that reproductive justice is a woman’s issue,” and groups including NOW and NARAL Pro-Choice America encourage male involvement and gender equity.
It’s an increasingly palatable message, according to New York artist Linda Stein. Stein has created a traveling exhibit/lecture that she calls “The Fluidity of Gender.” During the past three years she has taken the project to 16 colleges and museums across the US. “There are now men who are very much on the same page as feminists. They are trying to understand feminism and are open to listening and learning from women. I’ve seen a big change in attitude which I think comes from increased talk about bullying. My audiences are young, old, male, female, straight, gay and questioning, and they are getting the fact that masculinity and femininity are fluid categories. They get that it is not horrible for a man to be nurturing and raise a child. Obviously, we are nowhere near gender equity but each year I do this presentation I hear less hostility from men.”
Stein finds this development extremely encouraging. Nonetheless, she is acutely aware that it is essential for men to reach out to other men and boys. While numerous programs run by men, for men, exist, most are confined to stopping sexual violence, with only baby steps being taken to deconstruct mainstream ideas about gender or promote the fluidity Stein champions.
The exception is academia, where groups like the American Men’s Studies Association  are ostensibly working—at least on paper and on screen– to encourage the questioning of gender norms and theorize about how best to advance “the critical study of men and masculinity.”
But even this can be contested terrain. A.B., an untenured professor at a college affiliated with the City University of New York, reports that despite efforts to eradicate sexism and promote tolerance on campus, progress has been glacial—and not just in the classroom.
Unlike Linda Stein’s perception, A.B. says that male faculty “who claim to be feminists—and who write books and articles and deliver papers on the subject– are often the worst colleagues. At least at the colleges in which I have worked, it seems as if the more vocal they are about their feminism, the more willing they are to use gender discrepancies to their own advantage. They delegate more service work and more work-intensive teaching assignments to female colleagues, and simultaneously congratulate themselves (not to mention increase their own opportunities for promotion through increased time for research) for offering such ‘opportunities’ to them. In many cases, claiming feminism is just another way for them to see themselves as better than the average person on the street. Their sexism has moved underground, and is better cloaked, but it is still obvious.”
A.B. is not the only academic to be disgusted by the veiled sexism she has encountered. C.D., a psychology professor who asked that neither her name nor her college be revealed, says she has seen so-called feminist men pressure female colleagues to have sex, as if doing so will liberate them from the constraints of bourgeois convention. She says these encounters invariably result in awkward personal dynamics that hamper productivity and limit scholarly collaboration.
It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to crawl into a hole or scream in despair, at least temporarily. But as the responses to Steubenville indicate, many men are beginning to ask themselves why so many of their brothers rape, batter their partners, and think themselves superior. The resources of several longstanding feminist men’s groups are helping them formulate answers and strategize about changing male behavior.
The National Organization of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) is one of the oldest efforts. (It has changed its name from the National Organization for Men, to the National Organization for Changing Men, to the current name, NOMAS.)
Robert Brannon, a retired college professor and member of the NOMAS National Council, recalls that, “back in 1975, a professor named Sharon Lord taught a women’s studies class at a college in Knoxville, Tennessee. Male students attended the class and she gave them a project: to plan and carry out the first national conference on men and masculinity. The conference was a big success. The second conference, in 1976, was scheduled to take place at Penn State, but a week before it was supposed to begin Penn State kicked the event off campus because of a program stance supportive of gay rights. Everything moved to a Holiday Inn.”
By 1980, Brannon continues, it became clear to many conferees that an annual gathering organized by an ad hoc committee was insufficient and a call was issued to not only plan the next confab, but to create a men’s group that would be pro-gay, pro-feminist, anti-racist, and open to challenging prevalent gender stereotypes.
“Many of us who got involved early on had come through the civil rights movement and all of us had been influenced by it,” Brannon says. “We wanted to be on the side of justice and right. At the same time we realized that if we were just a men’s auxiliary to the women’s movement, we weren’t offering much. We began to see the average Joe as a victim of sex roles. The demands on men—to control our emotions, to focus on work, to not have intimate friendships with other men—impoverishes us and we can live happier and more fulfilled lives if we unlearn social roles regarding gender.”
Self-interest, as well as overarching support for women’s equality, became central organizing precepts for NOMAS and the many men’s groups that have formed over the past 35 years.
Ted Bunch is the co-founder of A Call to Men , a 10-year-old organization whose website says it, “works to create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.”
“We were born out of the battered women’s movement,” Bunch told AlterNet. “Myself and Call co-founder Tony Porter were working with domestic violence offenders. From that work it became clear to us that men who batter have a lot in common with men who don’t. Batterers use violence selectively and direct it at women. It seemed to us that these guys had good anger management skills—they did not hit their bosses or coworkers. They could control themselves but had been taught to see women as objects and as property. This idea is embedded in most men, even those who don’t assault women. Most hold a belief that they should have the final word, that females are there to serve them.”
During the 10 years of Call’s existence Bunch estimates they’ve spoken to 100,000 boys and men in 30 states and seven countries. “We were forced to learn how to package and translate the message in a way that men can receive it,” he says. “It can’t sound like an indictment.” One of the keys, he adds, is speaking openly and honestly. “I talk about times when I wanted to tell my son not to cry, but then realized that he needed to express his hurt and fear. We talk about the fact that men can show anger; that’s the one emotion that is safe for us, but we have not been given the okay to show other feelings.”
Call to Men asks why this is so and also questions the role of homophobia in keeping men from bonding. “Homophobia stops men from getting involved in work that is supportive of women,” he says. “It makes us afraid to embrace each other or give affection to our sons. In addition, when you address homophobia you always get into bullying and challenge it since the bullied are often boys who don’t present with hyper-masculinity.”
Maintaining good relationships with women’s groups, Bunch says, is central to all Call’s work. “When we first formed the women we reached out to were welcoming but a bit skeptical,” Bunch says. “Why would men do this work? Could they trust us? There was a fear that we’d do what men often do: Come in, take over, and say, ‘Thank you, little lady.’ Our board is majority women and we now have a good track record so this reaction has lessened.”
A Call to Men is presently working with coaches to discuss better ways to train athletes and model behavior that is less aggressive and rigid. CBS sportscaster James Brown and Baltimore Ravens’ defensive lineman Chris Canty are working with Bunch and other Call staff to reach this demographic.
Like A Call to Men, the Washington, DC-based Men Can Stop Rape  challenges male supremacist attitudes and develops strategies to support non-violence. Through Men of Strength (MOST) clubs, mentors work with middle- and high-school-aged boys to discuss healthy relationships, empathy, machismo and essentialist beliefs about gender. The year-long program brings football players, computer geeks and troublemakers together and gives them 45 to 60 minutes a week to think and talk about masculinity. According to Patrick McGann, director of strategy and planning, “The goal is to make these young guys become change-makers in their schools, families and communities.”
The group has also launched a poster campaign of attention-grabbing artwork that is visible at bus stops and train stations throughout the District of Columbia, to make men aware of what they can do to stop abuse and harassment. ”When Karl kept harassing girls on the street, I said: Stop being a jerk. I’m the kind of guy who takes a stand,” says one poster. Another depicts a crowded party: “When Nicole couldn’t lose that drunk guy, I called her cell to give her an out,” says another.
Schools need to pay for MOST’s 24-week curriculum — something cash-strapped programs often cannot do — but Men Can Stop Rape also promotes dialogue through social media and its website. In addition, a grant has enabled it to partner with youth-advocacy agencies across the US to create a Healthy Masculinity Action project. The project is hosting town hall meetings throughout the country and sponsoring campus conversations to explore gender roles and promote women’s equality and non-violence. “We are basing the project on the assumption that the majority of men can be made to care about these issues and will do something to change their behavior. It’s about persuading men to care and act,” McGann says.
These three organizations are far from alone. Over the past few years, an array of websites have sprouted up, making clear that men are eager to engage with women around gender, sex roles, feminism, patriarchy and sexism. They include: XYonline.net, malefeminists.com, voicemalemagazine.org, blackmasculinities.com, goodmenproject.com, everydayfeminism,com and the Five Minute Feminist on YouTube.