YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, are determined to make Nashville the safest city in the nation for women and girls.
They operate the largest domestic violence shelter in the state and recently partnered with Go West Creative to produce a spoken word video to raise awareness and be part of the solution toward ending gender violence.
Poet and actor Steve Connell wrote and delivered the powerful and chilling message in a Spoken Cinema™ performance for the YWCA’s violence prevention initiative, MEND, which was initiated to engage men in their project and assist with cultural change. One of the intentions for creating the video is to make the point that ending gender violence is not just something that women can do alone; men need to be involved too so that they can then be role models for other boys and men.
Although parts of the video has strong language, which some viewers may find offensive, the objective is to publicly speak out about a very real issue, and that is the connection between unintentional behavior and intentional violence against women and girls. Many people may find it acceptable to laugh and joke in public about violence towards women without realizing that their words can then be turned to actions by others listening in.
Here is the transcript to the video:
“I don’t have a problem with pornography.
I mean, I don’t get upset when I see sexually exploitative commercials.
In fact, those are usually my favorite ones.
I mean I don’t know what her ass has to do with my hamburger, but I’m going to drive through the very next day.
I don’t have a problem with violent movies or images or the word bitch.
I don’t have a problem with jokes about women.
In fact, I freely admit there are times where I sit back with my fellas and kick back, talk about some bitch and how I wish I could hit that, talk openly in public places, unconcerned if your kids laugh.
I mean, it’s just words, just jokes, just dudes talking shit that you never expect is going to get back.
However, I do have a problem with violence and cruelty and rape and abuse and even if we know it’s just me, it’s just you, it’s just a few harmless jokes between me and my dudes, that still perpetuates a culture where it’s easy to confuse the link between the jokes and the bruise.
Between her getting choked and what’s just jokes between dudes.
And if there’s a connection between the things I don’t have a problem with and the things that I do then perhaps I need to rethink my views on the way we view women and how many views sexually exploited images get on YouTube.
My best friends have beautiful children and if what I have to do to keep their daughters from getting raped or harassed or abused is choose to accept domestic violence is a man’s issue too, then I’ll do that.
And if their sons grow to be like the men that they see, so it’s on me to live like the men I want them to be, then I will do that too. And when they’re of a certain age, I will tell them the story I heard when I was young about this village being terrorized by lions.
So every so often in this village the villagers would wake to find beds ransacked, bodies torn and for some odd reason the bodies were always female.
Panicked, the men of the village started sleeping in shifts to make sure at least one man was always watching.
Despite that, the lions came.
Too worried to sleep now, the mothers crept to the beds of their babies and there watching over them they learned why the victims were never men.
Because on random nights for unknown reasons, as the fog crept in and the moon caught in the branches the boys and men of the village became the very thing the women they love feared most. When I was young I thought that story was about lions.
See, when we are children, the monsters are under the bed.
When we are adults, the monsters have moved.
They are inside us, they fight us, they climb in bed beside us.
And so to stay safe from danger we raise our girls to believe they must avoid it.
And we raise our boys to believe they must become it and so they do.
And then one day they grow up to discover they are the lions.
They are the ones you’re watching out for.
They are the ones.
We ask her, ‘What did you do?’
When we should ask him, ‘What have you done?’
But we don’t.
As if we can’t blame him.
As if it’s her fault for failing to accept that being safe around men, that’s not safe to expect.
I mean she got into a cage with a lion.
She deserves what she gets.
And as men we have to reject that mindset or the violence won’t end.
We have to accept most often it starts in the hands and hearts and minds of men.
And we are the lions time and again.
And if we aren’t the lions, we’re on their side too often standing proudly in defense of the pride.
Perhaps afraid that if we stand with women against the lion we will, ourselves, be devoured.
And so ironically to prove we aren’t cowards we become cowards.
To prove we aren’t weak we become weak.
To prove we are still lions we become sheep, unwilling to do the one thing that must be done, speak.
And our silence chokes as heavy as hands.
It stings and every black eye, where men stand violence, lives or dies.
And that is why they call this just a women’s issue?
It’s a lie.
We must be involved.
This is a problem that cannot be solved with our silence.
If we want to end the violence, we must speak, we must act.
One in five women are raped by men, we must own that fact.
640,000 women and girls are trafficked for sex annually, we must own up to that.
Three women are killed each day by men who say they love them, that fact is ours and ours alone.
Domestic violence is ours to own.
This is what we must understand: this violence ends where it starts in the hands and in the hearts and in the minds of men because we are the lions.
Time and again.”
At the end of the video viewers are directed to the MEND website. There is also a 24-hour Crisis & Support Helpline for those seeking immediate help: 1-800-334-4628.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: YouTube still
Editor: Travis May