So instead of putting resources into warning women about dark streets and risqué clothing, which unfairly burdens women with assault prevention, advocates for female victims of sexual abuse, such as Lina Juarbe Botella, realize that their primary focus should be on changing the behavior of abusive men. "Women cannot be safe," Botella says, "until men know how to behave."
Tony Porter and Ted Bunch founded A Call to Men in 2002 after being heavily involved in social justice activism for several years. Botella, the organization's training director, said that the two founders "meet men where they're at physically and emotionally," to encourage them to act as positive role models for their communities. But the two men also acknowledge the debt they owe to the women like Botella's predecessors, who came before them as workers for the same cause.
Botella admitted that she originally had difficulty accepting men as partners in the field of female advocacy. But her current focus on prevention has taught her how to embrace their presence.
"I can't take any credit for it, but Tony and Ted had a lot of wisdom on how to be with men, all types of men, from the barbershop to the boardroom. This is really a men's issue," she added. "We need to engage men so that we can ensure a collective liberation."
A Call to Men's mission goes beyond working with men of violence to include community leaders, fathers, brothers, and uncles. "If I have my arms stretched out open to symbolize all the men in our society, a small percentage of them are abusers," Botella explained. "We particularly focus on men who are on the other side, who are on the line, who might stop those jokes or [help] create a society without confrontation." When someone shares a sexist joke by the office water cooler, A Call to Men wants male bystanders to shut it down before he gets to the punchline.
Jamie Utt, who describes himself as a diversity and inclusion consultant, travels around the United States to speak at schools about positive sexuality, bullying prevention, and student leadership.
"I think that we can motivate people to act," he said over Skype from his home in Minnesota, "but it so often comes from a place of charity, you know? We're trying to motivate men to change masculinity for women, but then it's this paternalistic sort of charity versus trying to get men to change masculinity because of their personal investment in it and their relationships."
Utt knows well there are no gold medals or blue ribbons for advocacy work. He said he just wants men to realize the importance of engaging with their partners and responding to their needs. That way, they can help build communities in which all members feel safe, and masculinity is inclusive and not violent.
Carlos Andrés Gómez shares a similar message. He came to realize the negative consequences of most traditionally masculine behavior through a series of shallow relationships, fights with his father, and losses both personal and material. Already an HBO Def Jam poet, actor, and public speaker, he added author to that list in 2012 with his book Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood. In it, he writes about renouncing his identity as a guy known for liking to pick a fight and then taking up another as a poet—"a journey to becoming a man, a different kind of man, a man who lives and moves and acts outside of the predetermined boundaries of masculinity," he says in the book.