Dudes Against Violence Against Women: Because DUH
Breakthrough, a human rights organization with offices based in New York City and New Delhi, India, is dedicated to making gender-based violence and discrimination unacceptable. Breakthrough – whose mission and actions have been touted by famed actor Sir Patrick Stewart at the United Nations – is focused on reaching out to the millennial generation – particularly college students – and spreading the message that each individual can affect change in a way that will collectively change our cultural norms.
This week Breakthrough will demonstrate its innovative approach to culture change by presenting the 2nd Annual comedy show Dudes Against Violence Against Women: Because DUH. This event is a signature example of how Breakthrough is rethinking the way human rights organizations affect change. As Breakthrough Communications Director Lynn Harris asks, “How do you and I together make human rights relevant – and urgent – here and now? When we all take individual and collective actions, we change the culture and change the normal way to act.”
One such individual is comedian and author Dean Obeidallah (The Muslims are Coming), who approached Breakthrough wondering how he could contribute, telling them “I want to help – and comedy is my skill set.” The creative and innovative Breakthrough staff worked with Obeidallah to create the comedy event. After the great success of the inaugural event last year, the 2nd AnnualDudes Against Violence Against Women: Because DUH is being held Wednesday, August 19th at theGotham Comedy Club in New York City. The event’s host committee includes Sarah Silverman, Rachel Dratch, Lewis Black and the evening will feature 6 performers including “thinker-upper” Obeidallah, Kevin Avery (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver) and Christian Finnegan (Comedy Central, Best Week Ever). As noted on the event site, “From hacky gender stereotypes to bad rape jokes, it can be hard to get out and seek out the funny without wincing at the same old, same old. We can change that. We’re getting a bunch of funny dudes together to tell jokes—and stand up to challenge the culture that promotes gender-based violence.” As performer Finnegan stated, “I’m doing the show because the world deserves better from men.” Information on ways to get involved, from attending to promoting, to supporting through donations and pledging support can be found on the site and below.
Harris continued, “Gender-based discrimination and gender-based violence can affect everyone – it can inform ways you think you need to be. We are all informed by what we call norms – and that may not be inherently ‘bad’, but they can make us judge others and limit our being fully who we want to be. This is why gender-based discrimination and violence is a human rights issue – it’s not a ‘women’s issue’ and it is not women’s problem to solve – it affects us all. Since it affects us all, that means we can all do something about it and we all have a stake in doing something about it.”
One major effort is their outreach with campus, college and alumni organizations to challenge and prevent sexual assault. The goal here is to get people involved so that the culture changes – to change what is normal. Breakthrough has an outlook that a scolding and shaming approach is ineffective at best and detrimental at worst – it does not get the right message across and in fact can build resistance to attempts to connect and engage young men on the issue.
One aspect of their unique approach has been to directly engage and ask for the assistance of the Greek system. Harris continued, “We know most guys are uncomfortable when women are disrespected but are also uncomfortable in saying something – particularly in group situations. We partnered with a national Greek fraternity and we found a great desire from the brothers to lead change – they want to drive change not just in their house but throughout their campus, and in the national organization. They want to be leaders for change in attitude and behavior.”
One approach that is resonating is spreading the message that ‘you are not alone’ and that speaking up and doing something does not make you a ‘lone hero’ – you are in fact simply reflecting what the majority believes but may not have the courage to demonstrate. The lessons learned from the focus group are leading to further cooperative efforts to help the young men and women of the Greek system – whom history indicates will be future civic and business leaders – actively change the culture on campus.
Breakthrough also sees great opportunity in changing attitudes and norms by harnessing the power of sports. “Sports organizations, teams, players, and fans have a ton of cultural capital – they have the power to set standards of what’s acceptable” according to Harris. Breakthrough partnered with the large screen programmers at NASCAR races and the Green Bay Packer’s Tailgate area at Lambeau Field to broadcast their #BeThatGuy animated shorts at races and games. These shorts are directly targeted in a unique way to race fans and Packer fans with engaging, truly funny scenarios that demonstrate that all of us can challenge those incidents we all know are wrong. Their #BeThatGuy character is just an average fan who sees something who speaks up – and realizes he is not alone – everyone around him was thinking the same thing. Taking actions like these is a start to tipping the balance and making real cultural change.
Breakthrough is currently developing a web-based interactive storytelling project and experience that aims to show how gender-based discrimination and violence affects us all. While one may not feel they have been discriminated against individually, in reality we have all been affected by it – because a neighbor, a co-worker, an in-law most likely has been – and that in turn affects our culture and our life. The project, in the pilot stage now and set to be released in the Fall of 2015, aims to show how we are all affected by gender discrimination and how sharing stories can make connections between us all.
Find the original article here.