MyStrength Clubs Use “Joke” About Domestic Violence As Teachable Moment
WEAVE recognizes that reducing domestic violence and sexual assault depends as much on education as providing crisis intervention services. This commitment is shown in history of school and community based prevention education programs. In 2009, WEAVE was chosen to implement the Coaching Boys Into Men program as a part of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded evaluation effort. To learn more about Coaching Boys into Men and the results, click here. The agency also launched MyStrength Clubs. MyStrength Clubs engage small groups of young men in local high schools to explore the underlying contributors to violence such as gender socialization while engaging these young men to change their campus cultures.
On May 3, the young men of the West Campus MyStrength Club came together to participate in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. They walked with a mantra of “My Strength is not for hurting”. The group members understand that the struggle to end violence is an ongoing mission. The following week, an inappropriate video was created by the Cleveland Cavaliers and shown during a playoff game. Below is an account from advocate Canh Le about how WEAVE used the video to provide a teachable moment.
This week, the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA provided us with an opportunity to open up a dialogue about violence in our culture. The play-offs are roaring towards the ultimate confrontation of the best teams in the league. However, during the Eastern Semis, the Cleveland media team produced a short video skit that created controversy:
After watching the video, I asked the teens what impression the skit gave off; here are a few of the reactions:
“It makes it look as if it was her own fault for being thrown across the room”
“Why would anyone think it is okay to throw somebody around like that?”
Some might look at the clip and say, “That’s not what they intended”. Oftentimes, people will rush to the defense of a statement or an action, asking the audience to pay attention to the context of the situation. Indeed, context is incredibly important in any situation. To these individuals, I would ask them to look at the context from the perspective of a survivor.
Context 1: It’s a joke, a parody, stop being so sensitive, at least he didn’t beat her up, people are only upset because it is a guy doing it to a girl. The Cavs fan, shocked and taken aback that his girlfriend happens to like the Bulls. He just wants his girlfriend to be interested in the same team. He threw her by accident. Innocent enough, right?
Context 2: It’s in bad taste, there are underlying power and control issues, does he even care that she’s injured. The Cavs fan, shocked and taken aback that his girlfriend happens to like the Bulls, throws her across the room without regard for her safety and proceeds to walk away in genuine disgust that she would have the audacity to like any other team than his mighty Cavs. Resistance is futile, my way or the highway. You can’t have your own opinion. As long as she complies, “Go Cavs!”.
Yes, sports are a competitive and physical activity. Violence, however, is an issue that we should not take likely. Let’s break the clip down to the basics outside of the NBA backdrop.
1.Guy attempts to catch girl in acrobatic movie fashion.
2.In mid-air, guy notices girl is not a fan of his team
3.Guy consciously throws her across the room
4.Guy walks away in disgusts, girl is possibly badly injured
5.Girl changes shirt to match the guy
6.Guy approves her change in fandom
Replace the Guy and Girl pronouns in any combination; same sex, guy on girl, girl on guy, does that make it any better or acceptable? Healthy relationships, communication, violence free, understanding and appreciation of opposing opinions, all these qualities are lacking from this skit. The My Strength teens recognize that there are always opportunities to look at situations critically. I challenge the students and others to look at the situation from a different perspective. Perhaps next time, it won’t seem so funny after all.
The video provided a timely and relevant example of the challenges faced when working to end domestic and sexual violence. By engaging youth in exploring how supposedly innocent “jokes” perpetuate a culture of violence against women, we are working to build a generation of youth who not only challenge outdated stereotypes but actively engage in changing the culture of not only their schools but the larger community.