Because We Have Daughters
For many years, violence against women has been seen as a “women’s issue” but is a human issue. The question is, “Why would men want to get involved in ending violence against women?” The answer is, “because they have daughters.” Men have daughters, sisters, friends, mothers, co-workers and other women in their lives who men want to be safe but they do not have the skills or tools to help create that safety.
Men Stopping Violence (MSV) created the Because We Have Daughters® (BWHD) initiative in 2005 to give men an opportunity to begin providing those safety skills.
As a beginning step, BWHD provides a unique opportunity for fathers to learn about their daughters’ realities by sharing fun and educational activities, followed by discussions about any insights they gained from the activities. MSV believes that this helps men understand what it would be like for their daughters, and all women, to live fully and freely without fear of violence.
A BWHD Day, a four hour session, begins with everyone in a circle, playfully getting to know each other and finding out what the day holds. This is followed by the fathers and daughters separating in order to talk about and prepare for the fun activities ahead. The activities fall into one of four categories: shared tasks – like building a bridge – performance, physical games, or arts and crafts. Each activity is designed to help demonstrate the core values of BWHD. The day ends with reflection, appreciation and snacks.
The Core Values
1. Listening. So often, instead of listening to what is being said to us, we are mentally preparing our response. Really listening is a skill that takes patient practice, but the rewards are enormous. Many times our daughters would rather we heard their story than grant their request. Listening is a sign of respect. It demonstrates that we value the speaker. We believe that listening is the most important thing that we can do in Because We Have Daughters.
2. Equitable and shared decision-making. The process of sharing ideas in a respectful way can be just as important as resolving a situation. In interactions with their daughters, fathers are used to coming up with “the answer” to a challenge or conflict, but allowing open discussion leaves space for girls to explore their own ideas with confidence.
3. Awareness of space. Fathers are encouraged to pause in different situations to allow time and space for their daughters. This pausing applies to different situations, such as pausing in a conversation to hear another point of view or pausing during an activity to ensure that everyone feels included. BWHD activities build awareness of the need to provide space for girls to expand to their full personhood.
4. Assertiveness. Communicating wants and needs is important for both fathers and daughters. In BWHD everyone has the opportunity to practice assertiveness without being aggressive or manipulating.
5. Appreciation for non-traditional qualities. Fathers can encourage daughters to explore a full range of possibilities for their lives by expressing appreciation for nontraditional qualities daughters might possess.
6. Discussing difficult issues without judgment. Being able to talk about difficult issues without blaming, minimizing, or judging can help bridge the traditional divide between men and women. Fathers who learn to listen actively and suspend judgment can strengthen their relationships with their daughters.
7. Awareness and understanding of societal pressures girls and women face. All girls and women live with the knowledge, conscious or unconscious, that they could be assaulted by someone they know or even love. BWHD provides an opportunity for men to learn what it is like to live with that knowledge and how it shapes women’s reality.
We hope that you will find the Core Values useful to you in other areas of your life, as well as in Because We Have Daughters®.
A Tribute by Pearl Cleage
For the 2005 celebration at which Men Stopping Violence introduced Because We Have Daughters, accomplished playwright, journalist, poet and novelist Pearl Cleage was asked to write a poem. This is what she wrote.
I have been trying to get my mind around the whole idea of men stopping violence. Even though I have been a supporter of this organization from the moment I knew it existed, men stopping violence is still a novel idea. Peaceful men are as rare as free women …
All you have to do is turn on the nightly news or pick up the morning paper or stop in at a shelter for battered women or incested children to know that on a global scale and on the home front, too many men have not fully embraced the concept of stopping violence in themselves or in their brothers, fathers, uncles, sons, lover, friends, and co-workers, who are also our brothers, fathers, uncles, sons, husbands, lovers, friends, and co-workers.
During the early days of my feminist awakening, the constant threat of male violence against women was something we talked about a lot. Many of us were life long peace activists, but only as feminists had come to understand that we had the same right and responsibility to demand peace in our households that we demanded in our country’s dealings with nations around the world. We came to see that the personal is always political.
But I still want to know why …
Why are we still searching for ways to connect men to the women in their lives, absent the violence and control that still define too many exchanges that we call love or marriage or relationship when the words we should use to describe them are closer to the words we called upon when faced with the photographs of American soldiers torturing and sexually abusing hooded, shackled prisoners of war?
Why are the men she knows and often lives with still a greater danger to a woman’s personal safety than car accidents, plane crashes and random acts of violence at the hands of strangers?
Why were children as young as three years old unsafe from male sexual predators, even in the places their government provided to shelter them from storms?
I do not have the answers. Even articulating the questions makes me feel anguish and outrage in equal measure because I know this is a problem that men can fix if they decide they want to fix it.
This campaign is important because it asks men to focus on their daughters, the assumption being that if a man can learn to love and respect one female being, those feelings can be expanded to include the rest of us.
Because yes, you are the fathers of daughters, but you are also the husbands and brothers and uncles and sons and lovers and friends and co-workers of women who are not connected to you by bonds of family and the mysteries of blood, but who also long for and deserve your peaceful presence in our lives.
I am here to confess that I failed to complete my assignment. I cannot write a poem for men to speak. Or a poem to speak to men. I am still too angry. Too angry that domestic violence is, and rape is, and incest is, and war is …
I do not know the words to open men’s hearts and minds to another way of defining and defending their manhood, but I know that redefinition is so vital and so necessary and so at the heart of the matter that I do not think we can survive as human beings unless men are prepared to do that important work, alone and in the company of other men and women who can show them another way to be men.
Loving a man does not always stop the violence. Bearing him a daughter or a son does not always stop the violence, and a poem cannot stop a slap, or a kick, or a rape in the bedroom of your own house or the backseat of your boyfriend’s car.
So I come here to confess that I cannot write the poem yet that praises a new man and raises him to a place of honor and respect as if he was already the rule and not the exception. It is too early and there is too much work still to be done, bringing into creation this father who can love and honor every girl child as if she was his daughter and every grown woman as if she was his sister or his mother or his wife.
There is still too much work to do to shape and sustain this father who can love and honor every boy as if that child was his son and every other man, his brother or his father or his friend.
There are men in this room who have made that journey and I am grateful for their presence and for their courage and for their comfort. I’m counting on them – on you – to continue to do the hard work that must be done.
And in exchange, I will promise to leave a space in my head and in my heart for that new poem to be written when we gather to celebrate the end of male violence against women everywhere, and the dawning of a new day for human beings around the world.
On that day, the language of men will no longer be a mystery to the women who love them, and we will sing together as one voice for peace and love and family and spirit and our daughters and our sons.
…until that day, don’t stop/ don’t stop/ don’t stop …