gender injustice

Can We Talk by Toby Butler

Men in the United Kingdom face many difficulties, but also many opportunities. Gone are the days where men are pigeon holed into acting a certain way, due to the diversity of belief and culture on our shores. For example, it has become more socially acceptable for Dads to be stay at home parents, particularly within the predominantly white middle class, gone are the days where single stereotypes fully dominate, for example you can be a poet and a huge football fan, and long gone are the days that a majority of men open up willingly to matters of the heart, if this were ever true.
What does exist clearly are big repeated messages, such as to be masculine is to have control and power in whatever context. I was made redundant recently, and it was hard for many reasons, but the primary one was that another person had control over what happened to me. I was helpless however good I was at the job. I had no power, no control, and that challenged my own perception of masculinity. I want to provide for my family. I want to say I am successful down the pub. I want to feel like I have power in a situation. These feelings are not bad in themselves, but learning to channel and nurture them well is essential. I know my temper well enough that I must speak how I feel or the steam train comes quick. Often that steam train will be directed at those who love me mosI have many different types of male friends. Some atheists, some fire-breathing Christians, some agnostics, some lower-middle class, some very wealthy and some very middle class. Whatever label one assigns to a friend, there have always been three defining factors when considering someone a close friend or not. Openness, vulnerability and honesty. I struggle to act out these factors sometimes, and I have certainly spent swathes of my existence hidden. For example, I have always struggled with the temptations of porn, with gossip and with not believing in myself. This is a side I am very good at shoving down the sofa, even though it manifests in different ways, such as running away from a challenge, lustful thoughts and speaking ill of others. I wrote the song called ‘Can We Talk’  for the Dwell Project, which is a phenomenal charity preventing domestic violence against women. (Watch this video to hear it.) 

 

 

As much as my instinct would be to give every woman a good-hearted terminator security guard, I sense that peace and transparency always wins, in every occasion, even if it comes with short-term costs. Our judicial system is set up in this way. If a murderer pleads guilty, then the charges are less. If the murderer shows signs of remorse, this is also taken into consideration. I write and ‘spit’ poetry intending to connect to the heart of an individual, and usually in the process get changed myself, as I want to be an example of a transparent heart. Here is a lyric from the single:

We know its pride when men don’t talk 

We tell the world we feel cheese when we‘re just chalk 

Inner voice speaks to us plus we trust thoughts 

Suicide rates through the roof chimney falls off

Men must talk.
When we speak out how we feel, it breaks an inner chain of cold steel silence. The darkness wants us hidden, whereas freedom calls for us to speak out! Silence always loses; a voice always triumphs, even in the shadows. Talking to each other gives a window for us to redeem ourselves through our honesty. Here are a few more lyrics from the track:

Company will define you 

Intimacy/ into me see/ come on shine through

You once desired truth/but now you hire suits

Pouring gasoline on your dreams like they fire proof

The company we keep can easily define us, and there is no worse company than only ourselves. Men are made to be connected to reality, we are designed from our core outwards to be alive to others and we were created for much more than staring at screens and smacking other beings. There is such healing in telling others what is going on in our hearts. Truth will set you free. My wife knows me better than anyone, and she knows my struggles left, right and centre, but the incredible thing is, when she sees me prevail over my inner pain she can see the work of victorious light shining through me. This in turn gives her permission to do the same, and vice versa. Final piece of lyric:

The saddest thing for me is watching all your art go 

Part you, part fake, part half fast show

But I ain’t laughing at your silence as we pass bro

It’s good for men to talk so we can both pen our chart growth

It deeply saddens me that domestic violence is so prevalent in our society. I intend to never abuse or physically hurt my wife, but I know that one of the key ways this will never happen is if I allow male friends into my life. Legends are made from vulnerable men. This doesn’t mean we have to cry and cuddle, but it means I must not lie, and I must be open to what is going on in myself and share vulnerably. Fear is silencing, whereas truth is deafening. It’s time to speak to someone, as they may need to speak to someone too. Play your part in preventing domestic violence, by killing it in yourself. In an age of endless cyber connection, lets make sure our hearts are eternally connected to another, and the fruit will not be Apple’s growth, but Adam’s nourishment and flourishing.
Bless you all
Toby
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Frocktober 2014: You can help prevent domestic violence!!!

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What is Frocktober?

Last year we ran a campaign called Frocktober on Facebook with the aim to raise awareness about domestic violence everyday throughout October with a selfie and the truth about domestic violence. Many of you were responsive to it & said you learned more about the truth of domestic violence. So we’re doing it again and we want to involve Christian and Muslim women. Each day of October 2014 we will post a different picture of a Christian or Muslim woman who wants to speak out about domestic violence with information about the myths & how to prevent it happening to you, your sisters & friends & colleagues. And where to go for help.

Why Frocktober?

Frocktober is not just about the dress, it’s about empowering women. Empowering each other to speak out about domestic violence. A devastating experience that 1 in 3 of us will experience in our lives.An experience that ends in death for at least 2 women a week! It’s about saying we will no longer be silent about the violence against women we hear about, we see and experience in our homes and communities.
When women all say together we stand against domestic violence, women of different ages, ethnic groups and faiths then we are stronger. Each one of us counts and together we are stronger. We are stronger because our voice is louder than the voice of one. The power of the group empowers the ones and twos.
The world today is full of violence, division, and separation but the holy grail of female empowerment is the idea that when women support each other, we’ll all become stronger and more liberated to make our way in the world.
Join us, share your voice and speak with us louder and stronger against domestic violence.

How to join the campaign?

Start by following these simple steps:
Step 1: Click & print this document all women
Step 2: Take a selfie whilst holding the piece of paper
Step 3: Email it to thedwellproject@gmail.com
Step 4: Like our Facebook page & follow us on Twitter to follow the campaign
NB: The pictures you send to us will be posted on facebook and twitter throughout October and be printed out as part of an exhibition which we will be running around the UK.
For more information get in touch with The Dwell Project at thedwellproject@gmail.com

 

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Stuck In The Middle

It was July 2012 & it was a lovely warm summers day outside. The Olympics had started in London & I tried to watch as much as I could on TV. Every time a British female athlete won a medal I cried. I cried because I felt strongly about the opportunities the female athletes had at the Olympics to compete in sports that historically they were counted out of. I cried because each time they won a medal represented a small victory against misogynistic ideas & it would inspire the next generation of girls who looked on.
4,847 women will take part in the London 2012 Games. Never before will so many have run, jumped, swum and ridden at an Olympic Games. Never before will any have boxed at the Olympics. Never before will every competing nation have been represented by at least one female athlete. And never before will a sporting regiment of women have had so many medals to win.

Robin Scott-Elliot, Independent Newspaper, Thursday 26th July 2012. Before the London Olympics 2012.

stuck in the middle
My husband & I were contemplating the new project we were setting up & its vision. The Dwell Project started in September 2012 aimed at preventing domestic violence in faith communities. As I thought about the purpose of the project I wondered if anyone would have a problem with it. Surely everyone wants to see an end to domestic violence, don’t they?! Therefore they wouldn’t have a problem with our aims.
A few months after we started we were meeting with groups from non faith & faith groups to discuss partnership work. We were surprised by the response from both groups. The response from non-faith groups was hostile & territorial. They didn’t think faith had anything to bring to the table & therefore didn’t believe a faith based project like ours could help end domestic violence. Wasn’t Christianity patriarchal & therefore condoning domestic violence, rather than as we believe, an inspiration for ending it? It was frustrating & discouraging to hear this over & over again.
Then when we met with faith leaders we would often come up against denial that domestic violence existed in their community. We spoke at churches to church leaders & heard the argument – what has this got to do with us? This doesn’t happen in our community. The influence & change they could bring to culture in their churches didn’t seem to change their thinking either.
From the beginning we felt stuck in the middle of these 2 responses & one question remained as urgent as ever: Will we as Christians be drawn further into alliances with male abusers or draw together to end domestic violence? We hope that we can have an impact on those who are in faith groups to face up to the reality of domestic violence in their own communities. Partnership is still an important part of who we are & therefore we won’t give up trying to work together with others.
Together we can end domestic violence. We can’t do this on our own. Our faith in Jesus is the reason we exist & Jesus himself is our model for how & why we work to end domestic violence.
We haven’t been shocked at these responses & we’ve also been surprised by really positive responses from faith & non faith groups to the work we are trying to do. Groups that we didn’t think would be interested have invited us to speak at their events. We’ve run interactive workshops for 82 faith leaders across the UK in the past 6 months.
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The London Olympics was a great success for women’s sport all over the world but also a step in the right direction against sexism & gender inequality.
Lets keep on going as we have a long journey ahead & we’ve only just started walking.
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Today is World Voice Day: How are you using yours?

Do we know the power we hold in our voices? 

Many women speak out, use their voices powerfully for the causes they believe in. They speak of injustice done by those in authority and by those in power. Like Malala Yousafzai (who was shot by the Taliban for speaking about girls education)  those who speak out often do so at risk of their own lives, their own safety, their own peace of mind, sometimes sacrificing themselves, sometimes sacrificing relationships with family, for the sake of the cause.Going to a talk recently at the Women of the world festival entitled “Refusing to be silenced” made me more determined to speak about the injustice of domestic violence & its destruction of lives. It made me want to stand with the women I heard there, women like Reem Rashad & Mariam Suleiman, who speak so bravely about violence and injustice against women in Syria & Darfur. And it made me more determined to look to Jesus and ask the question what would he say to the church about violence against women in our homes? When I read about Jesus in the gospels I wonder why are we Christ followers not leading the stand, the protests, the marches against gender injustice? Why are we not speaking out, louder & stronger?
It’s certainly not that Jesus is silent on this subject! We just need to read the Magnificat, the beautiful words that say how much God believed in A YOUNG GIRL! We just need to look again at the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus’ concern for his mother when he was dying on the cross, the women at the tomb after the resurrection & we learn Jesus’ views of women & his faith in them.
How can we stay silent on gender injustice if we are the followers of Jesus? How can we ignore the injustices done against women & girls in our country, in our communities, in our work places & homes & stay silent! Women imprisoned because they came to the UK for refuge, women discriminated against in leadership at work & church, girls sexually harassed in schools, women abused & even killed in there homes!
How can we stay silent!
Do we know the power we hold in our voices!
We can make such a difference, lets begin to speak out! Shout out! Pray out!
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