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V-Men: An Introduction

Mark Matousek

Last summer, when Eve Ensler asked me to write something about violence against women -- from a male perspective -- I went to my desk feeling skeptical, and not at all sure that I had anything significant to say on the subject. Although I had grown up in a house where female molestations of various kinds happened on a regular basis, and had spent a good deal of my adult life (and therapist's time) sorting through the emotional rubble left behind after witnessing so much misogynist violence, I felt doubtful that my experience mattered -- for the simple reason that I was a man -- compared to the traumas I had witnessed in the lives of my mother and sisters.

Eve, who's been a close friend for many years, was firm, persuasive, and oracular as usual. She assured me that I had a story to tell, believing that I -- along with legions of other men whose lives have been affected by the female abuse, who've secretly hoisted dark crosses of shame, outrage, guilt even self-loathing -- over what we've seen, done, not done, not said, throughout our lives, imagining ourselves accountable somehow for acts we may not have committed but which implicated us by association – could actually help to shed unique light on the epidemic of violence being perpetrated by members of our sex.

With this in mind, I sat down to write and was stunned by how easily my own story emerged; surprised, too, by how profoundly the witnessing of hostile acts against women had affected my beliefs about the world, myself, and the role of men (both innocent and guilty) in putting an end to this violent cycle. After "Rescue" was published, I was approached by other men who had stories to tell, from a photojournalist explaining to his six-year-old daughter why he needs to leave her behind for weeks at a time, to photograph raped women in Africa, to a medical doctor tracing his own healing vocation back to a childhood spent watching his mother being beaten by his father.

It became clear to me (as it already was to Eve) that violence against women was not merely a female issue; it was a human dilemma twisting the lives and consciences of men as well; men whose voices needed to be heard in order for the dialogue that began ten years ago with the founding of V-Day to be complete.

In the months to come, we will be presenting -- in this space -- a series of pieces written by men with the hope of bridging this gender gap.

With V-Day celebrating its ten year anniversary, and the war on female violence nowhere near won, we can no longer afford to keep men's voices out the conversation. Writing "Rescue" was life changing for me. I learned that you don't have to be a woman to suffer from misogyny. So, if you're a man with a story to tell, please send them our way. This column is your place at the table. We welcome your testimonies here. It's far too late in the day for male guilt by association. There's only one team in the human race.
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