Monday, June 26, 2017

Talking about Gender Violence

Jackson Katz says using the passive voice (i.e. what was done to someone rather than who did what) renders men and masculinity as invisible when talking about gender violence.  He contrasts different ways to frame how we talk about violence:
Passive Language                                Making men’s role in violence active and visible
# of women raped                                   # of men who raped women
# of girls harassed at school                   # of boys who harassed girls at school

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gender Inclusivity in Women’s Self-Defense

What does it look like to incorporate gender inclusivity at an organization built around women’s self-defense? This was the topic of discussion for 13 IMPACT Chicago instructors, board members, staff, and volunteers at our recent gender training.

We began by pulling apart the concepts of sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, as well as the difference between binary and non-binary identities. We practiced IMPACT-specific scenarios on gender neutral language, pronouns, and answering inquiries. We identified aspects of clarity (for example, the Core program is absolutely open to trans women and women of diverse gender expressions), and questions without clear or one-size-fits-all answers, such as: is the Core program a good fit for someone who identifies as agender, or non-binary, or genderqueer?)

While talking about gender diversity and inclusion in IMPACT can seem like entering a new realm, it is really at the core of IMPACT’s work. While we are a self-defense organization for women and girls, IMPACT has always emphasized the diversity of womanhood and the variety of intersecting identities, experiences, and beliefs that each participant brings into a Core program or workshop. Furthermore, our mission calls on us to build a nonviolent world for all people, reflected in our all-gender workshops, bystander support training, and programming at LGBTQ organizations. So in many ways, discussing gender diversity and inclusion is just being more intentional and specific about values that have always been foundational to IMPACT.

As we work to both program for women and for gender inclusion, we believe it’s important to be honest about IMPACT’s strengths as well as limitations. For instance, the Core program may not feel like a great fit for people of all genders as a lot of discussion focuses on the experience of being a woman in our society--but with IMPACT’s 3 decades of expertise and variety of program options,  we can customize other workshops for all types of people. We look forward to ongoing discussions and trainings on this topic, and welcome the challenges and opportunities that come along with respecting and valuing gender diversity.

Rachel Marro
IMPACT Chicago Instructor-in-Training

Editor's Note:
Rachel led our gender workshop. She has 4 years of experience leading programs on LGBTQ identities and inclusion, and currently works at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Bystander Support Workshops

Al Mirsa Collective
IMPACT Chicago had the pleasure of providing three “Speak Up, Speak Out” workshops during the first 100 days of the current administration. Immediately following the 2016 Presidential election, we had an unprecedented number of requests not only to provide training on how to set personal boundaries in the new social climate, but how to use those skills to help others. IMPACT Chicago believes that everyone can and should take care of themselves, and everyone needs help sometimes.

The Chicago Foundation for Women #100DayFund allowed IMPACT Chicago to develop our bystander support curriculum to more fully incorporate discussion about personal safety issues affecting Muslim women and girls; trans women and girls and across the broad range of gender expression; immigrant women; and women and girls of color. Our philosophy holds that gender equity proceeds from finding our voice as women and the use of this voice and body language to set boundaries for the safety of others and ourselves.
Howard Brown

Day 65 March 26, 2017 Al Mirsa Collective

Day 76 April 6, 2017 Howard Brown

Day 96 April 26, 2017 Denim Days
organized by Haute Seeker and Runway Addicts

Denim Days
We have been honored to provide workshops to these communities.

Molly Norris
IMPACT Chicago Instructor
Speak Up, Speak Out Lead Instructor
(with assistance from Martha Thompson and Tara Brinkman)

Editor's Note: To read more about bystander intervention, check out Bystander Intervention is Still Worth the Risk by Alena Schaim, Executive Director, Resolve New Mexico.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bystander Intervention is Still Worth the Risk

Bystander intervention is always on our minds, and even more so after the horrific violence in Portland this past weekend. While we don't know all the details of this tragic incident, here's what we do know:

Violence is a tool of social control. When people are made to fear being their authentic selves or be out in public (as a woman, as an "out" LGBTQ person, wearing a hijab), their lives become smaller. The impact they make on the world around them is diminished for fear of too much negative attention. The change that they can uniquely affect because of who they are is shuttered. The constant threat of violence naturally has that effect on those who are targeted for violence and hate crimes, which is the intention - conscious or not.

When people act as bystanders, or allies, they agree to share that risk. It hardly ever means shouldering the burden in place of the person affected, but hopefully means diminishing the impact for the target through an act of solidarity. Young people know this when talking about helping someone who is being bullied. Fear that the person will turn on them next is always in the forefront of their minds. As it should be.

Most opportunities for bystander intervention and acts of allyship expose us to less harm than what we witnessed in Portland this past weekend - but all do involve taking on some level of risk. And when we navigate our own levels of risk tolerance, what we're really exploring is "How much am I willing to let this affect how I navigate the world? How much am I willing to consider worrying about speaking, worry about taking public transportation and having to choose between guilt and danger? How much am I willing to let this affect my life in order to help this person live more freely?"

If violence is a tool of social control, we must acknowledge that it wants us to stay silent, even as bystanders. It's designed to divide us, to make us not ride public transportation, to avoid eye contact when someone is being harassed, to change the topic when someone makes a hurtful comment or "joke." Liberation demands that we resist - that we find ways to persist and act in an unsafe world, to connect and speak up when someone is being hurt - whether they are present or not.

whatWhat Can I Do?

Practice for action: When watching these viral videos or TV shows featuring violence or hate crimes, imagine what you could do. If you practice creating plans instead of practicing being stuck in overwhelm, it can help prepare you for moments in your own life.

Confront denial: Acknowledge what is happening without minimizing the situation.

Create a risk assessment & safety plan: Assess the level of threat. Create a plan with contingencies to navigate an inherently volatile situation.

Determine your approach:
· De-escalate the aggressor: What words could you say to create a shift? What body language might be helpful?
· Support the person targeted: Check in, if possible, about what they need; see that their safety and/or emotional needs are being met. Even sitting beside the person target can help them feel supported.
· Mobilize others: Are there others that could act to help also? Providing them with clear direction can help activate them.
· Create a distraction: This could release the pressure in an intense situation, allowing some amount of de-escalation to happen naturally, or for the person targeted to get away.
· Aftercare for the person targeted or others: Oftentimes forgotten in these situations, caring for someone's emotional or physical needs after an attack is just as important as intervention. Oftentimes in a situation involving more than one bystander, people take on different roles. All of these roles are necessary.
· Support accountability: People who act aggressively oftentimes attempt to avoid responsibility for their actions. Supporting accountability could be retelling what you witnessed to other community members, or helping maintain their presence in the area while others arrive. 

Alena Schaim, Executive Director, Resolve Newsletter June 2017
For more about Resolve New Mexico