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After 10 years, the call to action is more important than ever

As Voices of Men begins planning its 2020 event, treasurer Alex Hummel takes a look back at a decade of progress. Last year’s event was supported by grants from the Bright Idea Fund, the Women’s Fund and an anonymous fund, all within the Community Foundation.

Contributed by Alex Hummel, Treasurer, Fox Valley Voices of Men

Fox Valley Voices of Men has collaborated with dozens of regional leaders, teachers, executives, students and sponsor organizations, including United Way Fox Cities, for more than 10 years. Together, we resolve to move our community to even greater action than we’ve already achieved.

Our organization’s mission is to promote healthy manhood and help build a community free of domestic violence and sexual assault, where all are treated with dignity and respect.

Events such as the annual Call to Action are making a difference by supporting our mission. The 10th Call to Action event, held November 21 with a 1,000-person audience in Appleton, was the latest powerful opportunity to rally and to challenge our community, men in particular. It also was a wonderful chance for attendees to learn from survivors, advocates and artists.

Fourteen school districts from the region were represented, each with a table full of young people and teachers. About 50 percent of the guests were high school communities; the other 50 percent were committed companies and nonprofits.

With the community’s support, the Voices of Men “Friends Team” has leveraged the professional expertise and volunteer spirit of men to help domestic violence and sexual assault service agencies upgrade their computer systems, make physical upgrades to shelters, and meet other urgent needs.

We’ve worked with regional high school coaches and local college administrators who are committed to stepping forward as allies, bringing our message to their boys and men. We’ve provided them with ideas and tools to examine and dismantle the “Man Box” — the beliefs, words, behaviors and actions that are often ruinous to girls and women.

We’ve taken to newspaper editorial pages to condemn destructive decisions and behaviors, whether they’re on local or national scale.

We’ve knocked on corporate doors, urging stronger policies and practices to prevent violence and assault and, hopefully, bring justice to survivors.

With our individual and collective focus, the next 10 years can be even more transformative. What remains unaddressed and undone? Plenty.

We must continue to help workforce leaders and communities be aware of survivors dealing with economic abuse so we don’t unintentionally exacerbate the crippling isolation that abusers insidiously employ.

We must identify and call out unhealthy manhood’s oppressive impact on not just women and girls, but particularly on women and girls of color.

We must step up and confront the man box’s oppression of people from the LGBTQ+ community. Our community’s youth and social justice champions continue to deliver this message, and we must follow their lead.

Ultimately, we must listen better and learn more as we help our partners reach deeper into classrooms and boardrooms, while not losing sight of the fundamental forces — power and control — that underlie abuse, assault and injustice all around us.

More than 10 years into this work, it’s clear to us — and more important than ever — that men get off the sidelines. We have more work to do.

Let’s talk. Let’s act. Our workplaces, our schools, our places of worship, our communities and our families are counting on us.

United Way Fox Cities serves as the fiscal agent for Voices of Men. We are also a proud sponsor of the annual Call to Action event and have held a leadership role with the organization since its inception. For more information on Fox Valley Voices of Men, visit our website.

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