by David Wraith
“Men continue to control the narrative and experiences of women, which leads to violence being an acceptable form of control.”
If there’s a man I know with feminist street-cred, it’s Christopher Sean Watson. When I met him, he was a field organizer for Amnesty International, but check out his CV: He was a program manager with RAVEN (Rape and Violence End Now) and a sexual assault prevention educator at the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center in San Marcos, TX.
He’s currently the program director for PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment), national director for MAV (Men Against Violence) and the moderator of the feminist website, TheTakeback.com.*
With a resume like that, I wanted to get Christopher’s take on feminism, SlutWalk, and the role of men in the women’s rights movement.
David Wraith: What called you to devote so much of your life to anti-violence work?
Christopher Sean Watson: The simple truth is that I was asked to be involved. In college, a couple of administrators at Texas State University approached me about helping to start a Men Against Violence chapter based on the model created at Louisiana State University. I decided to give it a try because it seemed “novel.” When I started reading the data and running into the resistance of my peers who didn’t think violence against women was a big deal, I realized that I had a responsibility to make it a big deal. That’s it. I think that there is this popular myth that men must have some personal experience in coming to grips interpersonal violence. Everybody gets involved for different reasons, but my experience has been that if you asked men with an interest in anti-oppression and who already have a pro-feminist leaning to be more involved, you can get more men in the movement to end violence.
Why is it important for feminist men to take an active role in stopping violence against women?
It’s important for men to get involved because although it’s violence against “women” it doesn’t absolve men of any connection. This violence is primarily committed by someone, and that’s men (or more specifically an abhorrent – although common – version of masculinity). We would never say that racial injustice is a people of color issue. No. Racism exists because the dominant power structure (controlled by white people) has failed to relinquish any control to some people of color, especially those with features from the Global South. Similarly, men continue to control the narrative and experiences of women, which leads to violence being an acceptable form of control. Therefore, it is the responsibility of men to convince other men to relinquish control while simultaneously dealing with their own abusive attitudes and behaviors, which all men carry in my opinion.
What is the goal of TheTakeback?*
TheTakeback (soon to be renamed) is a way for those identifying as males or men to have a conversation (via our blog) about gender and sex within the context of acknowledging gender and sex. We as men sometimes like to pretend that we don’t have a gender and therefore, we don’t discuss anything in that context unless it’s distinguishing ourselves from women, transpeople, or males who don’t fit into the “man box.” The blog gives us an opportunity to discuss pop culture, especially media, from a pro-feminist, male liberationist perspective, while maintaining our sexual and gender identity and simultaneously questioning that identity.
What do you think of the SlutWalks taking place in the US and Canada? Why do you think it’s a good or bad thing?
I must admit that the idea of taking a word used to demean women, and turning it into the title of a march to empower women makes me a little uneasy. However, that may be me operating in my own privilege since I’m part of the dominant culture who uses the word in a derogatory way. What must be acknowledged is that this is a conversation that began at the grassroots level and has maintained a grassroots focus and following (for the most part) and that is both admirable and necessary in order to stay true to the revolution of ending violence against women and girls. SlutWalks and other marches to end violence against women are a necessary part of the equation to change attitudes that make these very walks (and other like them) necessary.
*Editor’s Note: TheTakeback.com will soon re-launch under a new name and URL. We’ll be sure to post an update when this happens.
Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see the new site!