(FORT SILL, Oklahoma Oct. 27,2021) – He started the talk with leaders of the NCO Corps by asking them what defines a leader? Answers included someone with humility, empathy, courage, a good listener, respectful and someone who sets the standards.
Dr. Jackson Katz, Ph.D, an educator, author and filmmaker who created a gender violence prevention and education program, spoke to four groups of leaders from different brigades and the Noncommissioned Officers Academy about the importance of taking a strong stand against gender violence Oct. 26 and 27 on Fort Sill.
“We need more men in the position of institutional leadership to stand up and be strong and be heard on these matters. I think a lot of men – no matter how strong they might be or might look in other aspects of their leadership -- are still uneasy about the subject matter. Yes, there are some strong male leaders in the military but there’s still a long way to go. We are nowhere near gender equality,” said Katz.
“The main thing I want these leaders to take away from the talk today is that there is much that we all can do – especially those of us who are leaders – to create and sustain environments where respectful behavior by people toward each other, whether it’s respecting each other’s gender, sexual boundaries or integrity – there’s much that we can do to create and sustain those boundaries.
“Especially people in leadership, whether it’s NCO or officers – junior or senior NCOs or officers – everybody in a position of leadership has an incredibly important role to play,” he said.
According to Katz if a someone is in a position of leadership, that person needs to think about three basic things: First is how do I support victims and survivors in my domain? Second, how do I hold the men accountable or challenge (interrupt) the continuum not only of physical abuse or sexual assault but even the attitudes that lead to them? And third, how do I create and sustain a climate where the abuse and disrespect doesn’t take place in the first instance?
“How can they do that proactively – not just reactively – how do they set the tone in their unit, platoon, battalion or whatever unit of influence they might have? I hope they think about how they can make a difference in those respects,” said Katz.
Katz also spoke about the bystander approach. A bystander is defined as a family member, friend, teammate, coworker – anyone who has a family, school, social or professional relationship with someone who might in some way be abusive or experiencing abuse. “Bystander” also refers to anyone in a larger peer culture, whether or not they are present at the time of a specific incident. The goal is to help people move from being passive bystanders to being empowered and active ones, and thus contribute to a change in the social acceptability of harassment, abuse or violence.
The bystander approach is a term for how everybody in a human peer culture has responsibility for each other, he said.” If you’re hanging out with a group of guys and two of the guys start making disrespectful comments about women, if you’re a guy and you’re in that group, what do you say and what do you do? If you don’t say something and make it clear that you’re not okay with that kind of talk, what do you say and what do you do? If you don’t say something and make it clear you are not okay with that kind of talk, what are you saying? Are you saying you are okay with that kind of talk with your silence?
“How can you change that? I can’t tell them what to do in a given situation. I can only help them perhaps think about the situation in a certain way. Think about the ethical decision-making process. Think about their responsibilities to each other, to themselves, to the group and to the United States Army,” said Katz, a former football star, a TED Talk speaker and one of the most prominent voices in the pro-feminist men’s movement.
If they can be more thoughtful in the way they encounter these situations and think through their responsibilities to each other and themselves then the hope is that they’ll make better decisions, he said.
“I can’t tell them what the decision is because context is important and there are many other variables. There’s going to be uncertainty. I think we do need people – including more men – who are willing to take more risk and make it clear that around them there are certain lines that can’t be crossed and disrespect to women is one of those lines,” Katz said. “They need to hear it from women, but they also need to hear it from men.”
The Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention program coordinated the junior leader development in an effort to address the continuum of sexual harassment and assault before something occurs. For more information, call the Fort Sill SHARP hotline at 580-917-4277.