'Voices of Men' by Ben Atherton-Zeman takes College Students by Storm - 28th August
Bystander No More – a campaign to engage College and University students in Delhi to the agenda of engaging men and boys for gender justice kicked off successfully with the performance of Voices Of Men, a one act play by American gender activist Ben Atherton-Zeman at Hindu College, Delhi University on 28 August. An exhilarating audience of more than 700 students from various colleges as well as faculty members packed the auditorium, responding to Ben’s every word and gesture. At the end, the youth were more than keen to commit themselves to gender equality by affirming pledges and clamouring to join the MenEngage movement to make a difference.
The event was organized by MenEngage Global Alliance and The American Centre in partnership with One Billion Rising (OBR) and the Women Development Cell of Hindu College, Delhi University to engage with young men and boys in reflecting, taking accountability and moving towards a gender sensitive culture of masculinity and manhood. Ben’s riveting performance brought clarity to the many issues that lie within the grey area of ‘being a man’ and ‘being an abuser,’ throwing light on the conditioning that suspends men and boys between these two states. It also provided insights into initiatives, organisations and movements working on the issue.
Ben’s impromptu situational pieces during the performance drew on the popular imagination of the audience. Combined with his own awareness and experiences from a long engagement with the issue of gender violence, he helped students open up rigid gendered imaginations, guiding them to alternate ways of thinking, conceptualizing and behaving in shared gender spaces and relations. An act in Voices of Men that particularly enabled this journey for the audience was the juxtaposition between what women and girls perceived about certain gender interactions and how men and boys on the other hand viewed it. This helped demystify assumptions each gender has of the other, which are actually based on lack of knowledge or acknowledgement of each other’s perspectives.
Ben’s performance included message from initiatives such as White Ribbon Campaign, Ring the Bell – Breakthrough, Men Can Stop Rape, Strong Men Don’t Bully, and many more, breaking breaks myths around sexual violence and campus dating violence. The performance was followed by a question and answer session. A highlight of the event was a pledge taken by over 200 male students along with Ben and Dr Abhijit Das of the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) ‘to never commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women and to choose to respect, listen to and seek equality with every person that one dates and every person that one knows.’ Later, students flocked to Ben with insatiable queries and curiosity about his personal journey as ‘a recovering sexist,’ as he termed himself. The artiste sat down with them, sharing experiences and negotiating ways of fighting gender based violence that would enable them to become ambassadors for gender equality within their own circle of friends, family and peers.
The event was opened by Emily White, Program Coordinator, The American Centre. She shared the intention to bring initiatives, experts, activists and artistes working on gender based violence (GBV) from the USA to India in order to collaborate in the joint struggle against the universal pandemic of GBV. Dr Abhijit Das of CHSJ and MenEngage Alliance addressed the students, stressing that men were integral stakeholders in the fight against GBV. He shared the need to reflect upon existing hegemonic notions of masculinity and how men and boys were accountable for conceptualizing and facilitating alternative gender sensitive approaches towards ‘being a man.’ Krishna Sharma and Soumyajit from the Women’s Development Cell of Hindu College also shared their work, saying men and boys were a key constituency that they sought to engage with in order to empower women. Dr Manisha Pande, the faculty coordinator of the event from Hindu College, encouraged students to participate in the new initiatives coming up with respect to GBV, emphasizing that students and youth were significant stakeholders for steering social change. Devika from Sangat gave a promotional speech and invitation to the students of the upcoming 3rd OBR campaign.
Play 'Voices of Men' by Ben Atherton-Zeman
The American Center in collaboration with the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) which is hosting the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium 2014 - Men and Boys for Gender Justice in Delhi later this year, is organizing a one-act play by Ben Atherton-Zeman titled ‘Voices of Men’. An expert on the topic of sensitizing men on gender based violence, Ben Atherton-Zeman has been invited to India by the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy. Ben will be in Delhi on August 28-30 to present his play and hold discussions on the issue.
American activist Ben Atherton-Zeman’s multi-media play ‘Voices of Men’ deals with important issues like sexual assault, date rape, dating violence, domestic violence and sexual harassment. The play uses humour, celebrity male voice impressions and video clips to bring these topics to light in a way that promotes understanding. Learn more about Ben Atherton-Zeman
For more information about Ben’s one-man play, “Voices of Men,” please go to www.voicesofmen.org