This is crossposted from Shakesville.
By Cristy Cardinal
Cristy has over 15 years of experience in the field of ending gender-based violence, and she is currently the Director of Prevention Education at HAVEN, serving Oakland County, Michigan. Cristy came to this field through grassroots efforts, and her educational background is in English and Public Administration. She has worked in community as an organizer and educator, and she is passionate about leaving this world better than she found it. In addition to her work as a program director, she is also a writer for the blog UpRoot, a social media project of the HAVEN Prevention Education team. She shares her home and life with her wife, three children, an elderly dachshund, and a badass cat named Eartha Kitty. She’s masculine_lady on Shakesville.
[Content Note: Violence.]
I am a prevention educator working to end gender-based violence. I often get asked why I do this work, as if this work isn’t worthy of someone smart and capable, and there must be something wrong with me to choose it.
Here’s my answer: I choose this work because feminism is the toolbox I use to practice the spirituality of social justice. I choose this work because this is one of the ways I can use my privilege as a white, educated, cisgender, middle class woman with integrity and compassion, but without condescension. I choose this work because I can, and I recognize my privilege in being able to do so.
In the last few years, I have championed engaging men as a means to prevent and end gender-based violence. I am not the first person to do this, but I brought these ideas into my community. We started a program working just with young men on their role in ending gender-based violence, and we started a community discussion group for men (though all are welcome) to address sexism and to further understanding of feminist principles of power and possibility. As part of these projects, we (by “we” I mean the prevention education team at HAVEN, a group of four people including me as the program director) developed a relationship with NOMAS, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.
It was through that relationship that the idea for Forging Justice was created. NOMAS holds an annual conference, and every other year partners with a local group or organization to co-host the event and offer technical assistance to the represented communities to address gender-based violence. NOMAS is a group of feminists and pro-feminist men who have deep roots in the field of gender-based violence and prioritize working with women, including activists and feminist scholars.
Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities will be a three day (August 8, 9 and 10) conference in Detroit exploring gender-based violence through a social justice lens.
There will be a keynote address from Lauren Chief Elk (Chief Elk), of the Save Wįyąbi Project, who recently took world famous Feminist™ Eve Ensler to task publicly for furthering the marginalization of women of color, specifically North American Indigenous Women. Chief Elk will be sharing her experience, and offering insight into how we can center the lives of women of color in social justice work.
There will also be a plenary panel on recognizing how intersecting identities impact gender-based violence our response to it. The panel will be Jessica Luther, Emi Koyama, and two speakers to be named later. The third plenary panel will be on feminism and new media, and how we create the world we want through technology and media. Speakers on this panel will be Alexandria Goddard, crime blogger who made Steubenville more than a small town in Ohio; Ashon Crawley of the Crunk Feminist Collective, Heather Corinna, doyenne of the amazing sex ed site for teens Scarleteen, and the inimitable tour de force Melissa McEwan, founder and editor-in-chief of Shakesville.
There will be other great things as well, like the 38th Annual Men’s Studies Association Meeting, spoken word performances, a workshop sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on the connections between intimate partner violence and HIV infection and much more. We’re also really excited to offer a dedicated space for Healing Justice, with yoga, meditation, art and other self-care workshops. We are committed to creating a space that is accessible, trans* inclusive, and strongly rooted in consent-based interaction.
This conference matters because for 40 years, we’ve focused a lot of energy in the movement to end gender-based violence on fortifying the criminal justice response to intimate partner violence and sexual assault. While that has worked in some regard, calling the police should not be our only option. We need to address toxic masculinity, institutionalized and systemic violence, and center the lived experiences of marginalized folks, especially women. Until we do that, all we’re doing is putting on bandages. I choose, every day, to work to end gender-based violence. All in, for all women.
If you want to join us in Detroit, or just find out more information, you can do that here. You can also donate to the Forging Justice Scholarship Fund (making the conference financially accessible) by contacting me at prevention (at) haven-oakland (dot) org.