Men’s Attitudes and Costs to Women

(Can also be used as a group exercise)

By: Paul Kivel
Adapted from Men’s Work: How To Stop Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart (1998)

At the Oakland’s Men’s Project we developed an exercise to help men see the cost of our actions on the women around us. This exercise is a simple set of statements. After each statement is read, we asked the men in the audience to stand up silently if it applies to them, then silently sit down again.

Most men could stand up for most of the statements. It was a very powerful and emotional experience to look out at the men who were standing and know that they shared with us a past of painful and abusive training.

To use this exercise in a group setting…

Tell the group that you are going to read a series of statements and that each male to whom a statement applies should stand up after that statement is read. Tell the group that every man and young man is being asked to participate. Those who are physically unable to stand may raise their hand or otherwise indicate that they are part of the group standing.

Each participant should decide for themselves whether the statement applies to them or not.

If a man or young man is unwilling to stand for a particular statement that applies to them they may pass for that statement but should notice any feelings they have about not standing.

Explain that the exercise will be done in silence to allow participants to notice the feelings that come up during the exercise and to make it safer for all participants.

After a statement is read and people have stood for a few moments, ask participants to sit down and read the next statement.

Stand up silently if you have ever…

    • interrupted a woman by talking louder than she.
    • not valued a woman’s opinion about something because she was a woman.
    • looked at a women’s breasts while talking with her.
    • interrupted what you were doing or saying to look at the body of a woman going past you.
    • put down a woman you were with because she wasn’t as pretty as other women.
    • made a comment in public about a woman’s body.
    • discussed a woman’s body with another man.
    • been told by a woman that you are sexist.
    • been told by a woman that she wanted more affection and less sex from you.
    • lied to a woman with whom you were intimate about a sexual relationship with another woman.
    • left care for birth control up to the woman with whom you had a sexual relationship.
    • downplayed a woman’s fear of male violence.
    • called a woman a bitch, a slut, or a whore.
    • whistled at, yelled at, or grabbed a woman in public, either by yourself or as part of a group of other men.
    • used your voice or body to scare or intimidate a woman.
    • threatened to hurt a woman, break something of hers, or hurt yourself if she didn’t do what you wanted her to do.
    • hit, slapped, shoved, or pushed a woman.
    • had sex with a woman when you knew she didn’t want to.

After the exercise ask people to pair up to talk about what feelings and thoughts came up for them participating in the exercise.

Reassemble the group and facilitate a group discussion of the feelings, thoughts, reflections, and insights that people want to share.

This is not a stand alone exercise. It should only be conducted in the context of a workshop or talk on sexism, power, violence, and safety that allows the group to process the feelings, thoughts, and issues which arise from participating in the exercise.


For further information on these issues and slightly different versions of this exercise see Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence that Tears Our Lives Apart by Paul Kivel (Hazelden 1992/98), Young Men’s Work: Stopping Violence and Building Community by Allan Creighton and Paul Kivel (Hazelden, 1998), and Helping Teens Stop Violence: A Practical Guide for Parents, Counselors and Educators by Allan Creighton with Paul Kivel (Hunter House Publishers 1992).


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