One important function of men’s anti-sexist groups is to stand up as examples, showing people that what we tend to think of as “women’s issues” are really social problems which affect all of us. Simply by existing, you give other men the opportunity to see these issues as things that affect them and that they can do something about, and simultaneously show women that they have allies and support among men.
But this only works if people see you and know about you! So, this month’s anti-sexist men’s group project is a way of letting more people see that you exist and are taking a stand: writing an opinion editorial or a “letter to the editor” of a newspaper or online news website. If you are a grassroots group, a local or regional newspaper might be a good fit; if you are a campus group, most campuses have a student newspaper, and they usually love to get materials from other students. Most papers in print explain their “letters to the editor” policies in each issue, and give you information on how to submit letters. If nothing local seems like a good fit, many communities have online media/news outlets—or if you’re very ambitious and feel qualified, you could try writing to a national newspaper or website.
This project is a nice way to get your group’s name out and publicize your stance on issues of sexism, sexual and relationship violence, or gender inequality more broadly. By making a public statement of your group’s position and anti-sexist commitments, you hold yourselves accountable to live up to your words, and inspire others to consider them as well. A letter to the editor can also be a good thing to keep in mind for the future, as a way of responding to something sexist or victim-blaming that a newspaper publishes or a public figure says, addressing something happening in current events, or drawing attention to a problem you want your community to address (which can be as specific as lack of lighting in a dangerous area or as broad as the continuing high statistics on domestic violence or sexual assault). When something comes up in your community, be ready to take a stand and write a letter to respond to it. If you’ve published in a paper before, that relationship may help you be published again when your voices are needed; even if not, you have the advantage of bringing a “fresh” take to an issue, because editors love a “man bites dog” story, and unfortunately that is still how men’s anti-sexist efforts are understood.
Shows lots of people that what we tend to think of as “women’s issues” are really social problems which concern all of us, and which men can get involved in changing.
Relatively quick and easy to put together (especially if you can avoid infighting over small details in the writing: remember, you are all on the same team, and if you can’t agree on a small point, you can write around it to get to the parts you do agree about).
Can be a really good way for your group members to get to know each other better, think through and discuss issues of sexism in a concrete and purposeful way, and work together on a concrete project. This may also include doing more research on an issue, and thus learning more about it yourselves.
Publicizes your group more widely and can help bring in members (if you include information about your group and invite people to join).
- This campus student group wrote to the student paper to publicize their issue and invite new members.
- This letter in a student newspaper uses halloween as a way to talk about sexist and degrading language.
- Jackson Katz frequently writes for the Huffington Post, on sexual violence in sports, on the link between masculinity and violence, and on President Obama’s recent Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
How to Write a Letter to the Editor:
- “Community Toolbox” has a good page on when, why, and how to write a letter to the editor.
- “WikiHow” breaks it down step-by-step.
- “Reclaim Democracy” gives great “Do” and “Don’t” style tips to make your letter appealing.
- “Results” is an anti-poverty organization, but their solid tips still apply.
After you write the letter, proofread it and send it in quickly, before the timeliness of it fades. Follow up with a phone call the next day if you haven’t heard from the paper, and use it as an opportunity to advocate for your letter’s publication. If you get published, make sure to tell your friends to read the paper that day, save a clipping for your group’s records, and post a link or scan of your letter below!