The issue of violence against women was once again thrusted into the spotlight in October, a month that featured allegations of impropriety laid against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent popularization of the #MeToo campaign, which encouraged people to share their experiences of harassment and misogynistic behaviour to show how prevalent the issue remains in our society.

October left many women urging men to take more action to address violence against women, and rightfully so; according to a report by Statistics Canada, men were responsible for 83% of police-reported cases of violence committed against women.

One group of Island men has already begun to take action.

PEI Man Up began in 2016 when Duncan McIntosh and Gord McNeilly discussed ways to widen the conversation on men’s role in ending violence against women. The duo realized they both had some spare time after their weekly uFit class (where NcNeilly is an instructor and McIntosh a participant) and decided to grab a beer afterward. PEI Man Up grew from there, using the occasion to encourage more men to talk about violence prevention and discuss future initiatives.

McIntosh acknowledges that men can have a hard time responding to the issue. “Most often, it feels like it’s too big a job for one man to take on,” he explained, “and it involves getting a man to a place where he can understand that a small contribution is hugely powerful.”

Getting a man to that place is important; McIntosh believes that men have a big role to play in preventing violence against women.

“Most men are in the room with people who [commit violence] before it happens,” said McIntosh, “so if we can get the conversation going so that men feel comfortable saying ‘violence of any kind against women is never cool’ before the violence starts, that’s a help.”

Michelle Jay from the PEI Status of Women, an arms-length from government advisory agency, affirms that men need to own the issue.

“It is important for men to speak up and work to end violence against women because male violence and toxic masculinity hurt us all as a community,” said Jay. “This is a man’s issue for men to own and address and work to change.”

PEI Man Up has attracted a number of prominent Islanders to its cause, including NHL defenseman Adam McQuaid, who starred in a promotional video for the group in 2016.

Regarding the recently increased emphasis in public discourse on the issue of violence against women, McIntosh credits the “bravery, courage, determination on the part of survivors,” adding that “we need to celebrate and believe those survivors and we need to encourage men to walk with them.”

Despite increased public discourse, however, McIntosh warns that we should not celebrate prematurely.

“This is not an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back,” he said. “This is rather an opportunity to take encouragement that we can reduce [violence against women]. We can if we all work together to eliminate it.”

There are a number of ways to get involved with PEI Man Up. The group holds weekly meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in The Alley (located in the basement of the Murphy’s Community Centre) and on November 9th the group will be meeting at the Confederation Centre Library at 6:30 pm to help the PEI Status of Women make purple ribbons which honour the survivors of violence against women. The group is also hosting an event at The Guild on November 25th at 5pm that will feature speakers on violence prevention.

The PEI Status of Women also invites the public to attend the December 6th Memorial Service, held in remembrance of the women who were murdered in the Montreal Massacre at Ecole Polytechnique and the 10 Island women murdered since 1989. The service will be held at Memorial Hall, Confederation Centre of the Arts, at 12 pm.

PEI Man Up’s Facebook page can be found here.

By: Nathan Hood

Photo: Nathan Hood 

Disclosure: The author of this article participates in the weekly meetings of PEI Man Up.