As board members of Maine Boys to Men, we are writing to voice concern about the racist and sexist imagery evoked by Gov. LePage at the Jan. 7 town hall meeting in Bridgton.
Boys to Men is dedicated to preventing male violence, against self and others. We take seriously the importance of problems of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in Maine.
We’ve been grateful for the governor’s previous leadership on the issue of domestic violence. However, we are concerned by the bullying tone often taken by our chief executive.
We recognize the damage done when stereotypes about perpetrators and victims are casually proffered as fact, distracting us from the important work of creating and maintaining truly safe communities for all of us to live in.
We remind everyone that most victims of domestic and sexual violence know their perpetrator. The risk of violence is not lowered by scapegoating the imaginary dangerous “other,” but instead by creating and sustaining a culture of nonviolence, of mutual respect and equality.
In our work with teens, we teach the importance of “bystander intervention” – that is, the role of the potentially uninvolved to advocate for safety, respect, kindness and anti-discrimination when they see sexism or other “isms” in action.
As adults, we have the same responsibility to advocate for a more respectful, inclusive and stereotype-free civil society. We must be willing to open ourselves up to understanding our historical biases and be willing to change as we learn.
To that end, we stand with many others in asking our elected officials, including the governor, to repair relationships with those who have been hurt in this latest episode and to do more to practice anti-sexism and anti-racism in our public life.
Kimberly Simmons, Ph.D
board members, Maine Boys to Men