By Ashley Maier on February 20, 2015 · tagged as , , , , , , , , ,

Making room for both

grey fence posts on white backgroundI’ve been seeing and hearing a lot in the media, on my social media pages, and in general conversation regarding certain, let’s say, movies-that-shall-remain-nameless and the like. Of course they involve sexual and relationship behaviors, sexual and relationship violence, and similar, or I wouldn’t be writing about them here. Just last weekend, for instance, I was asked to give my definitive answer as to whether “the [insert title here] movie” is bad. Two days later? Instagram comment asking the same question about another movie.

Here’s the deal – I can’t say definitely. Just as I cannot say “[insert title here] bystander curriculum” is all good or all bad, I can’t make similar determinations about pop culture and entertainment. I mean, I could. But I don’t think it’s always ethical to do so. Yikes, I just equated saying a movie is bad with ethics. Allow me to explain.

One of the first things I learned and soaked in from feminism was to reject false dichotomies. Therefore, rather than “either/or,” “good/bad” (and a host of other dichotomies), I tend towards, “both/and.” So if you ask me to pick a side of the fence, so to speak, you’re likely going to find me sitting on the fence, or near it, or on one side one minute and the other side the next. Frankly, you’ll need to push me over the fence and hold me there if you want an easy “yes/no” answer from me.

I recently saw a movie about sexual assault in certain settings that I though was good. I also had room for critique. As the colleague who saw it with me said, “I wish people made more room for nuanced critiques.” So, if you’re looking for me to endorse a film, a person, a behavior, a book, a curriculum, etc., you might get frustrated. I don’t often say “should.” You “should” see X. You “should” use Y. Instead, I’ll actually tell you things to think about, to consider, and to apply to your context, your audience, your community. And I’ll ask you questions.

Prevention is no stranger to false dichotomies. We want to know what works. “Just tell me what to use!” I’m sorry, friend, I can’t tell you. Quality prevention takes work: analysis, critical thought, and community specificity. I’m here to help guide you through that work, to share my expertise, but I can’t do it for you. So keep asking the questions, and hopefully this post will help you prepare for my frustrating responses.

Ashley Maier

More Posts by Ashley Maier

Ashley Maier, MSW, MPA, has worked in the movement to end gendered violence for well over a decade. She began as a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter in Illinois, served as a hospital-based advocate in St. Louis, coordinated community health/family violence training programs for pediatric residents in St. Louis and San Diego, and managed Oregon’s Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) grantees and program. Ashley is a contributing author to Lantern Book’s 2013 publication, Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat and is creator of the 2015 book, Circles of Compassion: Connecting Issues of Justice.

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