PROTECT HER: REBRANDING MANHOOD
The times they are a changin'. This month we have seen the fall of a Hollywood mogul lead women around the world to stand together behind a hashtag, shining much needed light on the magnitude of sexual harassment. Not only in Hollywood. But everywhere. This got us thinking even more about our mission, namely "female empowerment through sports and wellness," and our responsibility to speak out and act accordingly.
This week we decided to share an empowering story. The story of ProtectHer, an organization founded by Alexis Jones, a woman activist and speaker. Jones educates young male athletes in the locker room, rebranding the notion of what it means to be a man. As she says: "if men are the problem, they're also the cure."
On U.S. college campuses, 1 out of every 5 young women is the victim of sexual assault. So what could be a better start than having a conversation with the "dudes that every other dude (...) is looking at?" In other words, engaging with athletes to see how they could actually be enlisted to help solve the problem of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. This has been the MO of Alexis Jones.
Just a week after the "Ray Rice case" one of the first ProtectHer programs aired on TV and her telephone started ringing. Coaches and universities from all over the United States called her for help. Over the past 3 years, she has she has spent over 600 days in locker rooms.
Jones believes that she "came on the planet to empower women." A conviction she acknowledged at a very young age (she founded "I Am That Girl" at 19). However, it was when she ended up being the only woman in a room full of alpha males that she understood that she had been preaching only "half the sky" by speaking solely to women about redefining the gender roles. Realizing that the majority of young men felt excluded - or exempt? - from the discussion, Jones decided to visit locker rooms across the country to "rebrand" the whole concept of manhood by meeting them in their environment and speaking their language.
In fact, despite her feminine allure (think: both bold and beautiful), Jones is a bit of a tomboy. She grew up in Texas with four older brothers, has always been a sports fan, married a professional basketball player and has worked at ESPN and FOX Sports. It is thus no doubt that she could so acutely understand the masculine mindset. According to her, for many men the definition of manhood is pretty simple: Be as rich as you can, be as famous as you can, and "bang" (the term she uses on purpose) as many women as you can (we can thank the media, some brands and porn influence for that!). Jones strives to help them tap into the power of thinking for themselves. Something she does quite effectively by making the issue personal to them through methods such as calling their sisters and girlfriends by name while warning them that 1 out of 5 of women will be sexually abused on their campuses. Chilling facts, with an immediate resonance. Through Jones' teachings these young men gain self-respect, confidence and tools that empower them to say and do the right thing, and serve to set an example for others.
Alexis Jones says she she can make a difference. We are confident that she can and will strive to support her efforts on a global level. Let's hope the project will spread outside of the US.
Check out her TEDTalk below.