By Theresa D. McClellan
Copyright 2005 The Grand Rapids Press
All rights reserved. Used with permission

Local men who gather for an annual breakfast Wednesday will be serving up some heavy issues with their morning coffee. These men have taken a stand, saying they will not tolerate women being abused.

“The majority of men are not actively involved on a daily basis harassing and abusing women,” said Randy Flood, executive director of the Men’s Resource Center of Western Michigan. “However, the majority of men stand around and don’t do anything when it does occur.”

“It’s not about how do we reach those actively engaged, but how do we reach those observing and not doing anything? That, in our opinion, is the secret for diminishing and potentially eradicating this kind of problem,” Flood said.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Men’s Resource Center and the Grand Rapids YWCA are hosting the sixth annual breakfast for men from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Wednesday at the YWCA, 25 Sheldon Ave. SE.

Previously, the gathering has focused on ways to end domestic violence.

“This year, in light of events such as the allegations of gender harassment in the Grand Rapids Police Department, the suspension of a male prosecutor in Grand Rapids due to alleged acts of sexual harassment and the recent election of a governor in California who admits to groping women, MRC and the YWCA have adopted a larger theme,” Flood said.

The breakfast will feature two male speakers. The Rev. Brad Olson, a Reformed Church in America pastor, will explore the theology of patriarchy and “the healing of beaters.” Jerry L. Johnson, an associate professor in the school of social work at Grand Valley State University, will challenge the men with “Looking in the Mirror: Our Unwitting Perpetuation of Gender Inequality.”

The $10 annual breakfast is popular among those who work on such issues.

“But what is the missing component in the breakfast is leaders of business. We’ve tried to make forays into that industry to get business leaders to symbolically take a stand at this breakfast as well. Our belief is that, as men, we are part of the solution, not just the problem,” Flood said.

“For men and for any kind of special interest group, there is a tendency to be defensive. So the instinct is to protect your own kind rather than to hold your own kind accountable,” Flood said.

The Men’s Resource Center, with offices in Grand Rapids and Holland, provides educational programs, advocacy, personal counseling and workshops for men.

Not everyone comes willingly to the center. Many clients have been ordered by the courts to attend anger-management programs. Some counseling groups include “nurturing dads” programs or substance abuse therapy.

“Traditionally, this emotional work is foreign to most men, who spend time working on their physical strength but give their emotional fitness a low priority,” Flood said. “As a result, part of how we see men and the roles placed on men create a barrier for them to evolve.”