Thursday, January 13, 2022

What men can do to stop male violence

We live in a society where the dominant patriarchal order offers men individual and institutional power, resources and opportunities, respect and status, and control over their lives. Women, as a group, do not have the same privileges, a fact that is continuously demonstrated. If a woman is not safe even to walk down a public thoroughfare, there can be no argument that we live in a fair society. 

It's not up to women, the victims of these assaults, to change their behaviour. It's up to men.

Those who say "it's not all men" are covering up their own discomfort about men murdering women. It's OK to be uncomfortable, but it is not OK to take a defensive posture that derails the conversation. Whether you mean to or not, this statement defends violence. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. It may not be "all men" doing the killing, but it is "all men" who must be part of the solution. 

While most men don't actively and knowingly participate in patriarchy, many men are complicit. Silence gives tacit assent to an imbalanced society. A silent man still enjoys the benefits of a system that values men more than women. Instead, men must speak out against interpersonal violence perpetrated against men (81% of such violent deaths are indeed men) but especially male-on-female violence (experienced by 25 to 38% of women). 

Such acts are predicated on the social conditioning of men to a heterosexist, gender binary norm. Boys are introduced to such standards of masculinity very early on. Gendered toys, games that emphasise conformity, violent sports (football, rugby, boxing), and exclusive male clubs all contribute. Boys learn that if they do not meet the standards set for them, they will suffer social ostracism and censure. This can lead to low self-esteem and suppression of emotions, eventually resulting in those outbursts (often violent) that are seen as acceptable masculine outputs. It's not OK to cry, but it is OK to beat others until they cry. This is a broken system.

We need to change how we raise our children, openly talk about issues around masculinity, be accepting of gender and sexual diversity, educate ourselves, assist women when they ask for help, listen to women when they talk, and speak out against men who propagate the patriarchy. Never tolerate or excuse such behaviours.

We can acknowledge the intersectional issues around class, race and ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual preference, without diluting the key issue of male violence. 

We can start by looking honestly at ourselves and asking questions. Why do I value power and respect? Where am I aggressive in my thoughts and actions? How do I express emotions? Do I suppress my emotional needs? What do I think I can do and cannot do? How do I view women?

This is not a single reflexive moment, but an ongoing process. It's OK to be unsure. It's OK to ask for help. It's OK to acknowledge that you are not perfect.

In fact, it's essential. 

Please watch Tony Porter's amazing TED talk.

Here is the WHO fact sheet on Violence Against Women.

This is for Ashling Murphy, 2000-2022, RIP.


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