Tapati (tapati) wrote,

Violence Against Women is a Men's Issue

Violence Against Women is a Men's Issue--Jackson Katz

I don't normally repost entire articles; I'll come back and reduce this to an excerpt in a day or two. I just thought this one was really important and wanted to make it easy to read right away. (I know when I'm busy I don't utilize links to other sites, then I forget to come back when I have time.)

Here it is:

Jackson Katz, an internationally recognized educator on gender violence prevention among men and boys, argues society must first transform how it thinks about violence against women if it wants to prevent these acts from reoccurring. "As a culture, Americans first must take the step in acknowledging that violence against women is not a women's issue, but a men's issue," Katz said.

"This is the foundation strategy for engaging young men and boys in gender violence prevention," Katz told an audience of school counselors, social workers, teachers, University of Iowa psychology students, social workers, and community members at a forum in Iowa in April. "The first problem I have with labeling gender issues as women's issues is that it gives men an excuse to not pay attention. This is also the problem with calling them gender issues, because the majority of the people in the status quo see gender issues as women's issues."

Katz is an educator, author and filmmaker and has been long recognized as one of America's leading anti-sexist male activists, in particular in the sports and military cultures. In 1993 he conceived and co-founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. The multiracial, mixed-gender MVP program was the first large-scale attempt to enlist high school, collegiate and professional athletes in the fight against all forms of men's violence against women. Today MVP is the most widely utilized gender violence prevention program in college and professional athletics.

Drawing upon his most recent book, "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Can Help," Katz shared some strategies with the audience, providing them with what he hoped was a foundation they could build upon in their professional and private lives. "My goal here today is to give you some concrete strategies on how to approach issues regarding violence against women and prevent gender-violence issues among men and young boys."

Katz spent a significant portion of the session driving home his first strategy and why a paradigm shift in thinking is imperative to the prevention of gender violence. At the root of the problem is language and how, historically, language has helped cement and legitimize how people view gender violence.

Katz used race and gender to illustrate how, over time, language has helped perpetuate and maintain the dominant culture's dominance. "In the United States, when we hear the word `race,' people generally think of African Americans," Katz said. "When people hear `sexual orientation,' they tend to think that means homosexual, gay, or lesbian. When people hear `gender,' they think of women."

"In each, the dominate culture is left out of the equation. This is one way that dominant systems maintain themselves in that they are rarely challenged to think about their own dominance," Katz said. "This is one of the key characteristics of power and privilege and why the dominant culture has ability to go unexamined and remain invisible."

Katz admits this is one of the key challenges he faces when working with men, the dominant group in our society. Katz reminds the audience that his focus is on men. "I hope nobody in this room is under the delusion that this is sexist," Katz said. "I know women have made great historical strides in recent history, but when we talk about the dominant group in our society, we are talking about men. I'm also aware that members of dominant groups have been strong supporters of subordinate groups, but let's not be naïve, for there have been members of dominant groups who have resisted reform and responsibility."

Another reason why Katz has a problem with people using women's issues to describe violence against women is the issue of perpetration and who is responsible for perpetrating these acts. "Take rape for example," said Katz. "Over 99 percent of rape is perpetrated by men, but it's a women's issue?"

Kats said one underlying problem is that college campuses tend to focus on the prevention of rape and sexual violence. "But the term prevention in not really prevention; rather, it's risk reduction," Katz said. "These programs focus on how women can reduce their chances of being sexually assaulted. I agree that women benefit from these education programs, but let us not mistake this for prevention."

"If a woman has done everything in her power to reduce her risk, then a man who has the proclivity for abuse or need for power will just move on to another woman or target," Katz added. "It's about the guy and his need to assert his power. And it's not just individual men, it's a cultural problem. Our culture is producing violent men, and violence against women has become institutionalized. We need to take a step back and examine the institutionalized polices drafted by men that perpetuate the problem."

The third problem Katz has with using the term women's issues has to do with how deeply personal these issues are in men's lives. "It is estimated that 18 million women, children, and men have been sexually abused in the U.S.," Katz said. "Think about all the men who love these people and have been personally and profoundly affected by knowing that their loved ones have been a victim of sexual violence. So don't tell me these are not men's issues."

Katz's second strategy for addressing gender violence demands that we hold male leaders accountable, since they have the transformative power within the institution to make change happen. "I come from a social justice perspective that if you are a member of the dominant group and you don't speak up in the face of others in your group when they are abusive, your silence is a form of consent and complicity."

Katz says the mainstream media should also be held accountable for its silence in the realm of reporting on gender violence. "On the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, the coverage of the event was pathetic, not to mention the commentary was ridiculously superficial," Katz said. "There was not one mention of men, masculinity, or violence in their coverage, yet all of these school shootings have been perpetrated by young men. The first thing we should be talking about is the gender of the perpetrators, not gun control, school security, and the school's responsibility."

Moreover, Katz used Michael Moore's documentary film, "Bowling for Columbine," to help support his point about the de-gendering of violence perpetrated by men. "Moore's documentary about the Columbine shootings won several awards, including an Oscar for Best Documentary," Katz said. "He makes a two-hour film about gun violence; however, he doesn't once mention the single most important factor leading to the shooting: gender."

Katz points out a pattern that has evolved regarding how the media uses passive voice and sentences when reporting gender violence. Using a board in the front of the room, Katz helped make his point by providing the audience with a concrete exercise to illustrate the power of passive voice (see below).

John beat Mary. (active)

Mary was beaten by John. (passive)

Mary was beaten. (passive)

Mary was battered. (passive)

Mary is a battered woman. (active)

"John has left the conversation long ago, while Mary evolves into the active victim," Katz said. "This evolution of victim-blaming is very pervasive in our society, because this is how our whole power structure is set up. We start asking why Mary put herself into a position to be beaten by John."

"If we really want to work on prevention, we need to start asking questions about John, not Mary," Katz said. "We won't get anything done until we start treating these issues as men's issues and shift the paradigm at the cultural level."
Tags: domestic violence, rape, sexism

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