Be it through media, example or education, “our culture is producing abusive men,” stated one of America’s leading anti-sexist male activists, internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in gender violence prevention education.
Dr. Jackson Katz, an educator, author, filmmaker and social theorist stated that, “the vast majority of physical and sexual violence are done by men who are not sick; they’re not sociopathic; they’re not mentally disturbed. The majority of men who are abusive come off much more normal than that.”
Which he said leads us to ask the question, “If the typical perpetrator is pretty normal, what does it mean to be normal in our society?”
At the College’s Domestic Violence Symposium held Tuesday, Oct. 9, Katz addressed the topics of domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexual abuse of children in our society, all of which fall under the category of gender violence issues.
“Historically [gender issues] have been seen as women’s issues that some good men help out with. And I’m here to say I have a problem with that frame. I don’t accept that premise. I’m going to argue that these are men’s issues, first and foremost. And that the only way we’re going to make change, really make dramatic change in this society in terms of a level of perpetration, is by having a paradigm shift; a new conceptual framework to think about.”
Katz believes that education of young boys, school programs, social workers, and everything of the like are very important, but until we change the cultural practices produced by abusive men, we’re not solving the problem, just making it easier to “clean up after the fact.”
“We need to completely alter how gender violence is perceived and to do that we must begin with awareness. Awareness of what gender violence really means, how society approaches multicultural masculinities and gender inequality, and what it means to be “normal” in today’s society and how this view needs to be reformed,” Katz said.
Another main point addressed in the symposium was Katz’s view on the importance of language and how it’s used in terms of gender violence.
“The first problem I have with the term “women’s issues” to talk about domestic and sexual violence is that it gives men an excuse not to pay attention,” Katz said. “This is also true of the word gender. A lot of people hear the word gender and think it means women. So they think that gender issues are synonymous with women’s issues.”
Katz explained that words we use, how we use them and their contexts are critical. Words like alleged victim, instead of victim, or accuser have become more prevalent in society giving a negative denotation on the persons involved.
“Language is really important. How you describe something, how you define a problem or a solution, or how you define a category all really makes a difference,” Katz said. “I don’t think a person should be defined by something that happened to her or to him. I don’t think that’s their identity. I think a woman who was battered is a different term than a battered woman.”
Katz concluded his session with two short video clips demonstrating the effect media has on male youth and how adults have the responsibility on educating them on how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. To wrap up he quoted Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
10 Things Men Can DO To Prevent Gender Violence
1) Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages and financial and racial backgrounds.
2) If someone close to you is abusing his female partner, don’t look the other way. Talk to him about it and urge him to seek help.
3) Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Attempt to understand how your attitudes and actions might perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
4) If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused, ask if you can help.
5) If you are or have been emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, seek professional help NOW.
6) Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support, attend, and raise money for women centered rallies and events.
7) Recognize and speak out against homophobia. This abuse also has direct links to sexism.
8) Educate yourself about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.
9) Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any materials that portray women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner.
10) Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women.
(produced by MVP Strategies, a gender violence prevention, education and training organization)