Jackson Katz, an anti-violence educator and author, explains how language shapes our understanding of violence against women. On the board, the phrases progressively obscure meaning and shift responsibility from John to Mary, saying (from top): “John beats Mary”, “Mary was beaten by John”, “Mary was beaten”, “Mary was battered”, and “Mary is a battered woman”. Photo credit: TEDxTaipei.
Catchphrases such as “Be a man”, “Men let’s talk”, “Don’t be a passive standby” are indications that the concern for violence against women (VAW) is fast becoming a man’s responsibility.
UN data reveals that “women face a higher risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents and malaria combined”. Likewise, UN Women’s campaign to end VAW estimates that women face a 70% risk of violence in their lifetime. These statistics reveal that VAW is an issue of concern that requires rapid response. However, over the years, gender violence has been regarded as a “female concern”; thereby, drawing traction mostly among women.
Jackson Katz, a renowned author and social theorist, argues that gender violence should not only be of concern to women but to men as well. In his TED talk, he stresses that the role of men in the campaign to end VAW cannot be over-emphasized. Although men are often viewed mainly as potential perpetrators of violence, Katz’ perspective represents a paradigm shift from men as perpetrators to collaborators in the fight against violence. Men are critical to ending VAW because it is men’s wives, mothers, sisters and friends who are victims of this cruelty.
The White Ribbon Prevention Research Series reveals that since it is a “minority of men that treat women and girls with contempt and violence”, it is therefore up to the majority of men to help “create a culture in which this is unacceptable.” This underscores the need to involve men as “activists, policy makers, gatekeepers and advocates” in the prevention of VAW.
Contemporary literature by Katz, Michael Kaufman, Michael Kimmel, Gary Barker and others have shown that men play a significant role in reducing endemic violence against women, so engaging men as non-violent allies is a step in the right direction.
It is high time men play a significant role in addressing what was once tagged a “women’s issue”. One assault is too many. Now is the time for men to act.
This post was written by Ifeoluwa Ayanwole. She recently graduated with an MA in Globalization and International Development from the University of Ottawa and conducted her graduate research on the importance of elite bargains in Nigerian politics.