TED Talks are no stranger to feminist discussions. But last year, one of the most influential and moving feminist discussions surrounding male violence was had – and it came directly from a male.
The talk was held by Jackson Katz, a PhD professor and male leadership coach in Northern America. In a passionate speech watched by almost 1 million people online alone, Katz highlighted what he believes to be the issues at the core of adult male violence.
Katz argues that the problem lies primarily in our syntax. Society tend to naturally focus on victims and the harm caused to them as opposed to the perpetrator of the violence.
Worldwide, the number one source of physical injury to women, including car accidents, is violence caused by adult men. Similarly, the majority of physical violence against men and boys is caused by adult men.
However, Katz points out that when we fail to say “John battered Mary”, and switch the phrase to become “Mary is a battered woman”, we revoke the sense of male accountability, breaking the connection between the problem and its cause. It should be clear that violence is not an issue for victims to solve. However, society continues to refer to domestic violence as a “women’s issue”, proving that we are a long way away from a solution.
Another significant problem lies in society’s perception of violent men. We tend to assume that violent men are horrific, inhumane creatures who fail to maintain loving relationships. To the contrary, men who commit acts of violence (whether repeated or isolated) often maintain loving and functional relationships with family and friends. Society just isn’t prepared to acknowledge a caring son, brother, friend or father who also beats his partner.
When looking at perpetrators, it is not simply a matter of someone needing to be made more sensitive or kinder or channel their anger. Katz notably points out that men are responsible for changing other men. He says “Perpetrators of adult male violence don’t require sensitivity training…It’s an issue of leadership.” Where males sit in silence or even actively laugh along at depraved jokes or sexist attitudes, they perpetuate the idea that “men can be violent” as opposed to the fact that someone is a “violent man”.
In the context of Gen Y, if a group of heterosexuals were having a discussion, and one said something homophobic, it is now culturally acceptable for a heterosexual to interject against the bigot. This is not to suggest bigotry no longer occurs. However, undoubtedly, there is an overarching acceptance amongst young generations that it is shameful to verbally or physically abuse someone due to their sexuality. Why then can men still joke about sexual abuse and “putting their women in line”? More importantly, why should men have to feel intimidated to object to this kind of speech?
Just as injustices against LGBTQI cannot be upheld solely by the people within this group, the high rates of adult male violence against women cannot be resolved purely by the victims. Social responsibility dictates that larger, external groups have the power to effectuate greater change. Therefore, violence and domestic abuse are not “women’s issues” because every battered woman is someone’s daughter, sister, mother or partner. Just as every violent man is someone’s son, brother, father or partner.
Adult men are not responsible for the action of their violent peers. But it is a far better cause to speak out against violence than to blame women, to become defensive or to deflect the issue. Why would anyone put more energy into defending technicalities instead of encouraging a solution or consoling a victim? Defensiveness tends make people feel less guilty about an entrenched inequality they know they can do something about.
If men choose to be leaders on a “male issue”, a sense of social responsibility and a deeper sense of understanding can take place. We shouldn’t have to raise sons in a world where it’s not socially acceptable for them to be a feminist. We can create a change to lives of men, women, girls and boys affected by adult male violence if adult men assume leadership of the issue where it touches their lives. Let’s make adult male violence a “male issue”.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can ring the Domestic Violence Line for help on 1800 656 463.
WORDS BY CYNDALL MCINERNEY.
This article was originally published on PropellHer, and was republished here with full permission. You can read Cyndall’s other articles on BULLSH!T here. Don’t forget to follow BULLSH!T on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Feature image: http://www.independent.com