A Call to Men: Ending Men's Violence Against Women
It's time for men and boys to start acknowledging the role male domination and socialization plays in all forms of violence against women and girls. The Centers for Disease Control states that men's violence against women is the leading cause of injury to women in this country. That would lead me to say that men's violence against women is at epidemic levels and needs to be addressed as such.
While the majority of men and boys don't perpetrate the violence, we do provide it fertile ground based on our rigid definitions of manhood. These definitions of manhood are defined far too often by dehumanizing women and girls. These rigid definitions of manhood are also reeking of homophobia.
There are three key aspects of male socialization that have created, maintained, and normalized men's violence against women. As men we must begin to unpack and deconstruct this socialization.
As men we have a responsibility to look at the many ways we define manhood by devaluing women. We have unfortunately been taught by men before us to have a lack of interest in the experience of women and girls (with the exception of those we love). We pass that on to our sons and other boys. Every time we tell a boy to stop playing like a girl we need to ask ourselves this question—what are we saying about girls? Collectively as men we have higher expectations of our sons and other boys and lower expectations of our daughters and other girls. While I'm not stating that this as absolute science, I am saying that it happens far too often, and it is embedded in our collective socialization of manhood.
As men, we have to examine the ways in which male socialization fosters violence against women. This will include that we, as men, must explore and challenge the ways in which we continue to perpetuate and support the myth that women are the property and possession of their intimate partners. One of the principle reasons that domestic violence continues to be seen in many of our communities as a private issue is man's belief that she belongs to him. While most men know and agree that this is inappropriate and not true, this myth is deeply embedded in our collective socialization.
In a society where men value women less and see them as property, an environment is created which overwhelmingly supports the objectification of women. Whether it's the music and entertainment industry, corporate America, or even on a street corner, women are treated by men as objects (particularly sexual objects) throughout every stratum of our society.
As men and boys, we must begin to acknowledge and own our responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls. Over the last 40 years, we have made significant gains in holding men accountable for violence against women, we have also increased services to those who have been victimized. But with all that said, the violence has not declined. If women could end the violence by themselves they would have. While I maintain hope for the perpetrators, we cannot depend on them. Who is left from the equation? Good men, whom I believe are the majority of men. While we need to continue to hold perpetrators accountable and we need to increase services to those who have been victimized, that alone is not the answer. We have to incorporate prevention strategies in every aspect of this work. In order to prevent violence against women and girls, it's my conclusion that men and boys must play a critical role in that process. This does not mean leading or controlling the effort, it means partnering with women and respecting their voices, experience, and wisdom regarding what it would take for us as a society to effectively right, this long overdue terrible wrong.