Activism & Politics
How a lack of accountability undermines work involving men to address violence against women and girls
Feminist analysis and activism have been instrumental in achieving gains in women’s rights, including action to address violence against women and girls (VAWG). Over the past two decades, strong local, national and international women’s movements have brought VAWG, including in armed conflict and natural disasters, into the public domain as a development, public health, international peace and security and women’s rights issue.
Although the late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed positive developments regarding VAWG, many of these gains are now under threat. In many countries, we are witnessing the erosion of women’s human rights to live free from violence and exercise their full and equal rights in all domains; women’s rights organisations’ efforts to address VAWG face mounting challenges. Further evidence of this trend is the shrinking space for women’s movements and women’s rights work across local, national and global contexts.
This paper considers a specific concern linked to this trend: accountability to women and girls in the programming, policy and support of male involvement efforts to prevent and respond to VAWG. The paper discusses four practices that reduce accountability to women and girls, all of which result from a lack of feminist analysis: 1) investment in male involvement programming without demand or evidence; 2) male-dominated efforts that do not support women’s leadership; 3) shifts toward men’s priorities and needs; and 4) failure to transform patriarchy. The paper concludes with targeted recommendations for increased accountability to women and girls across VAWG prevention and response efforts.
A recent report from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse explores how to effectively involve men and boys in preventing violence against women. The report has the following key messages:
The Senate just voted to advance legislation that puts women’s lives at risk. The President was recently embroiled in a fight with MSNBC talk show host Mika Brzezinski that led to him tweeting that she had a “low IQ” and was “bleeding badly from a face lift,” words that fall in line with his other attacks on women, people of color and immigrants.
My Masculinity Helps: Film (free) on the role of African American men and boys in the prevention of sexual violence
MY MASCULINITY HELPS explores the role of African American men and boys in the prevention of sexual violence. It shows African American male allies (psychologist, professor, peer educator, attorney, pastor, athlete, middle and high school students, activist) demonstrating understanding and support for survivors of sexual violence. Strategies for assistance and prevention are provided. Survivors also share their stories and what has helped them. The film serves as a counter-narrative to often inaccurate and misleading portrayals of African American masculinity.
There is an excellent international literature on how best to prevent and reduce men's violence against women. It includes major, systematic reviews of effective practice in this field. In this XY collection, we present key reports on and guides to prevention practice. They are listed below, and provided in full text at the bottom of this page.
Yes, large numbers of men and boys are killed and injured in war. They are sent to war largely by other men. Wars are supported more by men than women. And traditional masculinity has been central to justifications for war. It is men, not women, who have excluded women from joining men in military and combat roles. Feminist women and women’s movements have played key roles in challenging war and militarism. Finally, the overall impacts of war and conflict and their aftermath are greater for women than men.
I’m going to start with some points about men, patriarchy, and feminism which I hold to be self-evident. That is, some basic truths. And I will end with some harder questions.
So, this first section is “Engaging Men 101”.
Some truths I hold to be self-evident
To achieve gender equality, we’ll have to engage men.
To end patriarchy, to achieve gender equality, men will have to change. Putting this another way, we will have to engage men. Above all, because gender inequalities are sustained in large part by men – by men’s attitudes, behaviours, identities, and relations.
Patriarchy is about men – about male privilege, about men’s practices and relations, with women and perhaps more so with other men.
Men are members of a privileged group, and we receive various benefits and dividends whether or not we want to. We have an ethical responsibility, a political responsibility, to challenge and undermine this privilege, to change our own sexism and to challenge other men’s.
So, to put it far too simply, men are part of the problem, and men are part of the solution.