There are many good reasons to engage men in building gender equality, especially given that some men’s practices, identities, and relations can sustain inequalities. The need to engage men can be particularly true in conflict and post-conflict societies, which often reinforce narrow views of masculinity and gender hierarchies. At the same time, involving men in gender-related policy and programming carries the risk of compromising resources and services directed exclusively to women or diluting the feminist orientation of such efforts.
Working with Boys and Men
The MenEngage Alliance, a global network of more than 630 organizations working with men and boys for women’s right and gender justice, has worked to enhance accountability in this field for some time, building on many years of work by women’s rights organizations. The MenEngage Alliance understands accountability as the commitment that activists and organizations working in the engaging boys and mend field must have toward women’s rights groups and other social justice movements.
Here is a handy, one-page guide to key activist and academic resources on men, masculinities, and gender.
It's available below, and in a downloadable Word document further below.
“Far too many boys approach adolescence having experienced violence, witnessed violence, dropped out of school, had risky sex, or practiced other risk-taking behaviors because they believe that they must do so to be seen by their peers and their communities as “real men.” This has real and long-lasting impacts on the lives of women and girls and inhibits the creation of respectful and equal relationships.”
When men are involved in feminist work, this is ally politics. [… and] ally politics can only ever been seen as one component of social change efforts.
Black feminist Audre Lorde wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” She might also have written, ‘The masters will never dismantle the master’s house.’ Certainly not by themselves. Certainly not without being part of a broader feminist movement. […]
What about the actual work of engaging men? Engaging men doesn’t easily or quickly produce substantial change in gender inequalities, although it can certainly contribute to change. […]
Perhaps the most important reason why engaging men is not a game changer is that changing gender inequality, including changing men, is hard. […] Large proportions of men resent feminist efforts and resist the recognition of sexism. They deny, minimise, and blame.
[…] Sometimes, engaging men is the same old patriarchal game. […]
However, if we can change men, if men can change, in large numbers and in substantial ways, yes, that will be a real change in the game.
In violence prevention, we must move beyond simplistic notions of “white men saving brown women from brown men”. Women from CALD and indigenous communities are not necessarily hapless victims, and nor are immigrant and refugee men any more sexist or violent than their English counterparts. In any context – rich or poor, Anglo or otherwise, newly arrived or fifth-generation – work with men must recognise the intersections of race, class, and sexuality which shape men’s lives.