Allegations of sexual assault and harassment by rugby league and Australian Football League (AFL) players in 2004 and 2005 put the link between sport and violence against women firmly on the public agenda. There was widespread media coverage of the allegations and substantial community debate. In response to these allegations and the issues surrounding them, both rugby league and AFL codes initiated education programs among their players.
Most men know that domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong, but we have done little to reduce this violence in our lives, families and communities. Too many men believe common myths about violence, have ignored women's fears and concerns about their safety, and have stayed silent in the face of other men's violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours. At the same time, a growing number of men in Australia are taking public action to help end violence against women.
Twenty years ago I joined my first anti-sexist men’s group. I’ve had a passionate commitment to profeminism ever since, nurtured through men’s anti-violence activism, Women’s and Gender Studies, editing a profeminist magazine, and now pursuing a career in feminist scholarship. Men’s violence against women is an obvious area for anti-sexist men’s activism, as it’s one of the bluntest and most brutal forms of gender inequality. I’ve organised campaigns in groups like Men Against Sexual Assault, run workshops in schools, helped run a national White Ribbon Campaign, designed violence prevention programs for athletes and others, and done research and writing on violence against women. But I’ve also been forced to critique and confront anti-feminist men in ‘men’s rights’ and ‘fathers’ rights’ groups. Their efforts are having a growing influence on community understandings of, and policy responses to, gender issues.
Investigations of domestic violence reveal significant relationships between interpersonal violence, masculinity, and gendered power relations. One in five women and one in fourteen men has been physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000, 25-26). Men’s physical violence against women is accompanied by a range of other coercive and controlling behaviors. Domestic violence is both an expression of men’s power over women and children and a means through which that power is maintained. Men too are subject to domestic violence at the hands of female and male sexual partners, ex-partners, and other family members. Yet there is no ‘gender symmetry’ in domestic violence, there are important differences between men’s and women’s typical patterns of victimization, and domestic violence represents only a small proportion of the violence to which men are subject.
A recent research project claimed to find that men and women are equally likely to be the perpetrators of domestic violence. Studies such as these have been taken up by anti-feminist men to claim that 'husband battering' is widespread. Michael Flood outlines a critique of such claims.
Have a look at this white ribbon on my chest. It is not a badge of purity. It does not mean that I have never been violent. It does not mean that I have perfect relationships. It is does not mean I have all the answers. It simply means that I think violence towards women is unacceptable.
I want to talk about the connections between men, masculinity and rape and violence, and war. I will then talk about the positive ways in which men help end the violence.
Men's monopoly of violence is the product of a lifetime's training in how to be a "real" man. The dominant model of masculinity offers to boys and men such qualities as aggressiveness, control, a sense of entitlement to power, and emotional callousness, as well as a series of myths which justify men's violence and men's power. In Western countries, to "be a man" is to be tough, self-reliant and dominant. Many males are taught to adopt an aggressive and violent masculinity, to be repressive of empathy and extremely competitive.
Men’s anti-violence activism is an important case study of male involvement in struggles for gender justice. What does this activism involve, why do men participate, and how do patriarchal inequalities shape both men’s efforts and their reception?