Much of the work to engage men in preventing violence against women across the globe is profeminist — it is informed by feminist perspectives and done by or in collaboration with women and women’s organisations. Men involved in this work typically are expected to support feminism and to be accountable to women and feminism. But which feminism should profeminist men support? There has been relatively little discussion of this question in the ‘engaging men’ field.
It is 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women and its adoption of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. For all of those who are committed to the visions of gender equality, human rights and social justice expressed in the Beijing Platform for Action and subsequent international declarations and agreements, 2020 was to have been a year of taking stock of progress made and debating priorities and strategies to advance towards these visions.
I have five messages today.
Over the past decade, men's involvement in anti-domestic violence in China has made great progress.
In 2010, the first male-led "male anti-domestic violence hotline" was set up in China, which was officially committed to promoting men's participation in social movements against gender violence. The hotline is open round-the-clock throughout the whole year, which also marks a new era of sustained work and development of China's Male Participation movement from this year on.
It doesn’t happen all at once.
There may be a time or two when you have some trouble getting an erection. After a while you notice that it isn’t as hard as it once was. Then you actually lose your erection while having sex.
The more bad experiences you have, the more you worry. And the more you worry, the worse the problems get. Before you know it, erectile dysfunction has become a part of your life.
Male supremacist “men’s rights” and “fathers’ rights” groups have been calling for things like a “Ministry for Men” or “Office for Men” for years.
There has been much progress in gender justice becoming a main advocacy point on a global level. Yet, gender inequality continues to be present and cross-cutting in various aspects of life, and continues to negatively affect people’s lives in various ways, especially women and girls. Many programs in the past decade have considered the importance of engaging men and boys in gender justice as means to address gender inequality, and have thus begun designing and implementing initiatives with this methodology.
I have been working on issues of men, masculinities, and gender for 32 years, and it looks to me like men’s roles in building gender equality are now part of the public agenda to an unprecedented extent. Almost every day, there are new stories and initiatives on how men can support women’s participation in medicine and science, end domestic and sexual violence, share the load of fathering and housework, and more. This focus has a compelling rationale.
Engaging men and boys in the prevention of domestic violence is, at its heart, a project of social justice. A feminist and social justice approach to domestic violence prevention, first, recognizes domestic violence as a social injustice: this violence causes harm, is fundamentally linked to power and inequality, and acts as a fundamental barrier to gender equality. Second, it addresses the social inequalities at the root of this violence and, third, it works for change through social action. How do contemporary efforts to engage men and boys measure up to this approach?
Any assessment of the evidence for gender transformative work with men and boys should consider the conditions that have shaped the emergence of this work. Male-focused gender transformative work has a history, or rather histories. Reviewing its evidence base in light of the forces and factors which have informed its emergence over time enriches our understanding of both the findings from, and the silences within, this body of work.