Efforts to promote gender equality and violence prevention in workplaces and organisations often meet resistance. Resistance takes a variety of forms, from denial of the problem, to inaction, to victim-blaming, to outright attack. How should we respond to resistance and backlash? And, how can we make resistance less likely in the first place?
Everyday sexism is a serious problem. Sexist jokes and comments, intrusive and harassing treatment, and other behaviours are a near-daily experience for many women. They cause direct harm, and they contribute to wider gender inequalities. Everyday sexism is routine, invisible, and often excused or ignored.
So, how can we challenge everyday sexism? What can you say when your uncle makes a sexist joke at the Christmas dinner? What can you do when your workmate comments on a passing woman’s appearance? How can you respond when your mum says that women need to be more careful to avoid rape? What can you do when some guy on the train is making a young women uncomfortable?
The notion of the ‘Man Box’ names influential and restrictive norms of manhood. The ‘Act Like a Man’ box or ‘Man Box’ has been a common teaching tool in efforts over the past three decades to engage men and boys in critical reflections on men and gender (Kivel, 2007). The ‘box’ names the qualities men are expected to show, the rewards they earn for doing so, and the punishments they are dealt if they step ‘outside’ the box. It emphasises that these dominant standards are restrictive and limiting for men, as well as harmful for women. Individual qualities in the Man Box are not necessarily bad, and indeed some may be useful or desirable in some contexts. On the other hand, some of the qualities are negative in themselves, the range of qualities available to men is narrow, and men are expected not to deviate from them. The Man Box norms also sustain forms of privilege or unfair advantage for men, and men’s attitudes and behaviours that underpin inequality between men and women. The reference to ‘acting like a man’ makes the point that masculinity is a ‘performance’, a set of qualities and behaviours practised in particular contexts.
Anti-sexist men’s groups are a valuable strategy for both personal and collective change. In this XY collection, we bring together some key resources on men’s groups: discussions of their political value and potential, guides to how to form and run them, and wider explorations.
Bystander intervention is an increasingly common approach in violence prevention efforts. In this XY collection, I have compiled accessible resources on bystander intervention. See below for full-text materials. Tabachnik's piece is a particularly useful, accessible introduction.
Across the globe, violence prevention initiatives focused on men and boys are proliferating rapidly. The new book Engaging Men and Boys in Violence Prevention highlights effective and innovative strategies for the primary prevention of domestic violence, sexual violence, and other forms of harassment and abuse. It combines research on gender, masculinities, and violence with case studies from a wide variety of countries and settings.
In 2013, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University conducted an initial review of recent literature and programs on male engagement in sexual and reproductive health. The review showed that the practice of engaging men in sexual and reproductive health programs is not yet clearly defined, and evidence of its effectiveness is still accumulating.
Unmet sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs are a critical threat to the health of individuals worldwide, and gender inequalities remain a significant barrier to addressing such health issues. Harmful gender norms and attitudes influence men’s and women’s health and well-being, shaping men’s behaviors in ways that have a direct impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of their partners, their families, and themselves. At the same time, SRH and family planning issues are often treated as women’s responsibility.
The Man Box: A study on being a young man in Australia is the first comprehensive study that focuses on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30. It involved an online survey of a representative sample of 1,000 young men from across the country, as well as focus group discussions with two groups of young men.
There has been progress towards gender equality in countries around the world. And increasingly, men are being invited to help build gender equality. There is a growing belief that men have a vital role to play in working with women to create a world of gender justice, in campaigns such as HeForShe and in programs addressing domestic violence, parenting, and health. But is gender equality good for men? What do men gain from more gender-equal relationships, families, and communities? What do men lose? Does feminism need men, and do men need feminism?