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?
Working with Boys and Men
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.
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. Above all, we will not make much progress towards gender equality without change among men—and men themselves will benefit from this progress.
We’re going to focus this morning on how to engage male students and staff on campus in violence prevention.
So I want you to think for a moment about the young men you see every day on your campus. The young men in your classrooms, in the cafeteria, in the college residences, and so on.
So you're a man and you actually care about women, but you don't know how to stop other men from raping and murdering women? Here's a handy dandy (not-exhaustive) list of things you could try.
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 the bottom of this page 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.