Engaging Men and Boys in Violence Prevention: Towards an Intersectional Feminist Social Justice Approach

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? Many show a feminist orientation to gender inequalities, in their curricula and frameworks and the shared agendas of advocates and organisations, and the emergence of the standard that interventions should be ‘gender-transformative’ may intensify attention to the need to challenge systemic gender inequalities. At the same time, the presence of feminist orientations is uneven, and few interventions are focused on structural-level factors. A feminist social justice approach also emphasises ‘intersectional’ attention to the interlocking oppressions that structure violence and gender. The ‘engaging men’ field shows a widespread recognition of men’s diverse experiences of power and privilege, although this has neglected sexuality and class and often focused on disadvantage rather than its obverse, privilege. An intersectional approach also requires challenges to the homophobic and gendered violence and abuse that shape boys’ and men’s relations with each other, and careful attention to men’s and boys’ victimisation at the hands of women and girls. A feminist social justice approach involves working for change through social action. On the one hand, men’s anti-violence advocacy has intensified in recent years, and there are desirable emphases on personal and organisational accountability. On the other, relatively few men are involved, most efforts are not directed at powerful men or institutional actors, and there has been little alliance with other social justice movements.

What would an intersectional feminist approach to engaging men in violence prevention look like? Efforts among men and boys to prevent domestic violence should be seen as a social justice project, addressing an important form of social injustice. They should tackle the social inequalities expressed and sustained by domestic violence and other forms of violence, seeking to change patriarchal structures, norms, and practices. Prevention efforts’ use of an intersectional approach should include attention to multiple forms of social difference and inequality and to privilege as well as disadvantage. The field should include attention to intra-male violence and abuse associated with heterosexism and the policing of masculinity. Domestic violence prevention efforts should give greater emphasis to mobilising men and boys for collective action, working in alliance with feminist advocates and other social justice movements.

Citation: Flood, M. (2020). Engaging Men and Boys in Violence Prevention: Towards an Intersectional Feminist Social Justice Approach. Keynote address, 20th Annual Diverse Voices Family Violence Conference, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, November 12-13, 2020.


Note: The above is the abstract for my keynote address to the 20th Annual Diverse Voices Family Violence Conference, held in Canada in November. The citation is above. I have made the slides from this presentation available here in both 2-per-page and 6-per-page formats. This presentation is based on a chapter in a forthcoming book, and I will make this available in due course.