After watching a Ted talk titled “Violence against women: it’s a men’s issue”, I became inspired to expand on the points and topics that were brought up. Often times rape, domestic violence, or abuse, are portrayed or called “women’s issues”. In his talk, Jackson Katz argues that we must change the way we think about rape and violence. It’s a man’s issue just as much as it is a woman’s issue.
Katz enforces the idea that “calling gender violence a woman’s issue is part of the problem.” He argues that making violence a woman’s issue gives a lot of men an excuse to not pay attention. Unfortunately, this is the case. Too often when a woman is raped the question of what she was wearing is always asked. How late was it? Were her clothes too scandalous? This idea that a woman can prevent herself from being raped by dressing more modestly or not being out too late, only reinforces the notion that women have to change their own behavior to prevent being raped. Furthermore, this is encouraging risk factors not prevention. It is saying that one can help themselves to not be raped instead of dealing with the root of the problem: why you shouldn’t rape in the first place.
Zerlina Maxwell, a political commentator, argued that gun ownership to prevent rape is a myth. Zerlina explains, “here’s the thing—when you argue that it’s impossible to teach men not to rape, you are saying that rape is natural for men.” And saying that rape is natural for men, is like saying that lynching people is also natural, that racism is natural, that genocide is natural. All of these acts of crime that can be prevented. You are taught that racism is wrong just like you are taught that raping someone is not okay. Had it not been for the spread of information and standing up against evil, we would have lived in a much more racist and misogynist world. Rape needs to be prevented and weapons and clothes are arbitrary.
When we begin to engage both men and women in rape talk, we are helping society as a whole and we are recognizing that these issues are not solely for women. “The same system that produces men who abuse women, produces men who abuse other men”, Katz explains. It becomes clear then that men play an important role in the solution to end violence against women.
Katz brings up a crucial point: silence is consent. Moreover, he explains the “bystander approach” to violence prevention. With the bystander approach, gender violence is not viewed as victim versus perpetrator or men versus women. In this approach, anyone who is not directly the victim or the perpetrator, stands up against the violence. If you don’t stand up against it, one can argue that your silence is a form of consent.
A notable example of men standing up against this gender based violence is the White Ribbon Campaign. This is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, while promoting gender equity and a new vision of masculinity. In this campaign, men wear white ribbons and pledge to never “commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” Believing that men are part of the solution, White Ribbon brings a new meaning to a cultural shift.
While it is not easy task, I believe strongly in including men in the movement to ensure a safe and violent-free future for both men and women. Speaking out against violence is not limited to one specific gender. When our voices come together we are much more likely to be heard and we when we are heard, our problems will be alarming enough to make a change.