Queuing for coffee at a family violence conference recently, I overheard one senior labor policy adviser talking to his male colleague about the problem he had with the line up of speakers, in particular, his frustration with their insistent focus on violence toward women – ‘guys are victims too’, he said, ‘so women might not be as strong but this blaming all men as the bad guys lets women off the hook.’
Herein lies why some men find it difficult to be part of the solution to preventing gender violence. Maintaining the good-guy status results in making monsters out of some men who batter or sexually abuse. Good men pathologize the bad guys violence, blaming mental instability, substance abuse etc. The more good men remain focused on sorting out the bad guy, tougher sentencing for example, the less likely it is we will ever address the underlying cause of violence against women – sexism or discriminatory behavior and attitudes based purely on being female.
We can’t separate men who abuse from our society as whole. High rates of sexual assault and domestic violence are a reflection of our failure to address sexism. Overtly sexualised images of women, for example, feed into violence against women. The widespread sexualisation of women’s bodies contribute to treating women as subordinate members of the family or society. They also affect how women are treated and perceived by public institutions and societal structures. Abolishing sexism is essential to achieving gender equality and respect between men and women – the only real long term solution to preventing violence against women.
By rejecting the bad guy/ good guy binary, the questions then becomes, How could WE let this happen in our community? and How can WE learn to say something? As a friend, partner, family member, etc. men are in a unique position to do something about abuses they see. All men ( and women) can refuse to be bystanders when they hear demeaning comments made about women such as saying something at a party when a man is harassing a woman, or supporting a family member when confronting an abusive relative.
Learn how to be an effective bystander and how to confront abuses when they occur by signing up to our free workshops today.
The views expressed on this page are those of Dr Ree Boddé and do not necessarily represent the views of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne or its program partners Anglicare Victoria and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. While all reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this page, no liability is assumed for any errors or omissions.