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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Race Matters: Engaging All Men to End Violence against Women

In his book The Macho Paradox, violence prevention educator Jackson Katz states, “True and lasting change will require – at a minimum – a critical and multicultural mass of men emerging to partner with women in confronting men’s violence on both a personal and institutional level.”

What will it take to build a critical and multicultural mass of men who will partner with women to confront men’s violence? I believe there are many answers to this question including a very important one: Race Matters. For us to ever experience this reality, we must be willing to acknowledge and confront the racism that has permeated our history and particularly the characterization of sexual violence.

Since the beginning of the enslavement of Africans in America through Jim Crow segregation, African American men were painted as sexually aggressive predators that posed a serious threat to White women. This led to countless acts of terrorism by White America to murder African American men for the slightest suspicion, rumor, or for no reason at all. While lynch mobs were forming to conduct these acts of terrorism, White men were frequently known for pressuring African American women, who many times worked in domestic services with their families, into unwanted sex. There is no record of a White man during this historical period ever being prosecuted or lynched for these rapes.

While lynching no longer takes place in its historical form, the racist narrative that informed those terrorist acts is still subtly perpetuated in many facets of our dominant culture. Now it is not just relegated to African American men, but also includes other men of color and men with lower socioeconomic status. This must be challenged by stating the facts that sexual aggressive behavior is perpetrated by men of all races, classes, cultures, religions, and beyond. If a man is to become a good ally with women, it must be based on his willingness to challenge sexually aggressive attitudes and behaviors in himself and other men.

For all men to see the importance of partnering with women to end men’s violence, all women’s voices and experiences must be given equal respect and prominence. While the Women’s Movement throughout history has included all races and classes, the white middle-class narrative typically dominates. If we are asking men to realize that they need to be involved because someone they know and love (their sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers, etc) could be at risk, then all women need to be represented. Diverse representations of women must not be relegated to the stories shared, but must be realized at every level of the efforts to end violence against women, including those women providing the leadership in which men are engaged.

If the leadership of efforts to end violence against women reflects the diversity of men in our communities, then culturally inclusive strategies will be incorporated in time. This in turn can begin to build the “critical and multicultural mass of men” partnering with women in ending men’s violence against women.

By John Tramel

1 comment:

Jim Doyle said...

John - please provide an example of a "culturally inclusive strategies". I completely agree with your post, but I am struggling to understand what this means.