I want to start by offering some good news. As far as we can tell, rates of violence against women in Australia have declined. Comparing the 2006 survey by the ABS and the last national survey in 1996, smaller proportions of women experienced physical or sexual violence in the last 12 months than ten years ago. I hasten to add though: the other side of this is that over 440,000 women experienced violence in the last year.
Why might rates of violence have declined? One factor is that community attitudes towards men’s violence against women have improved. Another factor may be growing gender equality in relationships and families, reducing men’s willingness or ability to enforce their dominance through violence and abuse.
The men’s movement is made up of networks of men self-consciously involved in activities related to men and gender. It emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s in Western countries, alongside and often in response to the women’s movement and feminism. The men’s movement, comprised of groups, networks, organisations, and events, engages in a variety of activities from self-help and support to political lobbying and activism.
The men’s movement is distinct from other mobilisations comprised largely of men such as the gun lobby or early trade unions by its self-conscious orientation towards gender issues. Twentieth century men’s movements have historical precedents such as organized male support for women’s suffrage in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (John and Eustance, 1997). While the term ‘men’s movement’ is useful in capturing the array of activities and organisations through which men have explored and contested gender relations, the term is problematic in several ways. In contrast to most other social movements, the men’s movement has had a largely therapeutic focus, is internally contradictory, and is comprised of members of a privileged group.
The victims of violence often are male. This is true in particular of collective, public forms of violence (in wars, political conflicts, street and gang violence). For example, in areas of political conflict such as Palestine or Northern Ireland, young men have a greater exposure to and participation in violence than young women (Reilly et al. 2004). However, males also comprise a significant proportion of the victims of violence in relationships and families. The perpetrators of these diverse forms of violence also are predominantly male.
Efforts to prevent sexual violence against women and girls now increasingly take as given that they must engage men and boys. The theatre-based intervention described in the previous issue of Feminism & Psychology (Rich, 2010) is one of a wave of programmes and strategies focused on males. Using that intervention as a springboard, this article asks: why should we engage men and boys in preventing violence against women, what strategies are under way and do they work? Educational interventions among males often invite them to become active or pro-social bystanders, taking action to stop the perpetration of specific incidents of violence, reduce the risks of violence escalating and strengthen the conditions that work against violence occurring (Powell, 2010: 6–7). However, engaging men in challenging rape-supportive norms and behaviours is hard work. This article concludes by discussing the barriers to, and supports for, men’s bystander interventions.
When men participate as students in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) classrooms, they undergo feminist change. They adopt more progressive understandings of gender, show greater support for feminism, and increase their involvement in antisexist activism. Male students in WGS classrooms benefit to the same degree as female students, showing similar levels of change, although they start with poorer attitudes and thus the gap between them and their female peers persists. At the same time, male students’ presence highlights critical challenges to feminist pedagogy: gendered patterns of interaction, resistance to feminist teaching, and limitations on women’s critical reflections on personal experience. When men teach WGS, typically they are ‘‘graded up’’—evaluated by students as less biased and more competent than female professors. Male professors face distinct dilemmas in teaching about gender inequality from a position of privilege. Yet, like male students, they can adopt traitorous and antipatriarchal social locations and standpoints, developing pedagogies for and by the privileged.
Let’s Stop Violence Before It Starts: Using primary prevention strategies to engage men, mobilise communities, and change the world (2011)
How can we prevent violence against women? And how can we make progress by engaging men? This one-day workshop provides a comprehensive introduction to frameworks and strategies for primary prevention, with a focus on engaging and mobilising men.
Bob Pease's paper "Engaging Men in Men’s Violence Prevention: Exploring the Tensions, Dilemmas and Possibilities" was published by the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse in August 2008. His paper was then the focus of a forum organised by the Clearinghouse in November 2008. Michael Flood (among others) spoke in response to Bob Pease's paper at this forum. These papers provide valuable debate regarding the successes and dangers of men's involvement in preventing men's violence against women, men's interests and the question of benefits to men, and so on.
On this page, we have collected together Bob Pease's paper, Michael Flood's response, and a flyer for the forum itself.
This short piece, written for boys, reflects on what I wish I'd known when I was starting out sexually, the things which make hot sex and healthy relationships more likely.
One-third of the Australian population believe that ‘homosexuality is immoral’, and this belief is spread in distinct ways across the nation. Using data from a survey of nearly 25,000 Australians, we can ‘map’ homophobia in Australia. Homophobic attitudes are worst in country areas of Queensland and Tasmania. Men are far more likely than women to feel that homosexuality does not have moral legitimacy, and this gender gap in attitudes persists across age, socioeconomic, educational, and regional divides. Surprisingly, Catholics are the least homophobic of those Australians with a religious affiliation. Finally, homophobic attitudes seem to be improving over time.
Students in the third-year Sociology course Men and Masculinities at the University of Wollongong have the option of writing a piece of critical autobiography – what I’ve termed a ‘Reflective Journal’ – rather than a conventional essay, for their final written assessment. This document provides guidelines for the Reflective Journal, and further resources on critical autobiography.