men, masculinities and gender politics

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Need yet another reason to care about violence against women? How about the fact that next time the abuser may be coming for you

Hey guys, need yet another reason to care about violence against women? How about the fact that next time the abuser may be coming for you?

This week saw a truly horrible event occur on a remote highway in western Canada. A 21 year-old man, still furious about the fact that his girlfriend had broken up with him a month earlier, chased down the car in which she and three friends were riding. He forced the vehicle off the road, and in what can only be described as a hideous act of domestic terrorism, he shot all four of the passengers multiple times before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life.

Men among the victims. The shooter brutally killed his ex-girlfriend Tabbitha Stepple. He also killed Tanner Craswell and Mitch Maclean, two young baseball players who were riding in the car on their way to the Calgary airport to catch a flight back home to the east coast, where they planned to spend Christmas with their families. The only survivor of this murderous rampage was the driver, Shayna Conway. Although the killer shot her several times, her injuries are not considered to be life threatening.

(I am purposefully choosing not to name the perpetrator here. It may sound harsh, but in my opinion he simply does not deserve that level of respect – that we should all know his name. I am sick of the fact that it is the perpetrators whose names become known while their victims remain anonymous. I believe it is only the names of the victims and survivors that we should choose to remember. The names of the murderers should be forgotten. Erased from memory.)

But what stands out in this case of domestic viciousness is that two of the victims were grown men. And while the fact that innocent male victims were killed this week in no way makes it somehow more important or more meaningful than the tens of thousands of incidents that occur around the globe each year where men choose to kill only women, this episode should serve as a warning to all men that domestic violence is not now – and never has been – “just” a women’s issue.

Sometimes the misogynist murderers in our midst wind up coming for us men, as well. No one is immune from this violence. As long as abusive men still feel that they are entitled to hunt down and destroy women who have disobeyed them, male bystanders will wind up getting caught in the crossfire.

Men victimized through our associations with women. Gay men have long been aware of the possibility of men’s violence in relationships, but many of us straight guys choose to stand on the sidelines, in willful ignorance of our brothers’ heinous behaviours. But what occurred this week in Alberta shows that even male bystanders can get murdered by a vengeful ex-boyfriend of a woman they know.

And even when we are not being murdered, straight men can still experience other forms of collateral violence as a result of being connected to a woman whose ex-boyfriend or ex-husband does not want to let her go. Take stalking, for example. The majority of stalkers are male, and the majority of stalking victims are female. But men do make up 22% of stalking victims, and it turns out that the person who is stalking us is often our female partner’s ex-boyfriend or ex-husband. He may be following us, harassing us, threatening us, vandalizing our car, or cyberstalking us. He may become just as enraged at us as he is at her. And then we will find ourselves in the role of underserving target of his abuse.

Just like she is. And she doesn’t deserve it any more than we do.

Getting involved: the only ethical choice. Becoming actively involved in trying to end men’s violence is not always comfortable. It can actually get very risky. After all, when you connect as a true ally to a woman who is being victimized, her abuser will probably decide that you are the enemy, too.

Three years ago a neighbor of mine, John McKendy, was killed by his daughter’s abusive, estranged husband. He was trying to help his daughter, and it cost him his life.

So getting involved can get damn scary. And damn dangerous. But, really, what other choice do we have?

If you have women in your life – whether they are your partners, relatives, neighbours, or friends – you have women in your life who have experienced male violence directed against them. And for some of these women the violence continues. And as if that were not bad enough, sometimes the violence may come to directly involve you as well.

So what this means is that we men all need to wake up, to get with the program, and to understand that remaining on the sidelines is no longer an option! We owe it to the women in our lives to work to end men’s violence against them! We cannot leave them out there to face the horrors of abuse and assault all by themselves!

And – who knows – working to reduce men’s violence against women might just save our own lives as well.