Violence Against Women: It’s a Men’s Issue (Huffington Post 29/8/13)

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Mobina Jaffer

I recently watched a TED Talk by Jackson Katz called “Violence Against Women — It’s a Men’s Issue.” Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called “women’s issues.” In his talk, Jackson Katz, stresses the importance of changing the way we think in order to realize that violence against women is very much a men’s issue. As a result, men play a key role in the solution to violence against women.

“Calling gender violence a women’s issue is part of the problem,” argues Katz. “It gives a lot of men an excuse not to pay attention.” Unfortunately, placing the responsibility on the minority and forgetting about the role of the dominant group is not uncommon. When we say ‘gender’ we think of women, when we say ‘sexual orientation’ we think of gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals, and when we say ‘race’ we think of people of colour. Katz questions “Why are men, heterosexuals, and Caucasians — the dominant groups in society — exempt from these discussions?”

Violence against women is not solely a women’s issue. Katz recognizes that violence against women can have profound effects on other men and boys as well as society as a whole. Katz explains, “The same system that produces men who abuse women, produces men who abuse other men.” It is clear that this is an issue that both men and women must be engaged in.

Katz is a pioneer of the “bystander approach” to gender violence prevention. With the bystander approach, instead of seeing men as perpetrators and women as victims, or vice versa, the focus is on the bystanders. Essentially, the goal is to have anyone who is not a direct victim or a perpetrator of violence against women to stand up against it. Silence is seen as a form of consent.

When it comes to male culture, Katz stresses that the goal is to get men who are not abusive to challenge men who are. He states, “We need more men who have the courage and the strength to start standing up and saying some of this stuff. And standing with women, not against them and pretending that this is somehow a battle between the sexes and other kinds of nonsense. We live in the world together.”

One excellent example of men speaking out and being leaders in the fight against gender based violence is the White Ribbon Campaign. The campaign is dedicated to the 14 women targeted and killed in the 1989 massacre at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. Today, the White Ribbon Campaign has spread to over 60 countries where men wear white ribbons as a pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.

I have always been an advocate for including men and boys in ensuring women’s rights. The involvement of men is crucial to ending violence against women, yet it is not an easy task. However, adopting Katz’s bystander approach and making ALL voices heard — including those of men — in the fight to end violence against women is a critical place to start. We all must speak out to end violence against women.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/senator-mobina-jaffer/violence-against-women-_b_3837766.html

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on being a feminist

What does it mean to be a feminist?

Watch this hilarious, heartfelt and absolutely insightful talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a renowned Nigerian novelist.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She grew up in the university town of Nsukka, Enugu State where she attended primary and secondary schools, and briefly studied Medicine and Pharmacy. She then moved to the US to attend college, graduating summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University with a major in Communication and a minor in Political Science. She holds a Master degree in Creative Writing from John Hopkins and a Master degree in African Studies from Yale University.

Chimamanda is the author of Half a Yellow Sun which won the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction, and Purple Hibiscus which won the 2005 Best First Book Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the 2004 Debut Fiction Fiction Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She was named one of the 20 most important fiction writers today under 40 years old by the New Yorker. She featured in the April 2012 edition of Time Magazine celebrated as one of 100 Most Influential People in the World.