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A choice for men—a less violent society or status quo
We must set our eye on the way ahead, even as horror holds us in the present at news of this week’s acid attack on Rachael Chadee. This February, two girls were sexually assaulted in secondary schools, and the wife of a police officer was threatened with rape and murder. Norma Holder was raped and killed returning from church. Asami Nagakiya was strangled. Rachael Sukdeo took to social media to escape assault. And, those were not the entirety of reports or incidences, only the ones that made headlines, just this month.
This trend signals that the major problem in our society occurs within the family. Under Reports of Domestic Violence Offences for 2015, which refer to “offences committed against a spouse, child, any other person who is a member of the household or dependant,” there were 15 murder/homicides, 38 cases of sexual abuse, 808 cases of assault by beating, 526 cases of threats and 62 cases of verbal abuse worth reporting to police, and 95 breaches of protection orders.
Generalised violence, but particularly sexualised violence, is in our homes, schools and streets, and if all women stopped flinging waist, it would make no difference. Until we acknowledge that men’s violence against each other and women is a men’s issue and a men’s movement-building issue, we will be in trouble.
What’s happening with boys and men, as victims and as perpetrators, is connected to what’s happening in terms of violence against women. The crisis of masculinity isn’t one of girls doing well in school, its one of the continued association between manhood, power and violence, starting at home.
The first problem is economic inequality, and the vulnerability to risk, insecurity and harm that it creates in women and men’s lives. The second issue is the state’s failure to adequately address criminality, whether through schools, policing, social services, prisons or the courts. But, what gives these vulnerabilities and failures different meanings for women, men, girls and boys are the forms of manhood that are dominant, rewarded, tolerated and excused.
If you hear how we should be paying more attention to the murders of boys and men, as they occur in greater numbers, than the everyday, more invisible harm faced by women and girls, which is far more sexualised and includes murder, walk away.
If you hear how the solution is men playing their rightful, leading roles in the family, church, schools and state, walk away.
If recommendations prioritise more dominant men as role models or military boot camp or youth imprisonment, walk away.
If you hear anyone framing the violence being experienced by boys and the violence being experienced by girls in terms of a battle of the sexes for attention and resources, walk away.
There is a single overarching issue at the heart of both and it is forms of manhood that idealise dominance, toxicity, authority and impunity. Their normality creates the context for more extreme forms of these qualities, which result in harm to both women and men, and widespread enactment of inhumane masculinities.
It will take decades of workshops, community trainings, counselling, fund-raising, scholarships, marches, curriculum change, mentorship and skill building to challenge the deeply embedded toxicity of patriarchal rules.
And, it cannot happen until men and women are willing to accept what’s at stake, which is the challenge to male dominance and power.
It’s a choice for men: a less violent society in which completely different masculine ideals underlie children’s gender socialisation, or a hold on privilege and, with it, a continued status quo. And if religious and state leaders don’t wake up to their own complicity with such toxicity, they will continue to trade justice for respectability, while berating the rest of us for it no longer hitting home.
For the conversation about violence against women to not go cold, we need concrete deliverables and deadlines from a range of state officials. They have the greatest power to implement policies, change protocols, provide resources, reach communities and enact the solutions we propose.
Those solutions include gender training across local government, and gender policies for each Regional or City Corporation, gender-based violence curriculum for young people, and a targeted strategy at a new generation which needs different gender roles.