"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What Men Can Do: Recognize the Connections

Geo makes a great point (one among many) in his comments on my last What Men Can Do post, the one dealing with what counts as meaningful discussion and what counts as confrontation. He says:
If/when - we can get men - "normal men" to really relate to Male Violence as a major problem (everywhere) I think it may be easier to tackle both sexism and sexist violence.
I think Geo's right on here, though (as always) I think there are complexities that we need to keep in mind. If we're concerned about men getting immediately defensive when discussing male violence against women (and that last post was about when and where we might think it's worth being concerned about), then discussing the tendency of traditional masculinity to teach men to respond with violence to various sorts of situations may be a good starting place.

Most men have been on the receiving end of male violence, or know a man who has been. Men have been drafted into wars, or tricked into enlisting with promises of achieving the ultimate in masculinity. Men have been smacked around by fathers as boys. Men have seen their mothers smacked around by their fathers. Traditional masculinity teaches men to give some violence back when in these situations, even when that is impossible (a good deal of the time), or when it would do not good anyway (a good deal of the time). Feminist critiques of traditional masculinity can help men see that traditional masculinity is a big part of the problem regarding the violence of men in general--and then we can start talking more about the everyday violence that women experience at the hands of men who have not yet learned to recognize the ways in which traditional masculinity sucks for all of those involved.

I don't think this is the only way that we can approach men about violence against women--depending on the context, I think a more direct approach on that front is sometimes warranted--we might bring men's violence against women to the fore and then later talk about men's violence in general (and heck, violence in general).

No great revelations, perhaps, but I think it's good to keep reminding ourselves of the different ways we might affect the world, of the different ways we might change some minds.
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