Wednesday, November 28, 2007

16 Days, Day 4: What Men Can Do: Recognize Violence by Men Against Men as a Feminst Issue

I try to do a regular Wednesday thing about "What Men Can Do" as feminist allies. This week, we'll focus on something that I think men can do to engage in feminist practices around gendered violence, in the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The subject of men's violence against men is, for me, a feminist issue, and is also something that often get overlooked, even among people working on recognizing and fighting gender violence.

Gender Violence Also Means Violence Against Men by other Men
While I think that violence against women by men is rightly the primary focus of much feminist work to be done around violence, and I don't think that claims about violence by men against women ought to be responded to by noting other ways that violence happens (men cause violence against other men, women cause violence against men, people on the transgender spectrum are also harmed,violence by women against women is too-often ignored by feminists and queer communities, etc.), I do think that all of the various kinds of violence warrant some of our attention. As men who are feminist allies, we have a responsibility to address violence committed by men, including violence against women, but also including (but not limited to) violence against other men.

Men's violence against other men often gets overlooked as some sort of grownup version of boys-will-be-boys. Men police their own gender by beating up men who are seen as less than manly (which usually means 'feminine' in some way). Men get raped by other men, and when this fact isn't overlooked, it is often treated as a joke (heard any good 'don't-drop-the-soap-in-prison jokes, lately?). And, though some may argue for or against feminists spending more or less time on this issue, it's always important to recognize that a good deal of violence by men against men has some of the same causal roots that men's violence against women has: The policing of traditional masculinity. To 'be a man' has come to mean, at many times and in many ways, dominating others--and this can include dominating people of all genders through violence. Lots of this dominating/policing takes the form of simple, brutal physical violence. To the extent that we ignore this, we risk continuing various cycles of violence by men, against people of all genders. And one of the best tools we have for rooting out this sort of policing is feminism.
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