Wednesday, December 05, 2007

16 Days, Day 11: What Men Can Do: Recognize What Counts As Violence

I try to do a regular Wednesday thing about "What Men Can Do" as feminists and feminist allies. This week, we'll continue 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.

What Counts As Violence
Unfortunately, there are lots of obvious forms that gendered violence takes, and we often think of these obvious examples when we think of activism against gendered violence. But violence isn't a concept with clearly delineated borders, and it's important for us to recognize this, too. What counts as violence can vary from context to context, from person to person (though, obviously, some sorts of violence are universally recognized as such). This doesn't justify violence in any context--but recognizing the subtleties involved can help us understand the pervasiveness of gendered violence.

First of all, we need to keep in mind that violence can take the form of threats of violence. I count somebody raising their hand as if to strike me, in order to strike me, as violence itself. Stalking is a threat of violence, and inasmuch as it is, is violent itself. Such threats, however, are often much more subtle, taking form with a word or two. And words, even when they aren't veiled threats, are a kind of violence sometimes as well--from 'stupid' to 'slut'.

And, if we take some time to look, there are other sorts of violence that are more pervasive, and perhaps more hidden. Certain types of religious indoctrination are both violent and gendered, for instance. Blocking access to reproductive care can be a violent act, inasmuch as reproductive care is health care.

Also, I think we ought to take seriously that the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence isn't called 16 Days of Action Opposed to Violence Against Women, and take violence against men seriously as well, especially when it is done in a gendered context--for instance, using prison rape as a supposed crime deterrent, or as the butt of a joke--especially if it's men committing rape against men--is gendered inasmuch as we separate prison populations along gender lines.

The long and short of it is that, though it's hard enough to look at the more obvious forms of gendered violence, we also need to keep an eye out for acts that we might not, at first, recognize as such.
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