Men are critical to end violence against women for numerous reasons. Here, we will consider three: 1) the fact that men are most likely to be the perpetrators of assault, 2) that peer education amongst men is an effective way to get men to acknowledge this problem, and 3) that fighting violence against women involves addressing the larger problems of rape culture and patriarchy, which are perpetuated by and affect all members of society, including men.
Perhaps the most obvious reason men need to be part of the solution when it comes to ending violence against women is the fact that the majority of perpetrators are men. As we have seen throughout the semester, men are the most likely abusers across the spectrum of violence, from child abuse to sexual abuse to interpersonal violence. Of course, while the majority of abusers are men, these men make up a small minority of the overall population of men in society; thus, we need to ensure we are not condemning men as an entire group. We cannot avoid the fact, however, that those most at risk of becoming abusers are men, and thus the task of stopping violence against women involves men as a very fundamental component.
In combatting this issue, we benefit greatly by having male advocates who work to educate their peers on the epidemic of violence against women and what they can do to stop it. This is especially powerful because men are often more likely to listen to the perceived authority of other men than that of women. We can see this in a number of contexts; for example, if a man is hitting on a woman in a bar, he is more likely to leave her alone if she says “I have a boyfriend” than if she says “I’m not interested.” In our society, men are conditioned to place higher weight on the opinions and properties of other men. We can take advantage of this fact by recruiting men who want to fight back against violence perpetrated against women, as these are the educators that men as a whole, and especially those with patriarchal attitudes in general, are most likely to listen to. Men are also unlikely to volunteer their time towards addressing this problem; we see this in the gender breakdown in our class and in the accounts of male advocates that we read and watched in class. Thus, we need a select few men to go out into the community and bring the problem to their peers directly.
Lastly, we must recognize that combating assault involves addressing the much bigger problems of rape culture and the patriarchy, which are perpetuated by and affect everyone, including men. Violence against women, while tragic, is just a symptom of these larger issues, and thus we need to change attitudes on a fundamental level to make long term, lasting improvements in society. It is the patriarchy that conditions men to abuse women and that positions women to be vulnerable to abuse. This is not to say that men are complete winners in our patriarchal society; it is the patriarchy that silences male victims of abuse and limits the societally acceptable expressions of masculinity. Men are, however, the big-picture winners in a patriarchy, and it is going to take change from them as well as from women and all other genders to address these broad patterns of power and subjugation in the long term.