Getting More Men Involved – But Which Men?

By Tal Peretz

Men’s involvement in anti-violence and women’s rights movements has increased in recent decades, and feminist groups and organizations have been increasingly interested in engaging men for gender justice. Emma Watson and The United Nations have #HeForShe, former President Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls started It’s On Us, and NGOs around the world have recently formed the MenEngage Alliance.

The literature on men’s feminist engagements has a noticeable shortcoming, however: despite decades of feminist scholarship on the importance of intersectionality and early hints of the importance of intersectionality in men’s engagement (like this book), what we know about engaging men is still mostly about engaging white, middle-class, college-age, heterosexual, Christian, cisgender men. In an attempt to expand our knowledge of men’s feminist allyship, I spent a year observing, engaging with, and interviewing the members of two men’s anti-gender-violence groups directed towards marginalized men.

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Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence (MMADV) is a mostly-African-American Muslim group, formed when the director of a Muslim women’s shelter noticed the benefit of male allies. The Sweet Tea Southern Queer Men’s Collective (Sweet Tea) is a group of gay, bisexual, and queer-identified men, mostly of color, who address the ways sexism and male privilege show up in LGBTQ+ communities. Both are small community groups that organize online, by phone, and in members’ homes, occasionally producing public events or documents. Both received some training from an anti-violence organization called Men Stopping Violence (MSV), but found MSV’s programming an ill fit for their communities’ concerns.

When I asked MMADV members how they got involved, all of their stories had a clear pathway-style narrative, beginning with a sensitization experience[1]. Parenting daughters or reading social media accounts of Muslim women experiencing domestic abusive were common. Most of the men were specifically invited to get involved by women in their lives, like Sayeed[2], a man of Desi Indian descent, who got a call from a woman colleague telling him “there’s a group called Men Stopping Violence…, I want you to do the[ir] internship program, because we need more Desi men to speak out against domestic violence.’” When they wanted to deepen their understanding of the issues, MMADV members relied on formalized educational experiences, which caused major shifts in their gendered understandings of the world. Waleed told me MSV “was a big eye-opener for me, it also helped me in dealing with my wife and watching how I spoke to her and how I treated her.”

While these narratives from MMADV members approximated the pathways of men already represented in the literature, an intersectional analysis added detail. The thin dispersion of Muslim men and their disinclination to socialize with unmarried women increases the likelihood that their sensitization and engagement opportunities occur online, for example, and the importance of age and parenting was not captured in the previous studies of younger men.

Unlike the men of MMADV or in the literature, Sweet Tea members tended to explain their engagement through reference to their own intersecting identities and experiences as gay/queer men of color. Because of this, their sensitization experiences began much younger—Mark said “it starts with being a little gay Black boy”–and did not rely on women’s motivation. They told no narratives about how they joined the group, instead tending to just say, like Jeune, “I was just invited to be a part of the collective by [another member].”

Finally, Sweet Tea members never mentioned a deep shift in gendered understanding, but instead described learning a language for things they already knew. Their own experiences of marginalization along the axes of sexuality, race, and in some cases gender expression intersect with masculine privilege, preempting these transformative gendered learning experiences and sensitizing them to issues of gender justice without recourse to women’s experiences.

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All these men’s pathways relied on intersecting gendered, religious, racial, familial, and sexual identities; their male privilege interacted with racial, sexual, and religious marginalization to create their sensitization and opportunity experiences. While MMADV’s experiences add nuance to previous pathway models, though, Sweet Tea members’ experiences demand a fundamental revision of the models. This suggests that there may be a special salience to sexual and gender-based oppression: a non-normative sexual or gender-identity not only invites investigation and explanation, but encourages these in reference to gender. These findings are not generalizable, but they do powerfully illustrate the importance of intersectionality when considering men as allies.

[1] The terms I use to describe men’s pathways to anti-violence engagement come from Casey & Smith (2010), whose pathway model begins with sensitizing experiences, and moves through engagement opportunities and a shift gendered meaning (in either order) to antiviolence engagement. They recognize that a “glaring gap in both [their model] and research about male antiviolence allies more generally is the experiences of men of color” (Casey and Smith 2010, 970).

[2] All participant names are pseudonyms

Tal Peretz, assistant professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Auburn University, has engaged in and studied men’s anti-sexist and anti-violence activism for over a decade. He is the author of “Some Men: Male Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women”,  co-written with Michael Messner and Max Greenberg. His scholarship on men, masculinities, and feminism has been published in academic journals, edited volumes, popular and activist/professional newsletters, magazines, and blogs. His latest research looks at how intersecting race, class, religious, and sexual identities shape men’s gender justice organizing.

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The Unconditional Love and Exploitation of the Black Male Athlete

By Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith

It seems every few weeks or so we have this conversation about Black male athletes who violently abuse their White wives and girlfriends (from Mitch Lee to Corey Batey to OJ Simpson to Lawrence Phillips to Ruben Patterson to Ezekiel Elliott and others), and the fact that they are almost never held accountable, in any meaningful way, for their violent actions.

These are certainly not the first or only cases, but they shine a light on a perplexing phenomenon we have been observing, researching and writing about: the unconditional love of the Black male body – as long as he can throw, run, catch, dunk and score in an athletic contest, entertaining fans and making hundreds of millions of dollars for White coaches, owners and athletic administrators.There seems no better American football player in red jersey and helmet holding ball against blacktime to have this conversation again than now, on the heels of the recent college football bowl game season and on the eve of the SuperBowl, games that have or may involve athletes who have been accused of acts of violence against women.

During the last days of 2016 and the first days of 2017, several college football teams faced scrutiny for their protection of Black men accused of heinous crimes, including 12 football players at the University of Minnesota who are accused of gang-raping a White woman in October and a player at the University of Oklahoma, Joe Mixon, who is seen on video punching a White woman in the face, leaving her unconscious

During the last few days of January 2017, six federal lawsuits have been filed against Baylor University where, since 2012, 32 football players have been accused of committing 52 rapes (5 were gang rapes involving 10 players raping one woman).  At Baylor, most of the accused players are Black and all of the victims are White. Data from 2014 reveal that of all NFL players arrested, 55% were arrested for intimate partner violence and another 38% were arrested for sexual violence, in other words 4 in 5 NFL players arrested between 2000 and 2014 were arrested for acts of violence against women. Continue reading “The Unconditional Love and Exploitation of the Black Male Athlete”

Angry White Men and Domestic Violence

By Kristin Anderson

Domestic violence happens to all social groups, but it is more likely to occur among those who have to worry about paying the rent or keeping kids safe from neighborhood violence. Data from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), the most recent large national survey of domestic violence victimization among U.S. adults, show that women who live in households with incomes under $25,000 experience annual victimization at over three times the rate of women in households with incomes of $75,000 or more (here).  Study after study finds that heterosexual women with less access to education and income suffer the highest rates of abuse.

Does this pattern also occur among men?  Are the least educated and poorest men at greatest risk for victimization?  My research with Mick Cunningham shows that the story is more complicated among straight men.  Our analysis of NISVS data finds that both women and men report the highest rate of physical abuse by a partner when they have less than a high school education (11 years, see Figure 1 below).  For women, the risk of abuse falls as their level of education increases.  Among men, the decline is much less steep.  Additionally, the gender gap widens as educational attainment increases: men with college degrees report almost twice the rate of victimization as women with college degrees.  We find the same pattern when we look at earnings: women are less likely to be victims as they earn more income, but men with higher incomes report being abused at similar or even higher levels than men who earn less. Continue reading “Angry White Men and Domestic Violence”

The Violence Against Women Act, Framing, and Feminist Compromise

By Nancy Whittier

During the 2012 elections, unprecedented public argument emerged over what Democrats dubbed Republicans’ “war on women,” as Republican politicians made countless belittling remarks about rape. Republican Representative Ted Akin commented that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down” and prevent pregnancy, while Representative Ricviolence_9-22-16k Santorum said that rape victims who became pregnant should “make the best out of a bad situation” by having the baby. In addition, Republicans blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This may not seem surprising, but in fact VAWA – first passed in 1994 –  had never been controversial before. It was originally cosponsored by both conservatives and liberals in Congress and some of its strongest opponents in 2012 previously had been cosponsors.

Both the dispute in 2012 and earlier bipartisan support depended on how violence against women is understood. Is it a matter of women’s oppression and thus a feminist issue? Is it a matter of crime and law enforcement and thus a traditionally conservative concern? Is it only a matter of gender, or are there distinct experiences and needs for immigrant women, women of color, Native American women, or LGBT people? Continue reading “The Violence Against Women Act, Framing, and Feminist Compromise”

The Gender-Genocide Nexus

By Gabrielle Ferrales, Nollie Nyseth Brehm, & Suzy McElrath

Several hundred thousand people have been killed in state-supported attacks on villages in the Darfur region of Sudan (Degomme and Guha-Sapir 2010), and millions have been displaced (U.S. State Department 2013). Darfur_mapYears after this violence began, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first sitting head of state indicted for the crime of genocide by the International Criminal Court. Due to inaction by the UN Security Council, the Court’s investigation has since been suspended though the violence continues today.

We examine this critical social problem by analyzing the gendered nature of violence committed against men and boys in Darfur and describe the process of inflicting violence as the gender-genocide nexus. Although a substantial body of research on gender-based violence during episodes of mass atrocity has emerged in the last decade, much of this scholarship has focused on violence against women. While we do not seek to divert attention from women and girls, it is important to examine the broad range of violent acts that occur during genocide—including gender-based violence against men and boys. This includes rape, other forms of sexual violence (like sexual assault or genital mutilation), as well as non-sexual acts perpetrated on the basis of gender, such as sex-selective killing.

Using narratives from 1,136 Darfuri refugees from the U.S. State Department’s Atrocities Documentation Survey, we analyzed patterns of gender-based violence perpetrated against men and boys in Darfur. We found that these individuals experienced many forms of gender-based violence, such as rape, genital harm, and sex-selective killings. Darfuri men and boys also are victims of indirect violence, such as witnessing violence perpetrated against members of their family. Continue reading “The Gender-Genocide Nexus”

A call to knowledge: Let’s gather more data before rushing to action

By Poulami Roychowdhury

In a context like India, where law enforcement personnel are both perpetrators of sexual violence and have limited capacities to enforce legal rights, what should we actually do to counter rape? At the risk of resolving the practical dilemma with a call for academic inquiry, that is exactly what I am about to propose. Before devising more policies and interventions, we need more data and we need better data. The need for data gathering becomes self evident when we examine existing organizational efforts.

Transforming “rape culture” has become an increasingly popular strategy in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape of 2012. This approach is visible in media commentary about India’s “traditional” culture, satirical videos such as Rape: It’s Your Fault, and awareness building campaigns, such as Breakthrough’s efforts to “make violence against women unacceptable.” I have discussed elsewhere why the cultural turn in organizational efforts is dangerous in post-colonial, developing countries (Roychowdhury 2013). To summarize one of the main issues, cultural interventions are based on a number of assumptions that are tenuously linked to empirical data. These assumptions include the idea that sexual violence occurs because it is culturally “acceptable” and that certain cultures are more violent than others. The limited survey data we have available indicates, however, that on average, Indian women are less vulnerable to sexual violence than women in other countries. According to the Demographic Household Survey, 9% of Indian women have experienced violence versus 18.3% of American women (NFHS 2006). But to what extent these numbers emerge from “cultural” differences largely resides on guesswork. Continue reading “A call to knowledge: Let’s gather more data before rushing to action”

Violence Prevention as a Form of Justice

By Nicola Henry

Much of my work to date has been centered on the reactive currents of judicial, quasi-judicial, and non-judicial mechanisms of justice, and until recently I did not specifically theorize the ways in which the “primary prevention” of violence (preventing violence before it occurs) might well be another mode of justice.

Understanding the socio-cultural determinants of violence – as a feminist project of justice – makes sense when we consider global statistics, and find that women and girls continue to be disproportionately the victims, and men the perpetrators, of sexual violence. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Where I live in Australia, 1 in 5 Australian women compared to 1 in 22 Australian men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and since the age of 15, 1.5 million Australian women have experienced sexual assault, 99% of which has been perpetrated by a male. Continue reading “Violence Prevention as a Form of Justice”