“Tough Guise” and “Women’s” Issues: A critical look at American Masculinity

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, American University hosted Jackson Katz, to discuss the role of men in sexual assault and gendered violence prevention. Jackson Katz led the discussion at the “More than a Few Good Men: A Lecture on American Manhood and Violence Against Women” event.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, American University’s Athletics, Women’s Initiative, the Panhellenic community and AU’s Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence (PEERS).

This event was introduced by Karrie Diekman and Daniel Rappaport (read more about his role as a Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator at AU here), who introduced the event as a kick-off event for the events that will take place in April, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Jackson Katz is a leader in gender violence prevention education. He is also the founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) one of the original bystander initiatives. It is a gender violence prevention program that targets athletes as leaders in the violence prevention and bystander intervention fronts of sexual assault prevention.

Intro to Jackson Katz, a TED talk from the past:

The role of men:

His opening argument is that on a political, social and emotional level, men are following the lead of women who have led the fight against sexual assault, and gendered violence prevention. He explains that “there is no doubt that men and boys have been helped by their [the work of women] efforts” to prevent these issues. Later, he explains the connection between labeling these issues as “women’s issues” and “gendered” issues can be confusing; and how in our patriarchal society, it prevents men from seeing past their privilege and acknowledging their role in preventing these issues. Following this, he explained how the language used to describe sexual assault, and it’s passive nature, perpetuates the idea that men are not the issue (Ex. rape is discussed passively: “a woman was raped” not affirmatively, as in the statement: a “man raped a woman”.

“You can’t take gender out of the equation”

Katz explains that using gender-neutral language in fields where men are dominant, is pragmatic. He explains however, that erasing “gender” doesn’t get rid of gendered issues, it erases their importance. The erasure of the “gendered” nature of these issues, he explains, is that it serves men, who leverage more power in our society.

“It’s embarrassing to be congratulated for doing what men should be doing”

He conjectures that in a society in which it is unremarkable for men to stand up for women, less assault and gendered violence would exist. The problem is, he is, that the perpetrators of these issues are much more normal than people want to expect- this makes people uncomfortable, he explains, because it forces people to reflect introspectively about their own capacity to partake in such behavior.

Race and Violence

Katz connects racism to violence against women by explaining that “when a man of color does it [is violent or assaults women]” issues are seen as a problem associated with their race. On the contrary, stereotypically, when white men assault women, whether it be sexually or violently, the violence is rationalized by blaming it on alcoholism, childhood drama, and mental health issues.

Feminism and “Feminazis”

Katz opened the discussion on feminism by discussing how in-congruent it is to believe in American, egalitarian ideals and not self-identify as feminist:

“if you are an american, and you believe in justice, freedom and equality, and you are NOT a feminist, then please explain your ideology”

What does “feminazi” mean? It is an amalgamation of the words “feminist” and “Nazis”. Feminists are some of the great “anti violence leaders in the our time, and of all time”. Nazi’s were the “embodiment” of the anti-Semitic, homophobic, genocidal glorification of masculine cruelty.

He later went on to say that feminists should not be demonized because:

“Feminists don’t hate men, they expect more from men because they have higher expectations of them.”

Masculine Push-back and Being a “Beta-Male”

Katz explained how men push-back against him.  He has been called names like “man-gina”, “beta male” or “Katz-trated” all of which get at the root of the issue of standing up for gendered violence. All of these names they equate compassion towards women as feminine, and violence towards women as masculine.

The Denouncement of Sexual Harassment in the Australian Army: 

Jackson Katz used the video to demonstrate the behavior that he hopes will be mirrored by leaders in all aspects of life which are affected by gendered harassment, assault or even slurs.

Risk Reduction in the Name of Prevention

Katz explored how risk reduction was promoted in the name of prevention, at the expense of depicting women as victims and men as perpetrators.  As an activist, in his twenties, he worked to try and find out how to invite men to prevent sexual assault.

Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP)

This program was the first program to utilize the bystander approach to include men in the conversation of sexual assault without labeling them “possible perpetrators”. He capitalized on the social capital of collegiate, male, athletes by targeting them as advocates for change. He explains that by strategically targeting men who have standing among their peers, he empowers them to challenge the broader understanding of masculinity and misogyny in their peer groups.

Wanna read more about Jackson Katz’ activism and MVP? Read his article Reconstructing Masculinity in the Locker Room: The Mentors in Violence Prevention Program (by clicking here).

Changing Culture

Jackson Katz stated that he makes a point of pointing out to his son, and the men he work with, that violence and violent behavior are not symptomatic of strength, so much as symptomatic of weakness. He argues that standing for justice and non-violence IS STRONG and that masculinity needs to be redefined. He responds to arguments that teaching men to stand up against violence is emasculating, by explaining that  by teaching boys to be emotional, sentient, socially engaged human being, he is not emasculating them, in fact, he is empowering them.

Tough Guise: Media Representation of Men *trigger warning for sexualized violence*

Jackson Katz created a video about the depiction of men in the media which perpetuates the idea of a narrowing, increasingly more violent embodiment of masculinity. See a clip here:

 

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