parry ernsberger
May 13, 2013 6:30 am

Several minutes into his TEDxFiDiWomen Talk, Dr. Jackson Katz (the founder and director of MVP [Mentors in Violence Prevention] Strategies) quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

Silence in the face of violence can hold the same consequence as the act of violence itself. Each behavior perpetuates the continuance of abuse and prevents the societal changes necessary to end it.

Women have long spoken out about men’s abuse towards women, but as Dr. Katz points out, men typically get more credit for opening the dialogue. “Women built these movements,” he says. These movements that get people talking about domestic, verbal and physical abuse. These movements that engage both girls and women and boys and men alike.

And why are the women who speak out on this problem often referred to as “male-bashers, man-haters and femi-nazis?” Perhaps because victim-blaming has become an unconscious cognitive structure? Fortunately (or unfortunately), as Katz notes, men can sometimes be better heard saying things that women can’t say — “It’s a problem, it’s sexism, but it’s the truth.”

So why has the issue of men’s abuse towards women turned into a “women’s issue,” when at the core, the subjects are men?

And what, exactly, “is going on with men?” he asks. Of course, it goes without saying that women can also be the abuser — it’s a two-way street — but it is men who are overwhelmingly so. And it’s not just man on woman violence we’re talking about, it’s man on man as well. Look at the Catholic Church, Penn State, the Boy Scouts of America: What is going on within these institutions and within the culture that they exist where this is still a problem?

Make no mistake, this is not a battle of the sexes — This is a place where men and women should be standing together, Katz says. But men in particular need to challenge each other by intervening for the good of social change. It can be as simple as interrupting abusive behavior in peer culture so that the behavior is seen as unacceptable — Not laughing at an overtly sexist joke, saying “that’s not funny” when everyone else seems to think it is. Remembering that every guy out there has a mother, a sister, an aunt, a girlfriend — some woman in his life who will benefit from the prevention of unproductive dialogue.

If you take the power and the status away from the abusers, Katz says, if you stop and say “this isn’t okay,” the power to change can come straight from your mouth instead of from someone’s fist.

Watch the full video below. Pass it along. And never stop asking questions, speaking out and standing strong for things that matter.

[Please note that this man’s view on men’s violence was interpreted by a lady.]

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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