A Broader Definition of Being a Man

Noted Author, Filmmaker Says that Misconceptions about Manhood Drive Much of Today’s Violence.

Labeling rape and abuse as “women’s issues” gives 50 percent of the population—men—the excuse to turn off and not acknowledge their role in the problem. 

Subtle uses of language affect how society deals with issues of violence, including abuse, rape and even school shootings, acclaimed author and filmmaker Jackson Katz, Ph.D., said during a lecture Thursday at the Yale School of Public Health. 

Indeed, such passive language shifts the emphasis to the victim and does not challenge dominant groups to take responsibility. Expressions such as “gender violence,” and “violence against women,” allow men, who are largely responsible for such violence, to become less visible in the discourse.

An honest and more accurate way to frame the issue would be “men’s violence against women,” he told students and faculty gathered in Winslow Auditorium.

Katz noted that he is often accused of “guilt tripping” and “effeminizing” men by the conservative media and blog readers. Rather than feeling guilty, he hopes that men will begin to feel more responsible for their role in society. 

The fundamental issue behind violence is power. Citing shootings in Newtown and elsewhere, Katz believes that misperceptions about manhood and manliness are the driving issue, not mental health or guns. Men have perpetrated all but one of 62 school and workplace shootings. Mental illnesses afflict women, but they are not shooting people, he said. 

“The majority of shootings are by kids who were bullied and feel they can take back their power through violence,” said Katz, who co-founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention, a gender violence prevention and education program, which has been adopted by all four branches of the U.S. military and professional and college sports teams.

“For tough guys who feel threatened, the fastest way to take control is to through violence — the language of manhood.”  Katz believes that modern men need to be adaptable, view their vulnerability as strength and to be more positive role models in society.

A barrier to change is men’s defensiveness to accepting broad responsibility, especially when they have not been perpetrators of violence “It is a ridiculous idea that we have equality between sexes,” says Katz. “To talk to men about gender is to talk about their privilege.” That perspective allows men to step up for the greater good without feeling threatened.



This article was submitted by Denise L Meyer on April 19, 2013.