Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue: Jackson Katz at TEDxFiDiWomen

Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue: Jackson Katz at TEDxFiDiWomen

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Lalla Khadija Tigha Before I begin my presentation I want to say it’s a great honor for me to be part of a program
with so many impressive women. I also want to say —
and thank you to the organizers to invite me to be part of this. It’s important that I say and that men say
when we do the work that we do, especially in the field
of gender violence prevention that I’m going to talk with you
about this morning, it’s important that we acknowledge
that the growing movement of men in the United States
in a multicultural sense and all around the world
in an international sense, the growing movement of men who are standing up and speaking out
about men’s violence against women, and going into parts of male culture that have historically been
either apathetic about, or openly hostile to women’s efforts
to engage them, that movement of men
is indebted to the leadership of women on a personal level,
on a professional level, on political level,
on an intellectual level, on every level,
women built these movements and these are movements that are affecting
in a positive way everybody. Not just women and girls,
but also men and boys. And often times men like myself
get a lot of credit and public acclaim for doing the work that women
have been doing for a long time. So one of the ways
that we can use the spotlight is to thank women
and honor women’s leadership, going forward today,
tomorrow, into the future. Now — (Applause) Having said that, I’m going to share with you
a paradigm-shifting perspective on the issues of gender violence:
sexual assault, domestic violence, relationship abuse, sexual harassment,
sexual abuse of children. That whole range of issues that I’ll refer to in shorthand
as “gender violence issues,” they’ve been seen as women’s issues
that some good men help out with, but I have a problem with that frame
and I don’t accept it. I don’t see these as women’s issues
that some good men help out with. In fact, I’m going to argue
that these are men’s issues, first and foremost. Now obviously — (Applause) Obviously, they’re also women’s issues,
so I appreciate that, but calling gender violence
a women’s issue is part of the problem, for a number of reasons. The first is that it gives men
an excuse not to pay attention, right? A lot of men hear
the term “women’s issues” and we tend to tune it out, and we think, “I’m a guy; that’s for the girls,”
or “that’s for the women.” And a lot of men literally don’t get
beyond the first sentence as a result. It’s almost like a chip
in our brain is activated, and the neural pathways take
our attention in a different direction when we hear the term “women’s issues.” This is also true, by the way,
of the word “gender,” because a lot of people
hear the word “gender” and they think it means “women.” So they think that gender issues
is synonymous with women’s issues. There’s some confusion
about the term gender. And let me illustrate
that confusion by way of analogy. So let’s talk for a moment about race. In the US, when we hear the word “race,” a lot of people think
that means African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Native American, South Asian, Pacific Islander, on and on. A lot of people, when they hear
the word “sexual orientation” think it means gay, lesbian, bisexual. And a lot of people,
when they hear the word “gender,” think it means women. In each case, the dominant group
doesn’t get paid attention to. As if white people don’t have
some sort of racial identity or belong to some racial
category or construct, as if heterosexual people
don’t have a sexual orientation, as if men don’t have a gender. This is one of the ways that dominant
systems maintain and reproduce themselves, which is to say the dominant group
is rarely challenged to even think about its dominance, because that’s one of the key
characteristics of power and privilege, the ability to go unexamined, lacking introspection, in fact being
rendered invisible, in large measure, in the discourse about issues
that are primarily about us. And this is amazing how this works
in domestic and sexual violence, how men have been largely erased
from so much of the conversation about a subject
that is centrally about men. And I’m going to illustrate
what I’m talking about by using the old tech. I’m old school
on some fundamental regards. I make films and I work with high tech, but I’m still old school as an educator, and I want to share with you this exercise that illustrates
on the sentence-structure level how the way that we think,
literally the way that we use language, conspires to keep
our attention off of men. This is about domestic
violence in particular, but you can plug in other analogues. This comes from the work
of the feminist linguist Julia Penelope. It starts with a very basic
English sentence: “John beat Mary.” That’s a good English sentence. John is the subject, beat is the verb,
Mary is the object, good sentence. Now we’re going to move
to the second sentence, which says the same thing
in the passive voice. “Mary was beaten by John.” And now a whole lot
has happened in one sentence. We’ve gone from “John beat Mary” to “Mary was beaten by John.” We’ve shifted our focus
in one sentence from John to Mary, and you can see John is very close
to the end of the sentence, well, close to dropping
off the map of our psychic plain. The third sentence, John is dropped, and we have, “Mary was beaten,” and now it’s all about Mary. We’re not even thinking about John,
it’s totally focused on Mary. Over the past generation, the term we’ve used
synonymous with “beaten” is “battered,” so we have “Mary was battered.” And the final sentence in this sequence,
flowing from the others, is, “Mary is a battered woman.” So now Mary’s very identity —
Mary is a battered woman — is what was done to her by John
in the first instance. But we’ve demonstrated that John
has long ago left the conversation. Those of us who work
in the domestic and sexual violence field know that victim-blaming
is pervasive in this realm, which is to say, blaming the person
to whom something was done rather than the person who did it. And we say: why do they
go out with these men? Why are they attracted to them?
Why do they keep going back? What was she wearing at that party?
What a stupid thing to do. Why was she drinking
with those guys in that hotel room? This is victim blaming,
and there are many reasons for it, but one is that our cognitive structure
is set up to blame victims. This is all unconscious. Our whole cognitive structure
is set up to ask questions about women and women’s choices
and what they’re doing, thinking, wearing. And I’m not going to shout down
people who ask questions about women. It’s a legitimate thing to ask. But’s let’s be clear:
Asking questions about Mary is not going to get us anywhere
in terms of preventing violence. We have to ask a different
set of questions. You can see
where I am going with this. The questions are not about Mary,
they’re about John. They include things like,
why does John beat Mary? Why is domestic violence still a big
problem in the US and all over the world? What’s going on?
Why do so many men abuse physically, emotionally, verbally, and other ways, the women and girls, and the men and boys,
that they claim to love? What’s going on with men? Why do so many adult men
sexually abuse little girls and boys? Why is that a common problem
in our society and all over the world today? Why do we hear over and over again about new scandals erupting
in major institutions like the Catholic Church
or the Penn State football program or the Boy Scouts of America,
on and on and on? And then local communities
all over the country and all over the world. We hear about it all the time. The sexual abuse of children. What’s going on with men?
Why do so many men rape women in our society and around the world? Why do so many men rape other men? What is going on with men? And then what is the role
of the various institutions in our society that are helping to produce
abusive men at pandemic rates? Because this isn’t
about individual perpetrators. That’s a naive way to understanding
what is a much deeper and more systematic social problem. The perpetrators aren’t these monsters
who crawl out of the swamp and come into town
and do their nasty business and then retreat into the darkness. That’s a very naive notion, right? Perpetrators are much more normal
than that, and everyday than that. So the question is, what are we doing here
in our society and in the world? What are the roles of various institutions in helping to produce abusive men? What’s the role of religious
belief systems, the sports culture,
the pornography culture, the family structure, economics,
and how that intersects, and race and ethnicity
and how that intersects? How does all this work? And then, once we start making
those kinds of connections and asking those important
and big questions, then we can talk about
how we can be transformative, in other words, how can we do
something differently? How can we change the practices? How can we change
the socialization of boys and the definitions of manhood
that lead to these current outcomes? These are the kind of questions
that we need to be asking and the kind of work
that we need to be doing, but if we’re endlessly focused
on what women are doing and thinking in relationships or elsewhere, we’re not going to get to that piece. I understand that a lot of women who have been trying to speak out
about these issues, today and yesterday
and for years and years, often get shouted down for their efforts. They get called nasty names
like “male-basher” and “man-hater,” and the disgusting
and offensive “feminazi”, right? And you know what all this is about? It’s called kill the messenger. It’s because the women who are standing up and speaking out for themselves
and for other women as well as for men and boys, it’s a statement to them
to sit down and shut up, keep the current system in place, because we don’t like it
when people rock the boat. We don’t like it when people
challenge our power. You’d better sit
down and shut up, basically. And thank goodness
that women haven’t done that. Thank goodness that we live in a world where there’s so much women’s leadership
that can counteract that. But one of the powerful roles
that men can play in this work is that we can say some things
that sometimes women can’t say, or, better yet, we can be heard
saying some things that women often can’t be heard saying. Now, I appreciate that that’s a problem,
it’s sexism, but it’s the truth. So one of the things that I say to men, and my colleagues and I always say this, is we need more men
who have the courage and the strength to start standing up and saying
some of this stuff, and standing with women
and not against them and pretending that somehow
this is a battle between the sexes and other kinds of nonsense. We live in the world together. And by the way, one of the things
that really bothers me about some of the rhetoric
against feminists and others who have built the battered women’s
and rape crisis movements around the world is that somehow, like I said,
that they’re anti-male. What about all the boys who are profoundly
affected in a negative way by what some adult man is doing against
their mother, themselves, their sisters? What about all those boys? What about all the young men and boys who have been traumatized
by adult men’s violence? You know what? The same system that produces
men who abuse women, produces men who abuse other men. And if we want to talk about male victims,
let’s talk about male victims. Most male victims of violence
are the victims of other men’s violence. So that’s something that both women
and men have in common. We are both victims of men’s violence. So we have it in our direct self-interest, not to mention the fact
that most men that I know have women and girls
that we care deeply about, in our families and our friendship
circles and every other way. So there’s so many reasons
why we need men to speak out. It seems obvious saying it
out loud, doesn’t it? Now, the nature of the work
that I do and my colleagues do in the sports culture
and the US military, in schools, we pioneered this approach
called the bystander approach to gender-violence prevention. And I just want to give you
the highlights of the bystander approach, because it’s a big thematic shift, although there’s lots of particulars, but the heart of it is,
instead of seeing men as perpetrators and women as victims, or women as perpetrators, men as victims, or any combination in there. I’m using the gender binary. I know there’s more than men and women,
there’s more than male and female. And there are women who are perpetrators, and of course there are
men who are victims. There’s a whole spectrum. But instead of seeing it
in the binary fashion, we focus on all of us
as what we call bystanders, and a bystander is defined as anybody
who is not a perpetrator or a victim in a given situation, so in other words friends, teammates,
colleagues, coworkers, family members, those of us who are not directly
involved in a dyad of abuse, but we are embedded in social,
family, work, school, and other peer culture relationships with people who might be
in that situation. What do we do? How do we speak up?
How do we challenge our friends? How do we support our friends? But how do we not remain silent
in the face of abuse? Now, when it comes
to men and male culture, the goal is to get men who are not abusive
to challenge men who are. And when I say abusive, I don’t mean just
men who are beating women. We’re not just saying a man whose friend
is abusing his girlfriend needs to stop the guy
at the moment of attack. That’s a naive way
of creating a social change. It’s along a continuum, we’re trying
to get men to interrupt each other. So, for example, if you’re a guy
and you’re in a group of guys playing poker, talking, hanging out,
no women present, and another guy says something sexist
or degrading or harassing about women, instead of laughing along
or pretending you didn’t hear it, we need men to say,
“Hey, that’s not funny. that could be my sister
you’re talking about, and could you joke about something else? Or could you talk about something else? I don’t appreciate that kind of talk.” Just like if you’re a white person and another white person makes
a racist comment, you’d hope, I hope, that white people would interrupt
that racist enactment by a fellow white person. Just like with heterosexism,
if you’re a heterosexual person and you yourself don’t enact
harassing or abusive behaviors towards people of varying
sexual orientations, if you don’t say something in the face
of other heterosexual people doing that, then, in a sense, isn’t your silence
a form of consent and complicity? Well, the bystander approach
is trying to give people tools to interrupt that process and to speak up
and to create a peer culture climate where the abusive behavior
will be seen as unacceptable, not just because it’s illegal,
but because it’s wrong and unacceptable in the peer culture. And if we can get to the place where men who act out in sexist ways
will lose status, young men and boys who act out in sexist and harassing ways
towards girls and women, as well as towards other boys and men, will lose status
as a result of it, guess what? We’ll see a radical
diminution of the abuse. Because the typical perpetrator
is not sick and twisted. He’s a normal guy
in every other way, isn’t he? Now, among the many great
things that Martin Luther King said in his short life was, “In the end, what will hurt the most
is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” In the end, what will hurt the most
is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. There’s been an awful lot
of silence in male culture about this ongoing tragedy
of men’s violence against women and children, hasn’t there? There’s been an awful lot of silence. And all I’m saying is that we need
to break that silence, and we need more men to do that. Now, it’s easier said than done, because I’m saying it now, but I’m telling you
it’s not easy in male culture for guys to challenge each other, which is one of the reasons why part of the paradigm shift
that has to happen is not just understanding
these issues as men’s issues, but they’re also
leadership issues for men. Because ultimately, the responsibility
for taking a stand on these issues should not fall
on the shoulders of little boys or teenage boys in high school
or college men. It should be on adult men with power. Adult men with power are the ones
we need to be holding accountable for being leaders on these issues, because when somebody
speaks up in a peer culture and challenges and interrupts, he or she is being a leader, really. But on a big scale,
we need more adult men with power to start prioritizing these issues, and we haven’t seen that yet, have we? Now, I was at a dinner
a number of years ago, and I work extensively
with the US military, all the services. And I was at this dinner
and this woman said to me — I think she thought
she was a little clever — she said, “So how long have you been doing
sensitivity training with the Marines?” And I said, “With all due respect, I don’t do sensitivity training
with the Marines. I run a leadership program
in the Marine Corps.” Now, I know it’s a bit
pompous, my response, but it’s an important distinction, because I don’t believe
that what we need is sensitivity training. We need leadership training,
because, for example, when a professional coach or a manager
of a baseball team or a football team — and I work extensively
in that realm as well — makes a sexist comment,
makes a homophobic statement, makes a racist comment, there will be discussions on the sports
blogs and in sports talk radio. And some people will say,
“He needs sensitivity training.” Other people will say, “Well, get off it. That’s political correctness run amok, he made a stupid statement, move on.” My argument is, he doesn’t need
sensitivity training. He needs leadership training, because he’s being a bad leader, because in a society with gender diversity
and sexual diversity — (Applause) and racial and ethnic diversity, you make those kind of comments,
you’re failing at your leadership. If we can make this point that I’m making to powerful men and women in our society at all levels of institutional
authority and power, it’s going to change
the paradigm of people’s thinking. You know, for example, I work a lot in college
and university athletics throughout North America. We know so much about how to prevent
domestic and sexual violence, right? There’s no excuse
for a college or university to not have domestic and sexual
violence prevention training mandated for all student athletes,
coaches, administrators, as part of their educational process. We know enough to know
that we can easily do that. But you know what’s missing?
The leadership. But it’s not the leadership
of student athletes. It’s the leadership
of the athletic director, the president of the university,
the people in charge who make decisions about resources and who make decisions about priorities
in the institutional settings. That’s a failure, in most cases,
of men’s leadership. Look at Penn State. Penn State is the mother of all teachable
moments for the bystander approach. You had so many situations in that realm where men in powerful
positions failed to act to protect children, in this case, boys. It’s unbelievable, really. But when you get into it,
you realize there are pressures on men. There are constraints
within peer cultures on men, which is why we need to encourage men
to break through those pressures. And one of the ways to do that is to say there’s an awful lot of men
who care deeply about these issues. I know this, I work with men, and I’ve been working
with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of men
for many decades now. It’s scary, when you think
about it, how many years. But there’s so many men
who care deeply about these issues, but caring deeply is not enough. We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength,
with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence
and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them. By the way, we owe it to women. There’s no question about it. But we also owe it to our sons. We also owe it to young men
who are growing up all over the world in situations where they didn’t
make the choice to be a man in a culture that tells them
that manhood is a certain way. They didn’t make the choice. We that have a choice, have an opportunity
and a responsibility to them as well. I hope that, going forward, men and women, working together, can begin the change and the transformation that will happen so that future generations
won’t have the level of tragedy that we deal with on a daily basis. I know we can do it, we can do better. Thank you very much.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. I truly hope this man never goes through a divorce process or child custody….. gender violence is not a male or women issue it's a human issue.

  2. I was just about to beat up my girlfriend but then this video showed up in my suggestions. Now I am a changed man.

  3. The really sad part about all of this is just how horribly human life has been damaged by violence. Women have been oppressed. But also, men have had their true potential deflated. They wont ever know how it feels to be truly loved.

  4. Why even say men's issue or women's issue. Just say societal issue so it doesn't start from a point of group division.

  5. His words are amazing. He is saying everything that would be labeled as "male bashing" if he were female. This presentation is clever. I want to see more presentations like this from men 🙂

  6. This video is excellent!
    South Africa is in a crisis of gender- based violence right now.
    If we can get and keep the conversations going, this crisis in our country will start to turn around.

    This is definitely worth the listen, especially for men.

  7. You and messages like yours is what creates violent men. Teeling men to do not embrace their nature is what creates weak men, thus, some of them will become violent because they cannot handle life challenges.
    If you want to debate this in public, It will be a pleasure.

  8. bit hard for a victim to beleive this bloke . being one myself for 6yrs the ex using the kids to get things her way instead of our way she never wanted to work but wanted control of money .the mind games were so bad it makes you see how some men commit the crimes they do .i was hospitalised for 7 months out of 12 n my doct couldnt work out why .in the end after having a pacemaker fitted and open heart surgery the docts n nurses worked out what was happening n i was lucky to get out with my life.back then the docts said i wasnt going to last another 2 yrs but after she was caught n did the runner i havent been in hosp since only for a battery change .oh btw i had a total n permanent disability payout coming worth alot of money n the police said it was that she was after .so the bloke above can preach as much as he wants about how great women are but in my eyes my mum n sis are the only ones i can trust .

  9. When he said I'm using gender binary because I know there's more that men and women and male and female . I couldn't take what he was saying seriously. Like really my dude. And you're supposed to be "EDUCATED." You sound like a ??????.

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