Opinion June 30, 2020
Tired of being that one-dimensional caricature of a man the world tells us to be?
One in five young men between the ages of 16 and 35 consider it a « mitigating condition for rape » if a woman doesn’t explicitly say « no. » Nearly 20 percent of young women say they have experienced someone having sex with them without permission. This is evident from research by I&O Research commissioned by Amnesty International.
Guys, I’m tired. Are you tired? Tired of being that one-dimensional caricature of a man the world tells us to be? The kind that quickly uses their fists, feels stuck and scared but cannot show it. The kind that is tough and strong, that doesn’t show weakness, is always in control. I’m tired of hurting each other, ourselves and women.
Because that’s what the masculinity culture we’ve inherited makes us do. It hurts us. Violence against women is the most common human rights violation in the world. It transcends age, race, religion, nationality and class. In the Netherlands, 41 percent, or nearly half of women, have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. Realize, it’s about two and a half million women. If 22 percent of all women, more than one in five, are victims of physical violence by their partner or ex-partner, more than one million are women. 10 percent of women have experienced rape. Nearly three-quarters of women have experienced sexual harassment. Dear men, realize that there are more than four million women.
Maybe you or I aren’t hitting or harassing you, but guys, we’re still responsible. The perpetrators of this violence are more often men than women. How much more often? Nine out of ten perpetrators of physical or sexual violence against women are men. We are responsible because we belong to the current culture of masculinity that allows this – a culture that says we cannot show fear, we cannot be mistaken, and we have the right to control others, especially women. But that culture is wrong. And unless we actively work to change it, women will continue to be injured.
A culture that tells us not to be afraid is a culture that denies our own humanity. And if we cannot be human, then we become something else.
And what are we afraid of? We fear our fathers, our brothers, our friends, our potential to be our fullest, best, most authentic selves. We fear that we will not do well, that someone will not like us, that we will look weak. We’re afraid to say, « I love you, » or « I’m sorry, » or « I can’t, » or just, « Dude, can you please stop shouting random women on the street? »
Our actions do not have to conform to outdated views of chivalry. We don’t have to intervene to protect women. We have to intervene to control each other – to stop other men.
To give us a push in the right direction, I have already listed a number of actions:
- Speak up and don’t be a silent bystander. Do you see something happening address the person who is wrong. Remember that our silence is an affirmation. If we choose not to speak out against the violence of men, we support it.
- Recognize and understand how sexism, male domination and male privileges are the foundation of all forms of violence against women.
- Break the “man box” – challenge traditional images of masculinity that prevent us from actively coming up to end violence against women.
- Challenge men who use sexist language and joke about women.
- Ask a woman how the threat of violence affects her life, what the numbers I just mentioned mean, what their experiences are; how they would like to be heard and seen, helped. Because all the domestic violence and cyber violence of men against women does not stop if the story remains with statistics. Turn facts into stories around you.
- Think about how our attitude and language contribute to the problems of female abuse.
- Recognize that domestic violence is the responsibility of every man. Call 112. Domestic violence is not a private matter – it is a crime.
- Acknowledge that degrading images of women in the media are linked to violence against women.
- Speak out to artists who promote violence against women in their videos and music.
- Talk to and teach boys and young men about healthy relationships. Walk the conversation and be a good role model.
- Accept and take our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men are part of the solution to end it. We must play an active role in creating a cultural and social change that no longer tolerates violence against women.
- Stop supporting the idea that male violence against women is due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependence, stress, etc. Violence against women is rooted in the historical oppression of women and the outgrowth of the socialization of men.
- Join other involved men and women to tackle gender violence through groups such as EMANCIPATOR.
It starts with interrupting and changing the way we bond as men, creating a new culture of brotherhood.
By challenging male conformity, we place the responsibility to end violence against women where it belongs – with the men who commit it. The solution is not only to stand up for women, but also to hold men accountable. We can do that at any time – on public roads, on the metro, at the dining table, at the game, on the bus, at the bar, with ourselves.
So yes, dear boys and men. Do you want to start something? Let’s start a movement – a movement of men who are not afraid to stop violence against women.