While not all men perpetrate violence against women, all men can – and should – be part of the solution.
When engaging men to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women, it’s important to use targeted and intersectional approaches that address the drivers of violence.
Engaging effectively with men – guiding principles
Working with men to promote gender equality can be challenging – you can face resistance and backlash.
While some men hold significant power and privilege, others experience discrimination and oppression, such as racism, classism, homophobia and ableism.
It’s important that prevention of violence against women initiatives use targeted and intersectional approaches that reflect the diversity of men in the communities they’re working with.
Our Watch’s Men in focus outlines the below guiding principles for working effectively with men.
- Be intersectional – this means thinking about the ways different men may experience power and privilege, as well as oppression and discrimination.
- Be gender transformative – this means actively challenging dominant ideas of what it means to ‘be a man’ and promoting alternatives based on equality and respect.
- Maintain accountability to women – this means ensuring women’s voices are central in work to engage men.
- Be strengths-based – this means focusing on the values, beliefs and hopes that men hold in relation to gender equality that can be seen as strengths. Many men are already loosening their attachment to masculine stereotypes and value their roles as fathers, sons, brothers, friends and colleagues – and many more would like to.
- Look for solutions across all levels of society – this means thinking about solutions not just at the individual level, but at the level of organisations, institutions and systems.
Addressing the drivers of violence against women
When engaging with men to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women, it’s important to address the drivers of this violence.
Our Watch’s Men in focus practice guide looks at how to do this effectively and provides a range of practical strategies. Some of these include:
Outline the problem of men’s violence against women
Before we can end men’s violence against women, we must first ensure that people know what violence is, its prevalence, its impacts and what drivers it. Name and discuss these – and consider addressing myths about the root causes of violence, such as those relating to alcohol-use and poverty.
Challenge the condoning of violence against women
When aggression and disrespect towards women are seen as natural parts of being ‘one of the boys’, it is more likely violence towards women will be excused. Consider using media examples where violence against women was condoned, or examples from men’s own social settings, to generate discussion and start to challenge these ideas.
Challenge dominant ‘masculinities’
There are many ways to ‘be a man’ (which is why we use ‘masculinities’ as a plural). Masculinities – or the attributes, behaviours and roles associated with being a man – vary across race, culture, age, class and time.
While there isn’t one way of being a man, there are more dominant forms of masculinity that many men feel pressure to conform to and uphold. And rigid adherence to dominant forms of masculinity is a driver of violence against women.
Challenge dominant masculinities with men and boys by introducing concepts like ‘The Man Box’ and generating discussion.
Promote respectful relationships and sexual consent
Gender inequality plays out in relationships through unequal distribution of domestic labour and decision-making power – and even how sex is negotiated.
Initiatives addressing these issues are more often delivered to children and young people – but this does not mean that all adults know how to have equal and respectful relationships.
For adult audiences, consider activities like reviewing how much ‘invisible work’ they do. For young people, consider using the articles, quizzes and videos about sex, dating and relationships on the Line website.
About Our Watch
Our Watch is a national leader in the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. We work to embed gender equality and prevent violence where Australians live, learn, work and socialise.Find more about Our Watch