Wednesday, 4 April 2007

The Missing Link

Posted by Jennifer Drew
Researcher in Male Sexual Violence Against Women

Consider how the following sentences all focus on women and girls and omit naming the perpetrators. X number of women and girls were raped last year. How many teenage girls have been in abusive relationships? How many women have experienced domestic violence within the last year? Here are the same sentences again but with a slight difference. Males raped X number of women and girls last year. How many boys have sexually abused their girlfriends? How many men have sexually/physically abused their female partners within the last year?

The difference is the first group of sentences depict women and girls as passive victims. The second group names the gender responsible for acts of sexual and physical violence against women and girls.

One of the most pernicious aspects of male violence against women and girls is its continued invisibility. The phrase ‘violence against women’ or ‘domestic violence’ tells us nothing apart from the fact women experience violence. But just who are committing these acts? Can it be other women? Or perhaps women are abusing themselves. The media too collaborates in taking a gender neutral stance wherein it is always ‘people’ or ‘youths’ who have committed violence. Of course those taboo words ‘male or men’ must on no account be used, as attention will then focus rightly on to the perpetrators’ actions and not the victims.

But there is no such taboo against the words ‘women or girls.’ Naming the female gender is central whenever the media reports such acts of violence. As in ‘a woman committed violence’ or ‘a teenage girl hit someone.’ Victim blaming is very popular for a number of reasons, but the primary one is to remove attention from men’s and boys’ accountability. It also reinforces the message that (male) violence against women is solely a female issue and effectively makes invisible males’ central role in violence against women and girls.

Challenging male violence against women and girls is vital but unless the gender of the perpetrators is always named, nothing will change. Refusing to name the gender primarily responsible for (male) violence against women, means we are inadvertently colluding in hiding and excusing male accountability. Of course not all men and boys commit violent acts against women and girls, but the fact remains many do. How boys and men are socialised into what is perceived as ‘natural’ masculinities must be constantly challenged.

Links: - Men, Masculinities & Gender Politics (Note site is currently being reconstructed)

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home