The Macho Paradox
"In reality, 'real men' can be very selective about what truths
they are willing to confront. Until recently, men as a group have
been largely AWOL from the fight against gender violence. In one
sense, it is easy to see why. Men's violence against women is a
pervasive social phenomenon with deep roots in existing personal,
social, and institutional arrangements. In order for people to
understand and ultimately work together to prevent it, it is first
necessary for them to engage in a great deal of introspection. This
introspection can be especially threatening to men, because as
perpetrators and bystanders, they are responsible for the bulk of the
Jackson Katz, author of The Macho Paradox: How Some Men Hurt
Women And How All Men Can Help, has lectured on college campuses about
the pervasiveness of men's violence against women for decades. In one
exercise he asks first men and then women what they do on a daily
basis to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted. The guys,
not surprisingly, usually don't have much to say. Many don't give any
thought to the matter. The women, however, have a litany: "Hold my
keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before
getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don't go jogging at night..."
Katz states his thesis clearly and succinctly at the beginning
of his first chapter: although we are conditioned not to realize
this, violence against women is a men's issue. Men are overwhelmingly
the perpetrators. They also often give tacit consent to micro and
sometimes larger aggressions as silent bystanders. Most men have
important women in their lives who have been victimized or can be in
...not to mention that without active partnership on the part of
men there will not be an awful lot of progress.
Katz shows us how many conventions of our society make achieving
this partnership to be a real uphill struggle. Language that focuses
on the woman, say in a rape trial, makes the male perpetrator
practically invisible. What was she wearing? Was she sexually
active? Making sexual violence seen as solely caused by individual
pathology ignores the huge role of social customs and gives most guys
a "I don't rape women. Nothing to do with me" free pass.
Not so fast, Katz would say. Even the nice guys who do not
agress against women benefit from the system in much the same way that
non racist Caucasions are unfairly advantaged by white privilege.
Fortunately he discusses a number of ways that men can be enlisted in
I think The Macho Paradox is a men's must read.
On a personal note, the week before my birthday I donated blood which
went very well (except that the rest of the day I felt like I'd had a
few beers and I couldn't do much at community garden). The next day,
rested and hydrated back to my usual self, I volunteered at the canteen.
A great big shout goes out to the Red Cross nurses and my fellow donors.
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