Our Watch and “Men in Focus”
Last week, Our Watch released a new report titled “Men in Focus”, which discusses the links between masculinity and violence against women, and the ways to engage men and boys in its prevention.
Our Watch is an independent, not for profit organisation established to drive nationwide change in culture, behaviours and power imbalances to prevent violence against women and their children.
The research project was commissioned and supported by the Victorian Government as part of its commitment to help further develop effective strategies in preventing violence against women in Australia as articulated in Free from violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women.
There are key differences in the way men and women perpetrate and/or experience violence, with the majority of violent acts – including physical, sexual, financial, emotional and cultural forms of violence – overwhelmingly perpetrated by men.
This study has shown that prevention efforts require a comprehensive focus on how masculinity and gender inequality operate at all different levels of society, and concludes that prevention efforts should aim to be gender transformative. That is, to actively challenge dominant forms and patterns of masculinity that operate at and across structural, systemic, organisational, community, interpersonal and individual levels of society.
Dominant forms and patterns of masculinity work to maintain an overall system of gender inequality – that is, the power men as a group have over women as a group- and they also help to drive violence against women. However, it is also important to recognise that masculinity itself is a social construction that shifts and changes over time and place. A focus on intersectionality and on structural-based approaches is important for understanding differences among men and how these differences shape men’s violence against women. Further, this emphasis highlights the limitations of approaches that are essentialist and binary-driven – approaches that rely on, uphold and naturalise the gender binary. Such approaches can impede prevention efforts that seek to challeng e gender norms, structures and practices, and can also exclude and negatively impact trans, gender diverse and intersex people.
In addressing these inequalities, the study illustrates the importance of increasing men and boys’ awareness and ability to reflect. Education-based programs are designed to encourage reflection, and to build knowledge of and capacity to actively challenge dominant forms of masculinity to help prevent violence against women.
The study maintains that well-designed programs and initiatives that effectively engage men and boys to reflect on and challenge dominant forms of masculinity can contribute to the reduction and prevention of violence against women. Such programs endeavour to assist men and boys in understanding the concept of masculinity on a deeper conceptual level, in the hopes that such an understanding will assist in the deconstruction of dominant, gender-based inequality.
The complete report can be found here: https://www.ourwatch.org.au/getmedia/47bd1d32-4099-4bbf-85d1-c09e5d982877/Men-in-focus-web.pdf.aspx