In my darker moments I think it was inevitable. A young man, wired with hate and fear, pulled the trigger on 14 women’s lives. It was inevitable not because men are naturally violent. There was something else at work.
There are those who think that men are predisposed to aggression and brutality. That’s the 2001: A Space Odyssey view of human nature. Good movie, but with anthropology as flimsy as the Flintstones. Researchers tell us that half of tribal societies investigated over the past century had no, or very low levels of, violence. Some had no rape. No battering. No fist fights. No war. This is the best proof we have that humans in general, and men in particular, are not genetically programmed for violence against each other.
But that’s not much solace for the woman I met two weeks ago in a small farming community who told me her husband beat her every few months.
We’re surrounded by violence. Kids take it in with their first mouthful of pablum. They’ll see 18,000 violent deaths on television by the time they graduate from high school.
They’ll watch physical brutality in prime-time sports and learn that “bullets and bombs” make gridiron heroes. They’ll hear our respected political leaders tell us why we need to start a new war. They’ll be spanked by their parents and learn that violence and love go hand-in-hand. If it’s not biologically innate, then violence must be something we learn.
But that’s not much solace for the friend I spoke to last night who told me about being date raped when she was 17.
Anthropologists gives us a clue how we might begin to change things. They tell us that the societies with little or no violence were more-or-less egalitarian. Men didn’t control women and no man ruled another. They tell us that societies with more violence have been societies of male domination. There must be something about the way that men have ruled the world that begets violence.
It’s not only that men have used violence to maintain power and control over women, children and other men. Men have learned to think of power as our ability to dominate and control the world, the people around us, and our own unruly emotions.
This power is equated with masculinity. We exercise power in different ways: with money or ideas, charm or chance, brains or brute force. Whatever the method, we learn that to be a man means having some sort of power and control. Most men are not violent, but most of us feel we have to perform and be on top at least somewhere in our lives.
The problem is that so many men don’t feel in control. If you equate being a man with having power, a lack of power can make you feel incomplete, inadequate, impotent.
What do men do about that? Far too many use harassment, abuse, and violence as a way to unconsciously restore their masculine equilibrium, their sense they really are men. Harassers, rapists, batterers, and murderers of women are not simply deranged. They’re men in pain who bought the message that they’ve got to dominate to be men.
But that bit of analysis is no solace for the old woman stabbed to death across town.
It does, however, contain a message for change. Men’s violence occurs in societies of inequality between men and women. That’s why the struggle against men’s violence is part of feminism and why feminism is the critical tool for ridding the world of violence.
Feminism is a vision of equality between women and men. It is a vision of liberation for women. It is, as more and more men are discovering, a vision of liberation for men ourselves. It promises to free men from the power struggles, performance anxieties, competitive pressures, emotional distance from children, men, and women, and violence that characterizes all of our lives to one extent or another.
That’s why, every year, millions of men and boys in Canada and in a growing number of countries around the world wear a white ribbon. It’s a call on men to lay down their arms in the war against women. It’s a commitment to examine sexism in our own lives. It’s a statement that men aren’t just part of the problem but part of the solution.
That’s no solace to the 14 sisters we lost in Montreal. But it is a message of hope for the future.
Guys Guide to Feminism…The Talk
Yes, you’ve heard the rumors: Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling are teaming up with Steven Spielberg to make the movie version of this year’s indie-hit book. Ah, rumors… Which brings us to the reason for
"Guy’s Guide to Feminism … The Talk" because this is exactly how you’ll get co-author Michael Kaufman to your campus or community for an incomparable night of humor, serious conversation, story-telling, and hard-hitting analysis. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
MICHAEL’S FACEBOOK PAGE
The Possibility of Dreaming on a Night Without Stars
First published by Viking/Penguin, now out as an eBook for Kindle, Apple iBook, Kobo, Nook, and other tablets. Click here to read reviews, download a free excerpt, or order today
- In Australia on the Path to Greatness
- The Real Republican Strategy: Crazy Like Foxes?
- Do Men Hate Women? (Talking About Misogyny)
- Education after Steubenville: The 4 Rules of Sexual Consent
- International Women’s Day….A Letter of Love From Men
- Thousands Gathering at United Nations With One Message: End Violence Against Women & Girls!
- Feminism: Helping Men Be Free
- Valentine’s Day: Flowers Are Fine, But Here are 6 Keys to Good Relationships!
- Men: Which Side Will You Be On? Sexual Violence in India
- Eight Steps to Presidential Greatness
- Republican Party Rape Advisory Chart
- What is Healthy Masculinity?
- Rape & Women’s Voice
- Saudi Arabia: How About a Segregated City for Men?
- Olympic Dreams, Olympic Myths
- LOCKED-OUT SYNDROME STRIKES WOMEN & MEN!
- My Message in the British Parliament: Women Should No Longer Stand Alone
- International Women’s Day…A Letter of Love From Men
- Men for Women’s Choice
- The Five Reasons Why Men Should Control Women’s Reproduction
- APOLOGIES (To Anyone Who May Be Offended By This Blog)
- Killing in the Name of Honor
- Why Are (Some) Men Still Afraid of Feminism?
- The Astoundingly Simple Truth About Masculinity and Goodness
- Men and the Search for Love
- White Ribbon: 20 Years, 1000s of Campaigns to End Violence Against Women
- White Ribbon Campaign: 20 Years Working to End Violence Against Women
- Occupy Minds, Not Real Estate! (And Set Up a Much-Bigger Tent)
- The 0-0-0 Plan for Ending Sexual Harassment!
- In Norway, Gender Equality DOES Extend to the Bedroom
- Occupy the Future! (The 8 Keys to Being the 99%)
- The Guy’s Guide To Feminism
- Soften Up, Men!
- The Two September 11s
- A Man With The Greatest of Hearts: Jack Layton, 1950-2011
- London Burning, Governments Cutting, Wall Street Plunging
- Terror in Norway: An Extraordinary Letter from Oslo
- Summer Sports: Women Rock, Fathers Weep
- 9 Steps to a REAL Father’s Day
- SlutWalk: Anger, Celebration & the Conversation We Need to Have
- Letter from Scotland
- The Stupification of America . . . and Beyond
- An Open Letter from God to Sarah Palin
- The Top Ten List You Wouldn’t Want to Be On
- Nuclear Manhood
- Signs of Hope in Istanbul
- International Women’s Day…a Letter of Love From Men
- Julian Assange: Hero? Creep? Victim? Victimizer?
- Italian Men, Berlusconi, & the Forward March of Women
- Valentine’s Day: Flowers Are Nice, But Dish Out the Respect!
- Hear the Sound of Freedom!
- Why Protests Keep Spreading
- The End of Men
- People as Political Props: the Real State of the Union
- Amazing White Ribbon Campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific … and Antarctica
- December 6, 1989: The Day Canada Changed Forever
- Interview on engaging men to promote gender equality
- Watch Michael on “Men’s Room”
- Letter from Rio de Janeiro
- US Campus Men’s Conference
- The One Thing We Really Should Do This New Year
- Letter from Riga, Latvia
- Letter from Italy
- Letter from Istanbul, Turkey
- Letter from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
- New Approaches for Ending Sexual Harassment at Work
- Letter from India
- An Act of Collective Love: Why Men Are Working to End Violence Against Women
- Manhood and War
- Letter from China
- Free Book Download: “Cracking the Armour: Power, Pain and the Lives of Men”
- Better Fathering Will Help End Violence
- New Web Site With New Resources
- Building a Movement of Men Working to End Violence Against Women
- The White Ribbon Campaign – Breaking Men’s Silence To End Men’s Violence – Statement of Principles
- The 7 P’s of Men’s Violence
- Better Fathering Will Help End Violence
- Being a man doesn’t have to be a struggle
- Men must abandon notion they are violent by nature
- No public Twitter messages.