On Tuesday Oct. 25, educator and author Jackson Katz gave a talk in the CSU Ballroom on a topic that is important to Minnesota State University, Mankato students and their role in the larger world.
Katz’ talk was about gendered violence and how it is a men’s issue just as much as it is a women’s issue.
“Men have been abusive of women, children, and other men for thousands of years, and getting away with it,” said Katz.
Only recently, starting with the feminist movement of the 1970’s, has there been such a thing as a rape crisis center. It is because of women’s leadership that all 50 states have changed the now defunct law in which rape was legal within marriage. In the past, police were not given proper training in how to deal with the crime of rape. Because of the changes brought about by women’s leadership, men and boys have been profoundly affected in positive ways.
The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but Katz claimed that “awareness” is not a strong enough word. A better word would be “action.”
Action against gendered violence is more than just intervening on the scene of a violent act. Action starts with the small things, such as telling men to be more respectful if they are saying degrading comments about women. In order to combat violence or spite towards any particular group of people, we must develop a new culture of respect for the dignity of all people.
Katz advocated for a “paradigm shift” in which the language we use to talk about rape is restructured. Language keeps us stuck in a pattern, especially when the passive voice is used in gendered violence (i.e. women were raped, girls were harassed, etc.). The passive voice shifts the blame on to the victims and the people impacted.
What’s worse is that over the past decade, using “victim” or even “alleged victim” in a case is now obsolete; the word “accuser” is used instead. People were once able to sympathize better with the victim, but with the word “accuser,” people can become more sympathetic to the perpetrator. This language is shifting how we see the world and how we view the victims of crimes of rape, abuse, and violence.
In order to bring about this paradigm shift, men need to stand with women in the battle against men’s violence and abuse. It should not be entirely on victims to solve the problem and address these issues. This is not a fight of women against men, or men against women, but a cooperation between men and women to bring about the greater good for each other. A man in a position of leadership must be educated about these issues, and use their position of leadership to influence others.
Male athletes of professional or local sports teams can use their popularity in their community or nation to speak out against gendered violence. By opening up space in athletics to reach out to the larger community, sports can become an important vehicle for social change. This is using sports in a positive way, in that a person with a platform can influence others to bring about justice and equality.
Society needs men who live out true masculinity, with the courage and strength to say, “You can’t treat women like this.” The violence goes beyond just “locker room talk;” it has become a part of male culture. Any MNSU student could end up in a professional workplace in which gendered abuse is taking place. It takes courage to stand up to these abusive behaviors and to speak out about it, but the victims of abuse and rape deserve that type of courage.
One must remember that peace starts in the family and in the home. According to Katz, “in the past seven years, 58 percent of mass shooters had a history of either witnessing or partaking in domestic violence.”
Anyone who wants to start a family or work with children must establish an environment of mutual respect and understanding to help the children grow to be responsible and peaceable adults.