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Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it's a men's issue

November 30, 2012

Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called "women’s issues.” But in this bold, blunt talk, Jackson Katz points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues -- and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. A clarion call for us all -- women and men -- to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.

Jackson Katz - Anti-sexism educator
Jackson Katz asks a very important question that gets at the root of why sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse remain a problem: What's going on with men? Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I'm going to share with you
00:12
a paradigm-shifting perspective
00:13
on the issues of gender violence --
00:15
sexual assault, domestic violence, relationship abuse,
00:17
sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children.
00:20
That whole range of issues that I'll refer to in shorthand
00:22
as "gender violence issues,"
00:24
they've been seen as women's issues that some good men
00:26
help out with, but I have a problem with that frame
00:29
and I don't accept it.
00:32
I don't see these as women's issues that some good men help out with.
00:32
In fact, I'm going to argue that these are men's issues,
00:36
first and foremost.
00:38
(Applause)
00:40
Now obviously, they're also women's issues,
00:43
so I appreciate that, but calling
00:45
gender violence a women's issue is part of the problem,
00:47
for a number of reasons.
00:50
The first is that it gives men an excuse not to pay attention.
00:52
Right? A lot of men hear the term "women's issues"
00:55
and we tend to tune it out, and we think,
00:57
"Hey, I'm a guy. That's for the girls," or "That's for the women."
00:59
And a lot of men literally don't get beyond the first sentence
01:01
as a result.
01:04
It's almost like a chip in our brain is activated,
01:06
and the neural pathways take our attention in a different direction
01:08
when we hear the term "women's issues."
01:11
This is also true, by the way, of the word "gender,"
01:13
because a lot of people hear the word "gender"
01:15
and they think it means "women."
01:17
So they think that gender issues is synonymous with women's issues.
01:19
There's some confusion about the term gender.
01:22
And actually, let me illustrate that confusion by way of analogy.
01:24
So let's talk for a moment about race.
01:28
In the U.S., when we hear the word "race,"
01:29
a lot of people think that means African-American,
01:31
Latino, Asian-American, Native American,
01:34
South Asian, Pacific Islander, on and on.
01:36
A lot of people, when they hear the word "sexual orientation"
01:39
think it means gay, lesbian, bisexual.
01:42
And a lot of people, when they hear the word "gender,"
01:45
think it means women. In each case,
01:47
the dominant group doesn't get paid attention to.
01:48
Right? As if white people don't have some sort of racial identity
01:51
or belong to some racial category or construct,
01:54
as if heterosexual people don't have a sexual orientation,
01:57
as if men don't have a gender.
02:01
This is one of the ways that dominant systems maintain
02:03
and reproduce themselves, which is to say
02:05
the dominant group is rarely challenged to even think about its dominance,
02:07
because that's one of the key characteristics
02:11
of power and privilege, the ability to go unexamined,
02:13
lacking introspection, in fact being rendered invisible
02:16
in large measure in the discourse
02:20
about issues that are primarily about us.
02:22
And this is amazing how this works
02:25
in domestic and sexual violence,
02:27
how men have been largely erased from so much
02:28
of the conversation about a subject
02:30
that is centrally about men.
02:32
And I'm going to illustrate what I'm talking about
02:35
by using the old tech.
02:37
I'm old school on some fundamental regards.
02:38
I work with -- I make films -- and I work with high tech,
02:41
but I'm still old school as an educator,
02:44
and I want to share with you this exercise
02:46
that illustrates on the sentence structure level
02:49
how the way that we think,
02:52
literally the way that we use language,
02:54
conspires to keep our attention off of men.
02:56
This is about domestic violence in particular,
02:58
but you can plug in other analogues.
03:01
This comes from the work of the feminist linguist Julia Penelope.
03:04
It starts with a very basic English sentence:
03:07
"John beat Mary."
03:09
That's a good English sentence.
03:13
John is the subject. Beat is the verb.
03:14
Mary is the object. Good sentence.
03:16
Now we're going to move to the second sentence,
03:18
which says the same thing in the passive voice.
03:19
"Mary was beaten by John."
03:22
And now a whole lot has happened in one sentence.
03:29
We've gone from "John beat Mary"
03:31
to "Mary was beaten by John."
03:34
We've shifted our focus in one sentence from John to Mary,
03:35
and you can see John is very close to the end of the sentence,
03:39
well, close to dropping off the map of our psychic plain.
03:42
The third sentence, John is dropped,
03:44
and we have, "Mary was beaten,"
03:46
and now it's all about Mary.
03:50
We're not even thinking about John. It's totally focused on Mary.
03:52
Over the past generation, the term we've used
03:54
synonymous with "beaten" is "battered,"
03:56
so we have "Mary was battered."
03:58
And the final sentence in this sequence,
04:02
flowing from the others, is,
04:05
"Mary is a battered woman."
04:06
So now Mary's very identity -- Mary is a battered woman --
04:09
is what was done to her by John in the first instance.
04:16
But we've demonstrated that John has long ago left the conversation.
04:19
Now, those of us who work in the domestic and sexual violence
04:22
field know that victim-blaming is pervasive in this realm,
04:24
which is to say, blaming the person to whom something was done
04:28
rather than the person who did it.
04:31
And we say things like, why do these women go out with these men?
04:32
Why are they attracted to these men?
04:34
Why do they keep going back? What was she wearing at that party?
04:35
What a stupid thing to do. Why was she drinking
04:38
with that group of guys in that hotel room?
04:39
This is victim blaming, and there are numerous reasons for it,
04:43
but one of them is that our whole cognitive structure
04:46
is set up to blame victims. This is all unconscious.
04:48
Our whole cognitive structure is set up to ask questions
04:50
about women and women's choices and what they're doing,
04:52
thinking, and wearing.
04:55
And I'm not going to shout down people who ask questions
04:57
about women, okay? It's a legitimate thing to ask.
04:58
But's let's be clear: Asking questions about Mary
05:01
is not going to get us anywhere in terms of preventing violence.
05:04
We have to ask a different set of questions.
05:06
You can see where I'm going with this, right?
05:08
The questions are not about Mary. They're about John.
05:10
The questions include things like, why does John beat Mary?
05:13
Why is domestic violence still a big problem
05:16
in the United States and all over the world?
05:18
What's going on? Why do so many men abuse,
05:20
physically, emotionally, verbally, and other ways,
05:22
the women and girls, and the men and boys,
05:25
that they claim to love? What's going on with men?
05:27
Why do so many adult men sexually abuse little girls and little boys?
05:30
Why is that a common problem in our society
05:33
and all over the world today?
05:35
Why do we hear over and over again
05:37
about new scandals erupting in major institutions
05:39
like the Catholic Church or the Penn State football program
05:42
or the Boy Scouts of America, on and on and on?
05:45
And then local communities all over the country
05:48
and all over the world, right? We hear about it all the time.
05:50
The sexual abuse of children.
05:53
What's going on with men? Why do so many men rape women
05:55
in our society and around the world?
05:57
Why do so many men rape other men?
05:59
What is going on with men?
06:02
And then what is the role of the various institutions
06:03
in our society that are helping to produce abusive men
06:07
at pandemic rates?
06:10
Because this isn't about individual perpetrators.
06:11
That's a naive way to understanding what is a much deeper
06:13
and more systematic social problem.
06:15
You know, the perpetrators aren't these
06:17
monsters who crawl out of the swamp
06:19
and come into town and do their nasty business
06:21
and then retreat into the darkness.
06:23
That's a very naive notion, right?
06:25
Perpetrators are much more normal than that,
06:28
and everyday than that.
06:30
So the question is, what are we doing here
06:31
in our society and in the world?
06:35
What are the roles of various institutions
06:36
in helping to produce abusive men?
06:38
What's the role of religious belief systems,
06:40
the sports culture, the pornography culture,
06:42
the family structure, economics, and how that intersects,
06:45
and race and ethnicity and how that intersects?
06:47
How does all this work?
06:49
And then, once we start making those kinds of connections
06:51
and asking those important and big questions,
06:54
then we can talk about how we can be transformative,
06:56
in other words, how can we do something differently?
06:59
How can we change the practices?
07:01
How can we change the socialization of boys
07:03
and the definitions of manhood that lead to these current outcomes?
07:05
These are the kind of questions that we need
07:09
to be asking and the kind of work that we need to be doing,
07:11
but if we're endlessly focused on what women are doing
07:13
and thinking in relationships or elsewhere,
07:16
we're not going to get to that piece.
07:18
Now, I understand that a lot of women
07:21
who have been trying to speaking out about these issues,
07:23
today and yesterday and for years and years,
07:25
often get shouted down for their efforts.
07:27
They get called nasty names like "male-basher"
07:30
and "man-hater,"
07:32
and the disgusting and offensive "feminazi." Right?
07:34
And you know what all this is about?
07:41
It's called kill the messenger.
07:43
It's because the women who are standing up
07:44
and speaking out for themselves and for other women
07:46
as well as for men and boys, it's a statement to them
07:48
to sit down and shut up, keep the current system in place,
07:52
because we don't like it when people rock the boat.
07:55
We don't like it when people challenge our power.
07:57
You'd better sit down and shut up, basically.
07:58
And thank goodness that women haven't done that.
08:02
Thank goodness that we live in a world
08:04
where there's so much women's leadership that can counteract that.
08:05
But one of the powerful roles that men can play in this work
08:08
is that we can say some things
08:11
that sometimes women can't say,
08:13
or, better yet, we can be heard saying some things
08:14
that women often can't be heard saying.
08:16
Now, I appreciate that that's a problem. It's sexism.
08:19
But it's the truth. And so one of the things that I say to men,
08:22
and my colleagues and I always say this,
08:24
is we need more men who have the courage and the strength
08:26
to start standing up and saying some of this stuff,
08:28
and standing with women and not against them
08:31
and pretending that somehow this is
08:33
a battle between the sexes and other kinds of nonsense.
08:34
We live in the world together.
08:37
And by the way, one of the things that really bothers me
08:39
about some of the rhetoric against feminists and others
08:41
who have built the battered women's
08:44
and rape crisis movements around the world
08:45
is that somehow, like I said, that they're anti-male.
08:48
What about all the boys who are profoundly affected
08:50
in a negative way by what some adult man is doing
08:53
against their mother, themselves, their sisters?
08:55
What about all those boys?
08:58
What about all the young men and boys
09:00
who have been traumatized by adult men's violence?
09:02
You know what? The same system that produces
09:04
men who abuse women produces men who abuse other men.
09:06
And if we want to talk about male victims,
09:09
let's talk about male victims.
09:10
Most male victims of violence are the victims of other men's violence.
09:12
So that's something that both women and men have in common.
09:15
We are both victims of men's violence.
09:18
So we have it in our direct self-interest,
09:20
not to mention the fact that most men that I know
09:22
have women and girls that we care deeply about,
09:25
in our families and our friendship circles and every other way.
09:27
So there's so many reasons why we need men to speak out.
09:31
It seems obvious saying it out loud. Doesn't it?
09:34
Now, the nature of the work that I do and my colleagues do
09:37
in the sports culture and the U.S. military, in schools,
09:41
we pioneered this approach called the bystander approach
09:44
to gender violence prevention.
09:47
And I just want to give you the highlights of the bystander approach,
09:49
because it's a big thematic shift,
09:51
although there's lots of particulars,
09:55
but the heart of it is, instead of seeing men as perpetrators
09:56
and women as victims,
10:00
or women as perpetrators, men as victims,
10:02
or any combination in there.
10:05
I'm using the gender binary. I know there's more
10:07
than men and women, there's more than male and female.
10:08
And there are women who are perpetrators,
10:10
and of course there are men who are victims.
10:12
There's a whole spectrum.
10:14
But instead of seeing it in the binary fashion,
10:16
we focus on all of us as what we call bystanders,
10:18
and a bystander is defined as anybody who is not
10:21
a perpetrator or a victim in a given situation,
10:24
so in other words friends, teammates, colleagues,
10:27
coworkers, family members, those of us
10:29
who are not directly involved in a dyad of abuse,
10:32
but we are embedded in social, family, work, school,
10:35
and other peer culture relationships with people
10:38
who might be in that situation. What do we do?
10:40
How do we speak up? How do we challenge our friends?
10:42
How do we support our friends? But how do we not
10:45
remain silent in the face of abuse?
10:47
Now, when it comes to men and male culture,
10:50
the goal is to get men who are not abusive
10:52
to challenge men who are.
10:54
And when I say abusive, I don't mean just
10:56
men who are beating women.
10:58
We're not just saying a man whose friend
10:59
is abusing his girlfriend needs to stop the guy
11:02
at the moment of attack.
11:05
That's a naive way of creating a social change.
11:07
It's along a continuum, we're trying to get men
11:11
to interrupt each other.
11:14
So, for example, if you're a guy and you're in a group of guys
11:15
playing poker, talking, hanging out, no women present,
11:18
and another guy says something sexist or degrading
11:21
or harassing about women,
11:24
instead of laughing along or pretending you didn't hear it,
11:27
we need men to say, "Hey, that's not funny.
11:30
You know, that could be my sister you're talking about,
11:32
and could you joke about something else?
11:34
Or could you talk about something else?
11:36
I don't appreciate that kind of talk."
11:37
Just like if you're a white person and another white person
11:39
makes a racist comment, you'd hope, I hope,
11:42
that white people would interrupt that racist enactment
11:44
by a fellow white person.
11:48
Just like with heterosexism, if you're a heterosexual person
11:49
and you yourself don't enact harassing or abusive behaviors
11:51
towards people of varying sexual orientations,
11:54
if you don't say something in the face of other heterosexual people doing that,
11:57
then, in a sense, isn't your silence
12:00
a form of consent and complicity?
12:02
Well, the bystander approach is trying to give people tools
12:04
to interrupt that process and to speak up
12:06
and to create a peer culture climate
12:09
where the abusive behavior will be seen as unacceptable,
12:11
not just because it's illegal, but because it's wrong
12:13
and unacceptable in the peer culture.
12:16
And if we can get to the place where men
12:18
who act out in sexist ways will lose status,
12:20
young men and boys who act out in sexist
12:23
and harassing ways towards girls and women,
12:25
as well as towards other boys and men,
12:27
will lose status as a result of it, guess what?
12:28
We'll see a radical diminution of the abuse.
12:31
Because the typical perpetrator is not sick and twisted.
12:35
He's a normal guy in every other way. Isn't he?
12:37
Now, among the many great things that Martin Luther King
12:40
said in his short life was,
12:43
"In the end, what will hurt the most
12:45
is not the words of our enemies
12:47
but the silence of our friends."
12:49
In the end, what will hurt the most is not the words
12:50
of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
12:52
There's been an awful lot of silence in male culture
12:55
about this ongoing tragedy of men's violence
12:57
against women and children, hasn't there?
13:00
There's been an awful lot of silence.
13:02
And all I'm saying is that we need to break that silence,
13:03
and we need more men to do that.
13:07
Now, it's easier said than done,
13:09
because I'm saying it now, but I'm telling you it's not easy
13:12
in male culture for guys to challenge each other,
13:15
which is one of the reasons why
13:18
part of the paradigm shift that has to happen
13:19
is not just understanding these issues as men's issues,
13:22
but they're also leadership issues for men.
13:25
Because ultimately, the responsibility for taking a stand
13:27
on these issues should not fall on the shoulders
13:30
of little boys or teenage boys in high school
13:32
or college men. It should be on adult men with power.
13:35
Adult men with power are the ones we need to be holding accountable
13:38
for being leaders on these issues,
13:41
because when somebody speaks up in a peer culture
13:42
and challenges and interrupts, he or she
13:45
is being a leader, really, right?
13:47
But on a big scale, we need more adult men with power
13:50
to start prioritizing these issues,
13:53
and we haven't seen that yet, have we?
13:55
Now, I was at a dinner a number of years ago,
13:57
and I work extensively with the U.S. military, all the services.
14:01
And I was at this dinner and this woman said to me --
14:04
I think she thought she was a little clever -- she said,
14:07
"So how long have you been doing sensitivity training
14:10
with the Marines?"
14:13
And I said, "With all due respect,
14:15
I don't do sensitivity training with the Marines.
14:17
I run a leadership program in the Marine Corps."
14:20
Now, I know it's a bit pompous, my response,
14:23
but it's an important distinction, because I don't believe
14:25
that what we need is sensitivity training.
14:28
We need leadership training, because, for example,
14:30
when a professional coach or a manager of a baseball team
14:32
or a football team -- and I work extensively in that realm as well --
14:35
makes a sexist comment, makes a homophobic statement,
14:38
makes a racist comment, there will be discussions
14:42
on the sports blogs and in sports talk radio.
14:44
And some people will say, "Well, he needs sensitivity training."
14:46
And other people will say, "Well get off it.
14:49
You know, that's political correctness run amok,
14:50
and he made a stupid statement. Move on."
14:52
My argument is, he doesn't need sensitivity training.
14:54
He needs leadership training,
14:57
because he's being a bad leader, because in a society
14:58
with gender diversity and sexual diversity --
15:01
(Applause) —
15:04
and racial and ethnic diversity, you make
15:05
those kind of comments, you're failing at your leadership.
15:07
If we can make this point that I'm making
15:09
to powerful men and women in our society
15:12
at all levels of institutional authority and power,
15:15
it's going to change, it's going to change
15:17
the paradigm of people's thinking.
15:20
You know, for example, I work a lot
15:22
in college and university athletics throughout North America.
15:23
We know so much about how to prevent
15:28
domestic and sexual violence, right?
15:30
There's no excuse for a college or university
15:32
to not have domestic and sexual violence prevention training
15:35
mandated for all student athletes, coaches, administrators,
15:38
as part of their educational process.
15:41
We know enough to know that we can easily do that.
15:43
But you know what's missing? The leadership.
15:45
But it's not the leadership of student athletes.
15:48
It's the leadership of the athletic director,
15:50
the president of the university, the people in charge
15:51
who make decisions about resources
15:54
and who make decisions about priorities in the institutional settings.
15:56
That's a failure, in most cases, of men's leadership.
15:59
Look at Penn State. Penn State is the mother
16:02
of all teachable moments for the bystander approach.
16:06
You had so many situations in that realm
16:08
where men in powerful positions failed to act
16:10
to protect children, in this case, boys.
16:14
It's unbelievable, really. But when you get into it,
16:16
you realize there are pressures on men.
16:19
There are constraints within peer cultures on men,
16:21
which is why we need to encourage men
16:24
to break through those pressures.
16:26
And one of the ways to do that is to say
16:28
there's an awful lot of men who care deeply about these issues.
16:29
I know this. I work with men,
16:32
and I've been working with tens of thousands,
16:33
hundreds of thousands of men for many, many decades now.
16:35
It's scary, when you think about it, how many years.
16:38
But there's so many men who care deeply about these issues,
16:41
but caring deeply is not enough.
16:45
We need more men with the guts,
16:47
with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity
16:50
to break our complicit silence and challenge each other
16:53
and stand with women and not against them.
16:57
By the way, we owe it to women.
16:59
There's no question about it.
17:01
But we also owe it to our sons.
17:02
We also owe it to young men who are growing up
17:04
all over the world in situations where they didn't make the choice
17:06
to be a man in a culture that tells them
17:09
that manhood is a certain way.
17:11
They didn't make the choice.
17:13
We that have a choice have an opportunity
17:14
and a responsibility to them as well.
17:18
I hope that, going forward, men and women,
17:20
working together, can begin the change
17:23
and the transformation that will happen
17:25
so that future generations won't have the level of tragedy
17:27
that we deal with on a daily basis.
17:29
I know we can do it. We can do better.
17:31
Thank you very much. (Applause)
17:33
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

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Jackson Katz - Anti-sexism educator
Jackson Katz asks a very important question that gets at the root of why sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse remain a problem: What's going on with men?

Why you should listen

Jackson Katz is an educator, author, filmmaker and cultural theorist who is a pioneer in the fields of gender violence prevention education and media literacy. He is co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), which enlists men in the struggle to prevent men’s violence against women. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, MVP has become a widely used sexual and domestic violence prevention initiative in college and professional athletics across North America. Katz and his MVP colleagues have also worked extensively with schools, youth sports associations and community organizations, as well as with all major branches of the U.S. military.

Katz is the creator of popular educational videos including Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity. He is the author of The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help and Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood. He has also appeared in several documentaries, including Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes and MissRepresentation.

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