16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence runs from November 25 to December 10. SUPRA and the SRC believe this is an opportunity to discuss some ways men can join with women in preventing and reducing men’s violence against women and girls. We hope this will contribute to a conversation that places the onus of change on men, and will provide some tools for men in situations related to gender based violence. We also have provided some tips on how to respond to a disclosure of sexual assault.
Gender-based violence, or violence against women, is driven by two major factors. The first is gender inequality, where men are privileged over, and considered more valuable, than women. The second is the gender binary, where women are required to be feminine, and men masculine, and where any shift away from this is met with violence and censure.
So, what can men do in their daily lives to stop gender-based violence?
Scenario One — Your friend says something sexist
Cultural change reduces violence against women and other groups vulnerable to men’s violence. Responding negatively to sexist jokes or comments can shift your social group’s culture. Sometimes you may not feel comfortable responding explicitly, and sometimes you might.
Some options include:
1) Not validating humour that is explicitly or implicitly sexist or offensive by laughing, staying silent, or making excuses.
2) Calling out the joke. For example, say: “What did you mean by that comment?”
3) Taking him aside later, and having a discussion about how comments perpetuate violence against women. Try to bring the focus away from him, and towards the effects of his joke on women.
4) If you don’t think that you can do any of the above, you can try to engage in gentle social response. Start by saying something like “not cool” or “nah mate”. Then physically turn away from him and orient the conversation away from him — let him know he won’t be included or accepted if he makes comments like that.
Scenario Two — Your friend tells you that they have experienced an assault
Disclosing a sexual assault is difficult. Many people choose not to disclose, fearing negative consequences. Your friend is showing a lot of trust and faith in you. How can you support them?
1) Listen to and believe them. You might say: “Thank you for telling me this. I believe you. I’m so sorry that this happened. What happened was not your fault.” Don’t press them for details.
2) Do not centre yourself, or try to ‘fix’ the situation. Be available, non-judgemental, and respectful of your friend’s autonomy and boundaries.
3) Don’t provide unsolicited advice. Instead, ask them: “What can I do to support you?”, “Can I connect you with any resources?” or “Would you like to seek medical attention or report this?” Listen to their needs. Respect their decision.
4) Stay in touch. Before the conversation ends, you might let them know that you care about them and their wellbeing. Hopefully, you’ve created a safe, non-judgemental space where your friend feels comfortable, and is likely to talk to you again if they feel the need. Check in periodically, but don’t be invasive, or create expectations of them.
Resources to check out if you want to make changes
Addressing gender based violence requires work and energy from everyone, but men in particular need to commit to doing work in prevention.
Talk to your friends. Share this article, and send them this resources list if they want to know more: