Thursday, May 23, 2013

Speak Up Man!

The terminology around gender inequality does not matter. What does matter are our actions.

 I truly relate to the title of this blog post, in fact, this was the name of a recent tweet-a-thon I organized on behalf of the Centre for Social Research. The event focused on the questions: Why should men speak up against violence against women? And also, why don’t men speak up about it? Both questions have direct bearing on workplace inequality—a form of institutional violence. The first question is simple to answer, but the second one is something I still haven’t figured out.

Do men think violence against women is a “women’s issue” fixed within the boundaries of topics only women should be interested in? This can include things like birth control, menstrual cycles, the color pink, soap operas, curtains, gossip, etc. In my personal experience, many men are interested in the topics mentioned above, but are just shy to address them in public.

On a more serious note, do we feel the guilt of belonging to the same clan as the aggressor, the ones who triggered the issue? Or do we end up hiding out of fear of being branded a “feminist,” or “sissy?”

Sadly, some of us still find violence and aggression core values of being a “man.” I have been in many discussions where there are men who are quite OK with being violent towards their partners. They do not see what’s wrong with a slap or two “to keep her in her place.”

When I think about myself, growing up it was clear to me that violence against women is wrong but I was shy to enter any discussion about it because of the complicated terms like “gender-based violence” or “patriarchal norms” that would always pop up. So it was my lack of information about this terminology which made me hesitant. I think for a majority of men this is the main reason we do not speak up: a lack of confidence, or a fear of looking like we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Over the past few years my understanding about the topic has increased immensely and so has my clarity on the terminology used. The more I learn about “gender-based violence,” I realize that over the past 40 years the term “gender” has been almost used as a synonym for “women’s issues.” In turn, this has pushed some men away from engaging in conversations about gender.

Honestly, the terminology around gender inequality does not matter. What does matter are our actions. The first step is to voice our opinion, and this is often the hardest step. But dialogue is the first step towards creating change, learning from others, developing an informed opinion, and in turn, empowering others to speak up.

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