Welcome to our November monthly column. This month our contribution comes from Kevin McNichol, Executive Director of HomeFront in Calgary. HomeFront is a non-profit organization that provides support to families suffering from domestic violence. To visit the website of the HomeFront, see http://homefrontcalgary.com/ .
Despite our progress in reducing domestic homicides in Canada over the last 30 years, the reported rates of domestic violence continue to show that violence committed by males toward family members and male violence in general remains a major social problem.
Our failure to meaningfully address this problem is compounded by a lack of understanding surrounding the whole of the issue. For example, there remain many myths about violence that impair our understanding. One of the more popular myths about domestic violence – particularly amongst men – is that it is a women’s problem and that it is not an issue that men have to deal with.
According to Dr. Jackson Katz, co-founder of the Mentors In Violence Prevention (MVP), speaking about domestic violence as a women’s issue excuses men by default, from joining the conversation. Furthermore, Dr. Katz says that the socialization of males into society’s “man box” often prevents men from taking part in things typically deemed feminine.
Additionally, our efforts to engage men in conversations about men’s violence have been ineffectual, as they can unwittingly “demonize” all men portraying us as perpetrators and leaving participants feeling shame, guilt, and anger. Gender sensitization programs are often minimally impactful, as many men are already sensitive to and can recognize sexist, abusive behaviour. Their silence and lack of action is related to the uncertainty of being backed up by their peers if they take action. Sensitivity programs also create confusion by challenging both the healthy and unhealthy expectations of men living in the “man box” but offering few meaningful alternate options. Finally, there are few safe places for men to discuss the morale crises they find themselves in trying to live-up to the competing expectations of the “man box” and gender sensitivity programming. Leaving men feeling alienated and alone in trying to grapple with the issues they face. Continue reading