“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” —MLK, Jr.

30 May

Upworthy posted a TED talk by Jackson Katz, co-founder of MVP (Mentors in Violence Prevention: http://www.mvpstrategies.net) that’s worth watching, from beginning to end.

“Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8) takes on not just violence against women, but the way we frame violence against women: note the absence of any identification of the perpetrator in the very phrase “violence against women.”

Katz argues that our collusion in cloaking abusive men in silence and invisibility “is one of the ways that dominant systems maintain and reproduce themselves, which is to say the dominant group is rarely challenged to even think about its dominance because that’s one of the key characteristics of power and privilege: the ability to go unexamined, lacking introspection, in fact being rendered invisible, in large measure, in the discourse about issues that are primarily about us.”

He makes the parallel to whiteness, heterosexuality and other dominant identities (and dominant not necessarily through acts of violence, but through numbers and/or the simple but definitive power of getting to be the norm), which for me raises the question of how hyper-invisible some people who identify with several dominant groups get to be in conversations and action regarding social issues. And I don’t mean erased or rendered invisible the way people who are currently homeless are all too often stepped around or over without a glance. I mean given an unspoken wide berth as we politely (or fearfully) circumnavigate them in our efforts to effect social change. And applauded with deep gratitude at the merest participation when they choose to engage. (Katz addresses this personally in the opening of his talk.)

Katz is spot on when he posits that we don’t have to go running head on screaming at violent men in order to make this their issue. We can actually be more effective by addressing our peer culture climates: the norms and attitudes of our peers that facilitate misogyny, racism, homophobia and classism. (Here, let’s break down “we”: Katz is saying that women and other men need to hold other men accountable. There’s a legitimacy in a woman talking about misogyny. And another, different and complementary legitimacy in a man speaking up.)

In insisting that ending violence against women means a holistic, consistent rejection of not just outright, violent misogyny but also social acceptable sexism, Katz calls for each of us to recognize that we are gendered, that we have agency, and that we have the responsibility and opportunity to end male violence for the sake of women, agender people and men.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: