What Men Dare Do! "O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!"

18Oct/101

Recasting Issues from a Masculine Perspective

In popular media, violence against women is something you see a lot.  It might be in the news, but it's also in feminist discussions.  But you don't see it covered from a feminist perspective in the news, and when feminists discuss it, it's usually not from  the non-perpetrator male perspective.

Not that I have a lot of experience as an activist, but I was at a conference once in Boston called EngageMen about getting men involved in movements to reduce violence against women.  There was a great speaker there who talked about using the common experiences of men to talk about violence against women.  When he talked about getting men involved in violence against women, he said not to use the common experiences of victims (women in this context), but to use the experiences of non-perpetrator men to talk about it:

Have you ever walked down a street at night, and seen a woman walking towards on your side of the street?  Before she reaches you, however, she crosses the street, to get on the other side?  Why does she do that?  What does she think and assume about you?  How does that make you feel?

These are questions men don't get asked a lot, but it's something most men can relate to.  Yes, we've been in that situation.  The woman crosses because she fears us.  She fears that she might be attacked by us.

How does that make you feel is usually the interesting question for a group of men.  Confused?  Sad?  All these things, but I frequently hear is angry.  At whom?  The woman?  Society?  Rapists who make her fear?

This is an example of what you might call recasting a traditional feminist issue from a masculine perspective.  There's a lot written about rape and sexual assault in the media and feminism generally, but a lot of it is from a woman's perspective.  It might talk about women fearing walking alone at night, or what the woman wore, or where she went, or how much she drank.  These are experiences that don't resonate as well with a man because it's not experiences men share from our position of privilege.  Men aren't afraid to walk at night.  That's our privilege.  Generally, we don't have to worry about drinking too much, at least not in terms of becoming victims of sexual assault.

But we have been in that position, where we see that woman crossing the street because she fears us.  That's an experience we share, that's a commonality between men and it's something that can be used as a starting point into a discussion on sexual assault.

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