Hurting men, the argument goes, should negate hurting women. As long as everyone is being treated with equal violence, gender is irrelevant, and we can go back to enjoying murder and mayhem untroubled by conscience, or, indeed, thought. So goes the argument. Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, in the original comic by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, is gut shot, stripped naked, and photographed by the Joker as part of his plot to terrorize her father. Inevitably, some folks leaped to defend gut-shooting as egalitarian entertainment.
After all, Barbara is not the only person killed or humiliated in the original comic. The Joker casually kills numerous men over the course of the story, as the Joker is wont to do. He strips Gordon naked and forces him to view pictures of his nude daughter with a gaping wound in her stomach. Men are killed; men are tortured. The brutal violence against Barbara Gordon is, therefore, simply par for the course in a brutal comic book world. Batman and Superman spend most of Batman v Superman beating the crap out of each other.
In the shark attack film The Shallows , numerous men are bloodily devoured. And so forth. Men dying: audiences love it. Violence against men and violence against women are both common in genre entertainment. When women are targeted for violence, that violence is overwhelmingly sexual. In the cartoon version, the main male antagonist of the first half hour keeps up a steady stream of sexual remarks directed at Batgirl. As a result, their physical confrontations are suffused with sexual threat — a threat almost never present when male heroes like Batman fight villains.
Sexualization makes violence against women exciting, important — and motivating. The Joker violates Barbara to humiliate her father. Violence against men works differently. Heroes or villains kill other men casually, as a way of showing how tough they are.
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And heroes and villains suffer violence stoically, also as a way of showing how tough they are. Next, there was an apparent struggle between Rayshon and this man. She was battered and bruised, then blown away as well.
Why violence against women in film is not the same as violence against men
Just like that. Because I have known the Baraka family for years, this double murder was especially difficult to handle. It was the saddest funeral I have ever attended in my life. Two tiny women in two tiny caskets. I howled so hard and long that I doubled over in pain in the church pew and nearly fell to the floor beneath the pew in front of me.
Violence against women and girls knows no race, no color, no class background, no religion. I cannot begin to tell you how many women--from preteens to senior citizens and multiple ages in between--have told me of their battering at the hands of a male, usually someone they knew very well, or what is commonly referred to as an intimate partner.
Why have these women and girls shared these experiences with me, a man? I feel it is because, through the years, I have been brutally honest, in my writings and speeches and workshops, in admitting that the sort of abusive male they are describing, the type of man they are fleeing, the kind of man they've been getting those restraining orders against--was once me. Between the years and I was a very different kind of person, a very different kind of male.
During that time frame I assaulted and or threatened four different young women. I was one of those typical American males: hyper-masculine, overly competitive, and drenched in the belief system that I could talk to women any way I felt, treat women any way I felt, with no repercussions whatsoever. As I sought therapy during and especially after that period, I came to realize that I and other males in this country treated women and girls in this dehumanizing way because somewhere along our journey we were told we could.
It may have been in our households; it may have been on our block or in our neighborhoods; it may have been the numerous times these actions were reinforced for us in our favorite music, our favorite television programs, or our favorite films. All these years later I feel, very strongly, that violence against women and girls is not going to end until we men and boys become active participants in the fight against such behavior.
I recall those early years of feeling clueless when confronted--by both women and men--about my actions. This past life was brought back to me very recently when I met with a political associate who reminded me that he was, then and now, close friends with the last woman I assaulted. We, this political associate and I, had a very long and emotionally charged conversation about my past, about what I had done to his friend. We both had watery eyes by the time we were finished talking. It hurt me that this woman remains wounded by what I did in , in spite of the fact that she accepted an apology from me around the year I left that meeting with pangs of guilt, and a deep sadness about the woman with whom I had lived for about a year.
Later that day, a few very close female friends reminded me of the work that some of us men had done, to begin to reconfigure how we define manhood, how some of us have been helping in the fight to end violence against women and girls. These are the rules that I have followed for myself, and that I have shared with men and boys throughout America since the early s:. Own the fact that you have made a very serious mistake , that you've committed an offense, whatever it is, against a woman or a girl.
Denial, passing blame, and not taking full responsibility, is simply not acceptable. Get help as quickly as you can in the form of counseling or therapy for your violent behavior. YOU must be willing to take this very necessary step. If you don't know where to turn for help, I advise visiting the website www. Also visit www.
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You can order it here. Also get a copy of Byron Hurt's Beyond Beats and Rhymes , perhaps the most important documentary film ever made about the relationship between American popular culture and American manhood. Don't just watch these films, watch them with other men, and watch them with an eye toward critical thinking, healing, and growth, even if they make you angry or very comfortable.
And although it may be difficult and painful, you must be willing to dig into your past, into the family and environment you've come from, to begin to understand the root causes of your violent behavior. For me that meant acknowledging the fact that, beginning in the home with my young single mother, and continuing through what I encountered on the streets or navigated in the parks and the schoolyards, was the attitude that violence was how every single conflict should be dealt with. More often than not, this violence was tied to a false sense of power, of being in control.
Of course the opposite is the reality: violence towards women has everything to do with powerlessness and being completely out of control. Also, we need to be clear that some men simply hate or have a very low regard for women and girls.
Some of us, like me, were the victims of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse at the hands of mothers who had been completely dissed by our fathers, so we caught the brunt of our mothers' hurt and anger. Some of us were abandoned by our mothers. Some of us were sexually assaulted by our mothers or other women in our lives as boys.
Some of us watched our fathers or other men terrorize our mothers, batter our mothers, abuse our mothers, and we simply grew up thinking that that male-female dynamic was the norm. Whatever the case may be, part of that "getting help" must involve the word forgiveness. Forgiveness of ourselves for our inhuman behavioral patterns and attitudes, and forgiveness of any female who we feel has wronged us at some point in our lives.
Yes, my mother did hurt me as a child but as an adult I had to realize I was acting out that hurt with the women I was encountering. I had to forgive my mother, over a period of time, with the help of counseling and a heavy dose of soul-searching to understand who she was, as well as the world that created her. And I had to acknowledge that one woman's actions should not justify a lifetime of backward and destructive reactions to women and girls.
And, most importantly, we must have the courage to apologize to any female we have wronged. Ask for her forgiveness, and accept the fact that she may not be open to your apology. That is her right. Learn to listen to the voices of women and girls. And once we learn how to listen, we must truly hear their concerns, their hopes and their fears.
Given that America was founded on sexism--on the belief system of male dominance and privilege--as much as it was founded on the belief systems of racism and classism, all of us are raised and socialized to believe that women and girls are unequal to men and boys, that they are nothing more than mothers, lovers, or sexual objects, that it is okay to call them names, to touch them without their permission, to be violent toward them physically, emotionally, spiritually--or all of the above.
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This mindset, unfortunately, is reinforced in much of our educational curriculum, from preschool right through college, through the popular culture we digest every single day through music, sports, books, films, and the internet, and through our male peers who often do not know any better either--because they had not learned to listen to women's voices either. For me that meant owning the fact that throughout my years of college, for example, I never read more than a book or two by women writers.worldodercabal.ml
Ending Violence Against Women and Girls | HuffPost Life
Or that I never really paid attention to the stories of the women in my family, in my community, to female friends, colleagues, and lovers who, unbeknownst to me, had been the victims of violence at some point in their lives. So when I began to listen to and absorb the voices, the stories, and the ideas of women like Pearl Cleage, Gloria Steinem, Bell Hooks, Alice Walker, of the housekeeper, of the hair stylist, of the receptionist, of the school crossing guard, of the nurse's aid, and many others, it was nothing short of liberating, to me.
Terribly difficult for me as a man, yes, because it was forcing me to rethink everything I once believed. But I really had no other choice but to listen if I was serious about healing. And if I was serious about my own personal growth. It all begins with a very simple question we males should ask each and every woman in our lives: Have you ever been physically abused or battered by a man? To paraphrase Gandhi, make a conscious decision to be the change we need to see.
Question where and how you've received your definitions of manhood to this point. It means that you might have to give up something or some things that have historically benefited you because of your gender. And people who are privileged, who are in positions of power, are seldom willing to give up that privilege or power.
But we must, because the alternative is to continue to hear stories of women and girls being beaten, raped, or murdered by some male in their environment, be it the college campus, the inner city, the church, or corporate America. And we men and boys need to come to a realization that sexism--the belief that women and girls are inferior to men and boys, that this really is a man's world, and the female is just here to serve our needs regardless of how we treat them--is as destructive to ourselves as it is to women and girls.
As I've said in many speeches through the years, even if you are not the kind of man who would ever yell at a woman, curse at a woman, touch a woman in a public or private space without her permission, hit or beat a woman, much less kill a woman--you are just as guilty if you see other men and boys doing these things and you say or do nothing to stop them. Become a consistent and reliable male ally to women and girls.
More of us men and boys need to take public stands in opposition to violence against women and girls. That means we cannot be afraid to be the only male speaking out against such an injustice. It also means that no matter what kind of male you are, working-class or middle-class or super-wealthy, no matter what race, no matter what educational background, and so on, that you can begin to use language that supports and affirms the lives and humanity of women and girls.
You can actually be friends with females, and not merely view them as sexual partners to be conquered. Stop saying "boys will be boys" when you see male children fighting or being aggressive or acting up. Do not sexually harass women you work with then try to brush it off if a woman challenges you on the harassment. If you can't get over a breakup, get counseling. As a male ally, help women friends leave bad or abusive relationships. Do not criticize economically independent women because this independence helps free them in many cases from staying in abusive situations.
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Donate money, food, or clothing to battered women's shelters or other women's causes. Do not ever respond to a female friend with, "Oh you're just an angry woman. Of course standing up for anything carries risks. You may--as I have--find things that you say and do taken out of context, misunderstood or misinterpreted, maligned and attacked, dismissed, or just outright ignored. But you have to do it anyway because you never know how the essay or book you've written, the speech or workshop you've led, or just the one-on-one conversations you've had, might impact on the life of someone who's struggling for help.
I will give two examples: A few years back, after giving a lecture at an elite East Coast college, I noticed a young woman milling about as I was signing books and shaking hands.
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