On April 2, 2014, Jackson Katz visited the Brighton campus of Monroe Community College to discuss masculinities, manhood, and his violence prevention program. Dr. Katz’s books The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help(2006) and Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and The Politics Of Manhood (2012)address the facets of masculinities in the political arena and in personal lives of both men and women.
Dr. Katz began his lecture with a discussion of Women’s History Month and why women need a month to begin with. He then discussed his Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program and how it has been effective in a variety of arenas: sports teams, police departments, and even in the military. Dr. Katz spoke about one of the main problems with ending violence against women—the tendency to use the passive voice when discussing it so that men’s role in it is obscured. Instead of calling it a “women’s issue,” Katz recommends referring to this as “men’s violence.” In this way men will feel that they have responsibility to help end this problem.
The way that Dr. Katz suggests everyone in the audience can help end this violence is through addressing the role of bystanders. Instead of focusing on the victims or perpetrators, Dr. Katz believes that equipping those around a situation with the tools to confront someone for sexist remarks and behavior or to intervene in a negative or dangerous situation is a way that violence can be prevented before it occurs. Jackson Katz talked about men as a “default setting”—one to which we do not pay attention (similar to whiteness or heterosexuality). It reminded me of Michael Kimmel’s article, “Invisible Masculinity” that we read and discussed in my Sociology of Men and Masculinities course taught by Dr. Bridges last spring (2013). The privileged group rarely has the experience of being reminded of their status or having to compensate for it.
Because men are given privilege in our society, Dr. Katz mentions that it is especially important for men to speak out against men’s violence. Although women are the group that receives the most attention as victims of violence, Dr. Katz reminded the audience that many men can be raped or beaten by partners, that many boys as well as girls grow up seeing their mothers beaten by their husbands or boyfriends, and that even when men do not experience violence firsthand, many have had to deal with the aftermath of violence in their relationships with women who have. Another reason that Dr. Katz mentioned it is important for men to speak out is because of the tendency for society to “shoot the messenger” when women attempt to raise awareness for men’s violence. Women who champion equal rights and safety are often called slurs such as “bitch”, “feminazi”, and “manhater.”
Dr. Katz ended the night with some humorous clips depicting a not so humorous topic—street harassment. Street harassment and catcalling are ways that women are made to feel unsafe, and are one of the overlooked ways that men can intervene in the harassment and violence directed towards women. What seems like a harmless compliment or friendly banter can actually cause stress and fear in women who are unsure of a man’s intentions. Overall, Dr. Katz’s lecture was a wonderful introduction to thinking more critically about the relationship between men, masculinity and violence as well as rape culture, the bad reputation of the “f” word (feminism) and the bystander approach towards preventing violence. If more men can be made aware of their potential to help stop violence, both men and women can live happier and safer lives.
Lindsay Stumpf is a graduating senior at The College at Brockport. She is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. As a member of the Honors Program, Lindsay is also completing a senior thesis addressing representations of masculinity in children’s cartoons under the guidance of Dr. Melody Boyd. Lindsay was recently admitted into the Public Administration program for graduate study at The College and Brockport. She starts in the summer of 2014.