The seats of Asplundh Hall were occupied last Monday night when one of America’s leading male, anti-sexist activists, Jackson Katz, spoke to students about the significance of gender violence prevention.The discussion, which lasted just over two hours, centered on the cultural damage Katz believes is caused by the portrayal of the super-macho male and on men’s abuse of women.
Katz began the program by discussing common words and phrases and erasing the misconceptions commonly connected with them. Examples of such misconceptions are “gender issue,” which is not the same as “women’s issue,” and “race,” which Katz said should not be connected with any particular race. The dominant group is frequently ignored, Katz noted, as if it does not have its own identity. This is a problem-especially for preventing violence-if the main groups of people perpetrating the acts are nearly ignored.
Up until now, Katz reported, rape prevention has been taught by teaching women how to prevent assault by avoiding risky situations such as not leaving drinks on tables or not walking alone at night, rather than by reaching out to the group actually perpetrating the violence. True prevention, Katz said, means talking to the male community and culture.
In one part of the lecture, Katz presented a scenario to the audience concerning the role of the bystander in prevention. If one sees a male trying to get an obviously intoxicated woman to leave a party with him, what would one do? Most people, Katz said, believe there are only two options in response to this situation. The first would be to intervene physically at the point of attack and the second would be to do nothing. Katz stressed the importance of taking the responsibility personally. Katz challenged West Chester University students to speak up in the face of injustice, either by way of speaking to the male friend or through an alternative intervention course such as asking the woman how she feels or if she’d like some help. Katz stated that even if you are not abusive, but you do confront and challenge those around you who are, you are contributing to the abuse problem.
In the final section of Katz’ program he informed the audience that in today’s media, men are displayed as stronger and more violent, comparing Humphrey Bogart’s small pistol to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s machine gun in “Terminator.” Although it often goes unnoticed, Katz reported that the increase of violence and “macho-ism” lead to desensitization and normalization of violence, abuse and sex, to the point that those viewing barely even notice it. Katz showed clips of pro wrestling and a video of the rap star Nelly as evidence of desensitization to violence and to the mistreatment of women.
Katz reported that a majority of men who abuse women are normal, average guys and not the stereotypical sociopath often associated with the label.
For more information, Katz has created several award-winning videos such as “Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity,” “Wrestling With Manhood,” and “Spin the Bottle: Sex, Lies and Alcohol.” His new book, “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help” is available in bookstores now.