Gender and domestic violence: is violence against women a men’s issue?

Because statistics show women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and men are more likely to be perpetrators, the conversation surrounding domestic violence can alienate men. As a result, the conversation surrounding gender and violence can often come to be seen as ‘women’s issues’. But is violence against women really just a women’s issue? Should men care about it at all?

Today’s video is a 2013 TED talk by activist, scholar and filmmaker Jackson Katz. When it was released, the video exploded on the Internet and now has over 1,500,000 views on YouTube. In it, Katz challenges the way gendered forms of violence are seen as ‘women’s issues’ that a few good men help out with. Katz argues that instead these are ‘men’s issues’. Calling gendered violence a women’s issue, he says, is part of the problem because it gives men an excuse not to pay attention. According to Katz, people even associate the term ‘gender’ with women automatically, ‘as if men don’t have a gender’. This means men (as the ‘dominant group’) are rarely challenged to think about themselves.

Through an analysis activity, Katz shows the way our language ‘conspires’ to make the perpetrators of violence invisible and victims seem to blame. He argues we need to change the conversation, ask better questions, and encourage more men to stand up and own the fact that violence against women is a men’s issue. By doing this, he argues, we can also talk about all the boys who are affected by adult male violence (as most male victims of violence are victims of male violence).

So, is violence against women (and even some men) a men’s issue? What responsibility do we all have to change the conversation surrounding gender and domestic violence?

Katz, J 2013, Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue: Jackson Katz at TEDxFiDiWomen, TEDx Talks, viewed 8 November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8