Gender and domestic violence: violence between men

Much of the research we have shared this week talks about men’s violence against women. But we know that men can be victims of violence too. In most cases, this violence occurs at the hands of other men. So what is men’s violence against other men? What does it look like? Where does it come from?

The last article in this week’s series is a research article discussing man on man violence (though it does not focus explicitly on domestic violence). In the article, the author Anthony Whitehead argues that men’s view on what it means to be a man – masculinity – is part of the reason they might take violent action against other men.

While quite theoretical research, the article makes some interesting points regarding men’s violence. Essentially, Whitehead argues that masculinity works as an ideal. This means it is not an identity that can be actually achieved by an individual, but is just a constant idea that individual men try to work towards. In particular, our society associates masculinity with manhood and heroism.

When men come into contact with other men that threaten these ideas of their masculinity, they may act out in a violent way. Anxiety about ‘being a man’ may overwhelm a man’s capacity for empathy about their victim. In this way, violence merely becomes a way for a man to set himself up as either a Hero or a Villain, rather than the sort of ‘coward’ who is not even worthy of being called a man.

This might all sound quite abstract, but in the context of our everyday lives it is quite interesting. Does violence sometimes occur because men and boys feel pressure not to be a ‘wimp’ or a coward and ‘be a man’? Does the idea of Masculine Anxiety have anything to do with the way men and boys can act towards each other in schools and wider society?

Whitehead, A 2005, ‘Man to Man Violence: How Masculinity May Work as a Dynamic Risk Factor’, The Howard Journal, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 411-422, viewed 8 November 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2311.2005.00385.x