Can One Video Turn Someone Into A Feminist?

The video featured above is a fantastic TED Talk from Jackson Katz, PhD, on domestic/sexual violence, and the role of men in prevention. Rebecca Eisenberg called it, “A TED Talk That Might Turn Every Man Who Watches It Into A Feminist?”

One of our readers, Natalie Blanton, provided a summary for people who don’t have twenty minutes to devote to the talk itself (thanks, Natalie!):

Calling this a talk that “might turn every man who watches into a feminist” is a pretty ambitious statement to make–but I will say, Jackson Katz, Ph.D. does have a good head on his shoulders, can deliver one hell of a TED talk, and make every feminist sigh, “Oh, thank goodness somebody might get it.” I will also say, that I would hope my partner, and his friends, would watch this and be receptive to these words about domestic and sexual violence prevention—as “these are men’s issues, first and foremost.”

Katz calls attention to a handful of complexities surrounding these “issues:”

When people hear “gender” they equate it with women. “Sexual orientation” denotes gay. The dominant group associated with both of these terms [male and straight, respectively] are never challenged to think about their position of privilege.

The way that we think/use our language—labels like beaten, battered, victims and the identity/stigmas attached to these terms. Constantly questioning the women, victim blaming, as in our entire cognitive and social structure is set up to interrogate these women: What was she wearing? Why do these women go out with these men? Why was she alone with those guys in the first place?

We need to be asking a different set of questions: Why is domestic violence still a problem across the world? What is going on with men? Why do so many adult men sexually abuse little boys and girls? Why do so many men rape women? Why do so many men rape other men? What is the role of various institutions in our society—understanding a much deeper social problem? Katz states that perpetrators are not swamp monsters that only come out at night and then retreat into the darkness. They are regular humans, who may have been influenced negatively by religious beliefs, family structure, sports and pornography institutions, etc.

Begin asking those questions and doing this work—as a collective consciousness.

This endless focus on what women are doing, is not getting us anywhere. We deem women as male bashing, man hating, “feminazis” which only keeps the current system in place, “we don’t like it when people rock the boat”. Men can play a powerful role in this work. We need more men who have the courage and the strength to stand beside women and advocate with them, not on their behalf. Not to mention, most male victims of violence are victims of other male violence. “We are all victims of men’s violence.”

Katz then rolls out his ideology of change: the bystander approach to gender violence prevention.

Instead of seeing men as perpetrators and women as victims and visa versa, instead of the binary, all of us are bystanders. Anybody who is not a perpetrator—friends, teammates, colleagues, whomever is not involved in a dyad of abuse: What do we do? How do we speak up? How do we not remain silent in the face of abuse?

Men challenge men. Challenge each other when racist, sexist, classist, etc. comments arrive. Your silence is a form of complacency. Bystander approach makes this known, as it is unacceptable to sit by, let it continue, it is also against the law.

Breaking the silence of the male culture. It is not easy for guys to challenge each other. Not just understanding these issues as men’s issues. We need men to prioritize these issues.

We don’t need sensitivity. We need leadership. If you make those types of derogatory racist, sexist, classist comments in society—you are failing your community.

Caring deeply is not enough. Men with the guts, courage, strength, and morale need to act—“we owe it women, but we also owe it to our sons, our future men”.

In conclusion, Katz summed his words, with another great leader’s words:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whoa, truth, powerful truth. Eliminating the binary society, and promoting this conversation of equality and community morale through women and men working together, can begin to change the future generations. “We can do better.”

Share Your Thoughts