What men need to know on violence against women so as to prevent it

By Luke Daniels/lukedaniels276@btinternet.com

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London-based counsellor who has worked with perpetrators of domestic violence for more than 40 years wants men to take responsibility for ending ill-treatment of women and help abusers change their behaviour and attitude to women

Angela Davis
Angela Davis is an American activist, scholar and writer who advocates for the oppressed. She has authored several books, including 'Women, Culture & Politics'

This year, women all over the world will again be celebrating International Women’s Day and hopefully millions of men will join them as a mark of the continued struggle to create a better world for all. By commemorating this day we draw attention to the fact that there is still much to be done towards attaining a world where all women are treated with respect and equality.

Having worked as a counsellor with the perpetrators of domestic violence for more than 40 years, I know how important it is for men to take responsibility for ending the mistreatment of women. To do this successfully, men need to inform themselves of the ways in which women are disadvantaged and mistreated in society. A good place to make a start is by reading women’s literature. As a political activist, I am often dismayed at how many of my male comrades are yet to read a book written by a woman.

​bell hooks
​bell hooks, pseudonym of Gloria Jean Watkins is an American scholar whose work examines the varied perceptions of black women and black women writers and the development of feminist identities

When many years ago a woman activist friend accused me of being ‘sexist’ I simply felt she was wrong, because I had always prided myself on thinking about and arguing for women’s equality. Nevertheless, I had a great deal of respect for her political thinking, and so when she accused me a second time, fortunately I knew I must be missing something. I decided to check out what sexism was all about, and launched myself into the project – and, boy, was it an eye-opener!

Now I would proudly call myself a feminist, thanks to the writings of women such as bell hooks {pseudonym of American feminist Gloria Jean Watkins}, Angela Davis, Gerda Lerner, Paule Marshall and a host of other feminist writers. This does not mean that I have divested myself completely of all the sexist conditioning that we receive as boys. We live in a world saturated by sexism and it affects all of us, men and women. Only by paying attention to the ways it affects our behaviour and attitude towards women we can begin to fix things.

​Gerda Lerner
​Gerda Lerner, Austrian-born American writer and educator was a founder of the academic field of women’s studies and worked tirelessly to establish women’s history as a legitimate field of research

I have been engaged in the ongoing process of divesting myself of sexism for many years now, and my work with male perpetrators of domestic violence is an opportunity to raise awareness and help them change behaviour and attitude to women.

There is noting that makes men inherently sexist. It is a learned behaviour, so can be unlearned. It is not an overnight thing and may take years of dedicated work to do that unlearning. However, men can immediately make a great leap by deciding not to abuse women, and also by interrupting the abuse of women whenever they encounter it.

On this day in particular it is appropriate that men should reflect on the way they collude with the oppression of women, and make a conscious decision to do something about it.

Paule Marshall
Paule Marshall, original name Valenza Pauline Burke, was an American novelist whose works emphasised a need for black Americans to reclaim their African heritage

Women who have dared to draw attention to their oppression have often drawn attack from the patriarchal societies in which we live. As men, we must learn from the liberation struggles of women who have developed theory and practice in the fight against male oppression. Learning from women who fight daily for liberation from abuse will give men the encouragement also to fight for their liberation.

It is important to note that men are not oppressed by women but by society as a whole - through its institutions and culture. Men fighting for the liberation of women are also fighting for their own liberation. One of the key roles, we men play in patriarchal society is the subjugation of women. Unless we free ourselves from this role, we will never achieve true happiness.

Viva International Women’s Day.

(Luke Daniels, the writer is the author of Pulling the Punches: Defeating Domestic Violence and Defeating Domestic Violence in the Americas: Men’s Work. English original of the Malayalam version published in Mathrubhumi daily of March 8, 2020)

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