Sunday, March 18, 2018

Men as Allies in Preventing Violence against Women: Principles and Practices for Promoting Accountability 1/9

This paper explores the implications of the increasing role of men in violence prevention work for the women’s services sector. There are many different ways for men to work with women in violence against women prevention campaigns. The language of male-led campaigns, partners in violence prevention, bystanders, male champions, male allies, aspiring allies and solidarity activists are but a few of the roles that have been identified for men. However their roles are defined, as men have become more prominent in violence against women prevention work in recent years, the issue of men’s relationship with women against violence services has become a subject of ongoing concern for many feminist anti-violence activists, practitioners and scholars. This paper aims to explore the nature of those concerns and the various ways in which activist men and the organisations they work within, or are auspiced by, have responded to them. 
A key issue in these discussions is whether men involved in violence prevention work should be accountable to  women against violence services in some form or not. How men themselves respond to this issue is related to a number of questions. What are the motivations for men to get involved in violence prevention? How do men understand their own positioning within relations of gender inequality? What knowledge do they have of women’s involvement in violence prevention work? How do they understand feminism and how do they engage with it?  Many men who get involved in violence prevention will not necessarily have a political analysis of gender inequality or a profeminist commitment to transforming patriarchal gender relations. They may get involved because a woman in their own life has been the subject of men’s violence and they want to play a part in ending it. As children, they may have witnessed their father’s violence against their mother. Alternatively, they may just be shocked by media reports of increasing levels of men’s violence against women. These men are at the beginning of a journey in terms of their understanding of patriarchy and their place within it. The purpose of this paper is not to establish criteria for men’s involvement in violence prevention that they cannot live up to.  It is rather to open up discussion among men (and among women) about how to guard against the potential harms that men can cause when they do not understand the ways in which patriarchy works and their own complicity in reproducing it.
There are wider issues of men’s complicity with violence against women that go beyond the violence prevention movement. Men, as policy makers and law makers within the state, as health and welfare professionals, as judges and police, as employers and CEOs of companies, all may make decisions that are not accountable to women and that minimise, overlook or ignore men’s violence against women. Although these issues are beyond the brief of this paper, they must be considered when planning violence prevention work with men to ensure that systems and structures of gender inequality are not neglected.
The premise on which this paper rests is that feminist analysis and men’s accountability to women’s services should be central underpinnings of violence prevention work with men. I acknowledge that many men involved in violence prevention may not necessarily share these premises. However, to be effective, violence prevention organisations need to be alert to the consequences for women and women’s services of engaging men in this work.
If men are to be accountable, to which organisations, women or feminists should they be accountable to and what form should that accountability take? The paper will explore why accountability is necessary and engage with political dilemmas associated with it. It will also explore different levels of accountability including personal, interpersonal and organisational forms and outline different models of accountability and strategies for their implementation.

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