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Men’s Responsibility in Ending Violence Against Women: Part Two

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 7, 2011 at 7:34 am

The fact that most violence is committed by men is so normalized that we often do not even report the gender of the perpetrator when reporting violent crime, it is just assumed that it is a male. It is true that over 95% of sexual assaults are committed by men, it is also true that most men are not violent (Julian, T.W., & McKenry, P.C., 1993). Continuing, about 90% of those who commit physical assault are men and  men perpetrate 95% of all serious domestic violence (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics). Seeing these statistics, the question begging to be asked is, what is wrong with men? Feminists have been trying to answer this question for decades. Allan Johnson in his article The Gender Knot: What Drives Patriarchy? argues that

the answer that first occurs to many people is that patriarchy is rooted in the natural order          of things. As such, its reflects and ‘essential’ differences between women and men based          on biology or genetics…Men tend to be physically stronger than women, for example,    which might explain their dominance (Johnson, 1990).

If men are naturally violent than rape and sexual assault and domestic violence are all just natural occurrences. But if most men aren’t violent, than why do we still believe that men are naturally violent? It is not men who are the issue, but rather masculinity that is the problem, and men’s steadfast adherence to its rules.

A system exists that keeps men in power, and legitimizes that power so that it goes unquestioned, that system is patriarchy. Heidi Hartmann defines patriarchy as “a set of social relations which has a material base and in which there are hierarchical relations between men, and solidarity among them, which enable them to control women” (Capitalism, Patriarchy, and Job Segregation by Sex, 1976). Patriarchy is the over-arching system of oppression that puts men in positions of power, and women in a subordinate status.  It is “simultaneously the process, structure, and ideology of women’s subordination. While different aspects of women’s subordination are teased out and dissected, the connection among the parts are left to ‘patriarchy’” (Paradoxes of Gender, 1994). Patriarchy is woven into all structures, those tangible such as politics and labor, but also in the social realm, evidenced by men’s assumed superiority to women.

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