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

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 21, 2011 at 9:50 am

Intersectionality is the idea that everyone’s various statuses, class, race, sexuality and gender, all intersect and define their social status in society (Violence Against Women, 2005). Liz Crenshaw, divides intersectionality as it relates to battering into two categories; political and structural. Political is the idea that the identities that one has, can sometimes have conflicting political agendas, and Structural being those structures set in place that do not meet the needs of some because of their intersecting statuses. As this relates to masculinity, men of color have to deal with racism, and potentially classism, and possibly homophobia. This creates an environment for these men in which they feel powerless. bell hooks, in her book We Real Cool, argues that black men react to these feelings of powerlessness, by using violence against women to assert their dominance (hooks, 2003). Most men would say that they feel powerless, and in the case of men of color because of the intersection of their race, and potentially class, and possibly their orientation. Also because of racist stereotypes, men of color and particularly black men, are viewed as naturally violent and uncontrollable with an insatiable thirst for sex, with white women. hooks argues that black men can sometimes embody some of this racist imagery and use it as a tool to strike fear in women as well as other men, particularly white men, as another means to feel powerful (We Real Cool, 2003). Adopting seemingly any means to feel powerful and assert that power on others, violence and the threat of violence becomes the choice of men fearful of their masculinity being challenged.

Judith Lorber argues that the process of socialization (discussing both women and men’s socialization), what she refers to a gendering “are legitimated by religion, law, science and the society’s entire set of values” (Paradoxes of Gender, 1994). These sets of values are not just reinforced by our peers but social and political structures as well.  Our actions and behaviors define who are as, gendered, beings. It is so pervasive and broad reaching that everything we do, we do according to what society deems acceptable for our own gender, therefore “gender is thus both ascribed and achieved” (Ibid., 1994). Lorber expands on the changing nature of gender  when she argues that

the bodies, which have been mapped inside and out for hundreds of years, have not          changed. What has changed, are the justifications for gender inequality. When the social                      position of all human beings was believed to be set by natural law or was considered God-given, biology was irrelevant; women and men of different classes all had their     assigned places. When scientists began to question the divine basis of social order and             replaced faith with empirical knowledge, what they saw was that women were very          different from men in that they had wombs and menstruated. Such anatomical differences       destined them for an entirely different social life from men (“Believing is Seeing,” 1993). Gender, has generally only been defined as been female. This, male-normativity, is clear when we examine history (“Lived Body versus Gender,” 2005). Examining history we are really looking at the history of men, but defining it as general history (Against the Tide, 1992). Lorber goes on to state that “the pervasiveness of gender as a way of structuring social life demands that gender statuses be clearly differentiated” (Paradoxes of Gender, 1994). We divide the world in large part in terms of a black and white, it is an either/or thing. When individuals’ gender statuses depart from our two-gender system, there is conflict.


This conflict arises out of a profound level of homophobia in our society. This homophobia, as described by Kimmel, is not a fear of homosexuality but rather a fear of other men, and appearing as less than a man in the eyes of other men (Masculinity as Homophobia, 2003). Homophobia is a serious issue, adding to it biphobia, and transphobia. Michael Kaufman argues that homophobia is “a phobia that is essential for the imposition and maintenance of masculinity. A key expression is the obsessive denial of homosexual attraction; this denial is expressed as violence against other men” (The Construction of Masculinity and the Triad of Men’s Violence, 2007). Homophobia is a large contribution to violence, because it is so hated and feared in society, and masculinity is so important to men that violence is the most powerful tool men use to assert their non-homosexuality. Men use homophobia to keep other men in line. Men use jokes and insults and threats of violence, and sometimes actual violence, to prove their dominance over other men. This also factors in when men are in relationships with women. Michael Messner in his article Sexuality and Sexual Identity states that “the male peer group tends to police its own members in terms of intimacy with females” (Messner, 1992). Men in relationships with women are often taunted as being “pussywhipped” when they choose to spend time with her, as opposed to them (Ibid., 1992). The irony here is that men must engage in homosocial activities instead of spending time with their female partners. What makes men less of a man is spending time with his girlfriend, whom he may be having sex with, but what makes him more of a man is spending time with his male friends, whom he is definitely not sleeping with.

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