This module is a resource for lecturers
Topic four - What about the men? Transforming stereotypes and acting in solidarity to end discrimination and violence for everyone
This topic builds on previous material on how gender stereotypes and expectations affect women and girls, by considering social norms relating to masculinity. It requires the lecturer and the class to consider how men and boys can work with women and girls in solidarity, with the long-term aim of promoting gender equality and eradicating violence against women and girls. As set out in Topic One, States bear an international legal obligation to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women. Looking at the behaviour and attitudes of boys and men is necessary for long-term prevention of violence against women.
To prevent and eradicate violence against women, it is necessary for the State to work alongside communities and families in looking critically at social expectations relating to gender roles, and to work towards mutual respect and non-violent methods of resolving differences, irrespective of gender.
Topic Four looks at the contributions of men working to end violence against women, and aims to illustrate positive examples of how men can work alongside women constructively. The materials also include an introduction to the "men's rights movement" which is a controversial topic, and illustrates how the backlash against women's search for equality is manifesting itself among some extremists, who consider social change to be a zero-sum game - that if women become more equal then this has to be to men's detriment. It is important to note that men working on violence against women emphasize that gender equality is good for everyone, not just women and girls. The men's rights movement is also associated with an attitude that men are entitled to sexual access to women, as a matter of right, not through mutual agreement.
It is important to recognize that women also engage in gender-based violence. This can be directed against men (for example, intimate partner violence) or, more usually, against other women and girls, including by orchestrating or condoning harmful practices such as coercing or forcing girls into early marriages (a practice that is prevalent in developed and developing countries alike), or inflicting FGM on girls and other women. Women are also often guilty of violence against children, particularly using violence to punish children in their families, or in schools or other establishments. It is the duty of the State to intervene whenever violence is used, to protect those known to be at risk, to prosecute perpetrators, and take steps to reduce the use of violence in society as a whole, irrespective of the gender of the victim or the perpetrator. The fact that some women are guilty of using violence against men, women or children does not lessen the duty of States to take action to prevent, investigate and punish gender-based violence against women. Furthermore, research shows a symmetry between women's violence against men, and men's violence against women - men's violence against women is more frequent, and more serious in terms of severity of injury. Professors Rebecca Dobash and Russell Dobash have undertaken detailed research into the issue of the gender of those who commit violence.