One of the great achievements of the 1970′s women’s movement was the set up of rape crisis centres that expanded across the globe in the decades that followed.
It was vital for women to take control of this area of sexual violence, to design a response to female disempowerment by means of female support and re-empowerment. But perhaps the future of the international war against sexual violence needs to move beyond female mobilization. Is it not time to take the battle deep into the consensus?
At the beginning of the 21st century, we understand gender inequality in a much more complex way. We now know that sexual violence is not only predominantly perpetrated by men against women, but that males are not infrequently victims. If the female institutions that developed to answer a female need can provide a support option and a lobby against violence, irrespective of gender, then we can begin to understand where feminism has contributed to healing our violence-ridden societies.
The opposition to including men in gender-violence frameworks has tended to come from feminists who believe that in a male-dominated society, men’s participation in female initiatives would invite their colonizing the thinking and activity of these activities and could eventually see patriarchy overriding the female nature of these places.
But as women’s organizations work to educating society, how can they avoid bringing men in, to strengthen the calls for change? Is it not more powerful to hear a man speaking out against violence towards women? Do we not need to see males marching along with women as we take back the night? Why would it not be a female victory if the men were won over in the process?
The rape crisis centres have been successful in spreading the message that women are the chief victims of gender violence, but how much more empowering can it be that to invite males to take responsibility for the aggressive consequences of male culture and be part of the creation of efforts to educate and prevent future violence.
Maybe the underlying issue here boils down to the old debate on whether or not you believe that men can in fact be feminists. Well, whites can be abolitionists and youths can fight ageism, so move over Gloria Steinem… the ranks are about to get a bit thicker, and the shouts a bit deeper!
For more information on some of the great work being done by men to counter and educate against sexual violence against women visit: