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Men must play a constructive role to achieve gender equality

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For many, Daniel Andrews is a good example of a man redefining masculinity (image via YouTube)

Women will be safer when masculinity moves away from patriarchal dominance towards the pursuit of gender equality.

Men can contribute to this justice project and there is an opportunity to do so by signing up to HeForShe.

A 2019 report from domestic violence not-for-profit, Our Watch, citing 374 sources, found that men who adhere to masculine stereotypes of being strong, dominant and superior to women are more likely to perpetrate violence against women. The report indicated that safety for women can be achieved through redefining masculinity, promoting healthier, positive social expectations among men and boys.

Clementine Ford, writing on the issue of gender, said:

'It isn't misandry to want to talk about how we can prevent our sons from being punched in the back of the head or beaten while out having a celebration. Nor is it an attack on men to encourage gentle behaviour between men while critiquing the laddish displays of machismo that are so often heralded in this country as an example of red-blooded masculinity.'

Her thoughts on toxic masculinity encourage men to find ways to free themselves from aspects of patriarchy that limit their relationships with each other as well as hurting women.

Where can we find examples for men to act in a positive and conciliatory way? Clearly not in former 2GB radio host, Alan Jones, who in 2019 used violent language to rebuke NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. In 2020, on Jones’ retirement from radio, Prime Minister Scott Morrison commended him for always doing the right thing by his country.

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Of an episode of Q&A that discussed violence against women that was "pulled" because of Mona Eltahawy's forceful language, Jennifer Wilson wrote for Independent Australia:

“We live daily within systems of appalling violence, much of which is perpetrated by the state directly, or indirectly by its unwillingness to adequately intervene.'

When the state intervenes to change the culture of violence, it faces backlash.

For Caleb Stephen, the concept of white male privilege in the Victorian education program, Respectful Relationships, is:

'Nothing less than a complete myth. It is thanks to this regressive kind of thinking that in today’s brave new world, boys can no longer be boys.'

Government failure in response to violence against women mirrors the inadequate attention afforded to isolated people with disability. A South Australian Government taskforce investigating abuse and neglect of a person in care found gaps in the system and a need for vulnerable people to have access to assistive technology. It has referred this to the Federal Government for urgent action. In Victoria, at least, there is the Victorian Andrews’ government’s healthy funding of diverse disability advocacy groups and the Disability Worker Commission to reduce risks of abuse for people with disability.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has demonstrated a willingness to contest the culture of violence against women and to deliver avenues of support for women. His Cabinet has equal female-male representation; his Government has strengthened its responses to domestic violence; and it has legislated measures for gender equity.

An untypical male hero has emerged in the form of the Thomas the Tank Engine singing volunteer, Ben Gibbs, who insisted that credit was due not to him for finding William Callaghan, but rather the community of searchers.

Another positive example of masculinity came to the fore when, instead of chest-beating and recriminations over how William was lost, step-father Nathan Ezhard and father Phil gave each other emotional support as they waited for him to be found.

To bring an end to domestic violence we need many atypical male heroes to help redefine masculinity. There is an opportunity right here and now in HeForShe: the United Nations Women Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality 2020. 

For more information, see HeForShe.

Thea Calzoni is a member of the committee of management of the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with a Disability (VALID). You can follow Thea on Twitter @Calzonit.

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