Posted by: malechallengemedia | February 14, 2010

Addressing the Root Cause of Hate Crimes

Addressing the Root Cause of Hate Crimes

by Pip Cornall

Recently several young women were allegedly harassed by a group of young men at the Southern Oregon University. When a young gay man came to their assistance he was allegedly pursued by the group, spat on and repeatedly taunted and harassed for being gay. The incident has promoted a supportive response from the University and the community.

The recent ‘hate crimes’ at the Southern Oregon University need to be seen for what they are; a manifestation of a tenacious and powerful programming. Firstly it is important to name the gender responsible. It is not surprising that it was a group of men who allegedly harassed a group of women and then aggressively harassed the young man who came to their defense. Men are responsible for 99% of all rape and sexual assault (this was a sexist harassment) and 90-95% of all other violence.

Secondly there is nothing inherently wrong with men. Most men (75%) are unhappy with how they have been socialized, especially with respect to attitudes about women and gays. For thousands of years one half of humanity has been socialized to dominate the other half. Historically, men acting without equal input from women have been the political and economic leaders and decision makers — the ones who took us to war, the ones who raped and committed domestic violence, the ones who tolerated poverty and hardship. The old forms of masculinity, the dominator forms, if continued, constitute one of the gravest threats to the future of humanity.

Author Riane Eisler* says, “The centuries-old dominator paradigm is not something inherent in women or men. Rather, it is a matter of the gender-specific socialization required to maintain a system in which — beginning with the ranking of one half of humanity over the other — the primary principle of social organization is one of rankings of domination ultimately backed up by fear of pain or force.

Violence Prevention Educator Jackson Katz** agrees stating, “What must be changed is our socialization as men and not our essential biological nature.”

So we are looking at an attainable task, one which is well underway as testified by the thousands of male and female scholars, politicians, activists and workshop-leaders who are working tirelessly to reduce male violence and questioning age old assumptions about masculinity.

The young men involved in the alleged harassment last week at SOU, are a product of an ancient conversation about women, which still persists despite many years of the equity movement. However we must be careful not to direct our wrath towards the alleged perpetrators for that will not eliminate sexism; it will simply shift the anger, not transform it. As Riane Eisler points out, “Men are not the enemy — it’s the programming, the dominator system itself.”

Misogyny and homophobia arise out of the dominator paradigm and manifest as structural violence, which is rampant in the US and will change as we change the structure. For example America has a very low percentage of women in government placing it 59th amongst modern democracies; a concrete statement that women and their values do not matter. Is it any coincidence that rape and gender-based violence are many times higher here than in other comparable countries?

The ancient conversation about women socializes males for dominance and not for equalitarian power sharing. It objectifies and negatively stereotypes women and gays so that they can be kept in their ‘place’ through intimidation and fear. It lumps gay men with women because they are seen to be similar. Unfortunately the myth of the “real man” persists today, and he is defined as not “sissy, girly or gay;” he is tough, dominant, competitive, shows no emotions other than anger, and he is a stud.

But in defining males in this way, men, sadly, are being groomed for failure in relationships with their wives or partners, children and workmates; in other words men too are victims of their own socialization. Male sexist language, like racist language, sows the seeds of violence against women, gay people and other men. Interestingly, research indicates that 75% of men disapprove of the way they were socialized, nevertheless, attitudes towards women, out of which violence and inequity arise, are sustained by the tacit agreement of good men to the hegemonic male myth still prevalent in most societies.

That the courageous young man, who spoke out to stop his female friends from being harassed, happens to be gay should be unimportant; he is simply a caring human being doing the right thing. Any men who protect women from the sexist behavior of other males will be taunted with derogatory put-downs such as “faggot, pussy or girl,” terms that imply they are less than “real men.” This is how males are socialized to conform to the prevailing form of masculinity, and that is what we must change. We can challenge this programming in primary school by explaining to children that to be called girly, gay or sissy arises from old male programming; some boys are taught to use these gibes. Reminding children that gays or girls are not inferior shows them that being called these names need not be taken as an insult. A typical response might be, “Thank you I know many girls or gay people I’d be proud to be similar to.”

The alleged perpetrators of this so-called Ashland ‘hate crime’ were agents of this lingering programming. The same socializing that makes rapists and domestic batterers also made us, which is why we, the largely silent 75% of men, need to learn more about gender construction/gender violence and to challenge all forms of sexist behavior, starting with our own thoughts, words and deeds. We must see sexism, harassment and rape as male issues and realize that the benefits of educating and changing ourselves are more than we ever imagined. Every man whom I know that has embraced these changes is grateful to have done so!


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