Posted by: malechallengemedia | February 15, 2010

Race Riots in Australia; Naming the Obvious

Race Riots in Australia; Naming the Obvious

It is staring us in the face, it’s a root cause behind the beach violence in Sydney, yet it remains invisible to most. In naming the obvious we make visible the fact that the perpetrators in the rioting were men, indicating that the underlying issue is a gender issue.

Here is the paradox; while it is true that most men are not violent it is also true that most violence in the world is perpetrated by men. The good news is that masculinity (not maleness) can be changed because it is not innately biological. In other words masculinities are constructed; they vary from culture to culture and change throughout history. In today’s society the mass media is a primary force in constructing masculine values and ideals. It is useful to understand the origins of unhealthy male norms in order to make positive changes.

Historian Rianne Eisler, coined the terms dominator and partnership models to describe where societies stood in their evolutionary process. Many modern societies, irrespective of wealth, as measured by GDP, still follow the dominator system. For example some Middle Eastern countries are wealthy but women are still not allowed to vote or drive, women still remain subservient to men and the dominant religion.

The US, the often touted democratic role model, shares bottom place with Mexico and Russia in wealth sharing, suffers high rates of violence, has the largest prison population in the world, low rates of women in government and regularly ignores global democracy. Such behaviors illustrate how the US manifests many aspects of domination cultures. Other democracies, such as Scandinavia and some European countries are closer to the partnership ideals according to UN studies showing the quality of life is better there than other western countries.

Although democracy is based on the partnership model most of the world’s democracies contain lingering elements of the old dominator paradigm. However Eisler reminds us that the mix of the domination model and high technology—the nuclear, biological, and chemical technologies that threaten us and our natural habitat with irremediable harm—is not sustainable in the long term. Today as we grapple with wars, overpopulation, global warming and depletion of oil supplies the need for partnership methodology is more critical than ever.

To maintain dominator style societies, boys must be systematically socialized for domination and, therefore, for violence. Male violence has to be idealized – as seen in much of our normative literature and media celebrating violent “heroes.” Indeed, in these societies violent behavior patterns are systematically taught to males from early childhood through toys like swords, guns, and violent video games, while only girls are systematically socialized for nurturing, compassion, and caring. Indeed

The men on both sides of the recent violence at Sydney beaches obviously subscribe to the old male paradigm which lingers, in part, due to the mixed messages given by society. Most of us play at least some role, albeit unintentionally, in supporting these hegemonic male values. For example while we allow our youth to witness high levels of TV violence in which brute force is glorified, while we sanction sexist attitudes in our football codes, and other male cultures, while we go to war against innocent Iraqis instead of using non-violent means, while we tolerant divisive and adversarial language use in the press, media, schools and communities, while we destroy the environment for future generations so we can have more possessions, we are supporting the dominator model, a model which glorifies the strong man at the top.


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