Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Male Call

My university recently hosted educator and activist Tony Porter (pictured here), who spoke about violence against women. According to the description of his talk, Mr. Porter issued "a call to men to respect women." That sounds fine to me. I think men should respect women. I also take a number of other bold moral positions, and will publicly state that I disapprove of armed robbery and murder.

Tony Porter's approach to the admirable goal of reducing violence against women seems very strange to me, though.  According to the Call to Men website:

By strategizing with groups across the United States and abroad, our vision is to shift social norms that define manhood in our culture, and produce a national movement of men dedicated to this cause. A CALL TO MEN is unique in its ability to be affirming and respectful to the experiences of women while expressing genuine care and hope for men. Through seminars, workshops and other educational vehicles, A CALL TO MEN challenges men to reconsider many of the social norms that define manhood, in an effort to create a more just society.

Now, there are a lot of different "social norms that define manhood in our culture." Chances are that those willing to participate in one of these seminars or workshops already hold that beating up a wife or girlfriend is a very bad thing to do, so Mr. Porter is doing a lot of preaching to the converted. As for the all-too-many men that do commit violence against women, I would suggest that the problem may be precisely that they don't conform to the social norm of manhood that condemns this sort of behavior.  It isn't that they are socialized into the bad ways of American masculinity, but that they have been socialized into the ways of destructive subcultures. If we look at the predictors of male violence, one of the strongest is growing up in single parent family, especially a family headed by a never married mother. Another is living in a neighborhood with high criminality and a low level of informal social control. So, the problem is a society that is falling apart, not one that is "unjust."

No comments:

Post a Comment