It’s a men’s issue, too

Jackson Katz, a gender violence prevention educator, demonstrates the different outlook men and women have about sexual assault by asking men first and women second “what steps do you take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourself from being sexually assaulted?”

Katz then writes what the men say on one side of a chalkboard and women on the other when he speaks before classrooms of students. After some awkward silence, there often is laughter by the men followed sometimes by one saying he stays out of prison followed by: “Nothing, I don’t think about it.”

Then he asks the women the same question. The men sit in stunned silence for the next 30 minutes while the women raise their hands and give their answers: “hold my car keys as a potential weapon; don’t go jogging at night; don’t put my drink down and come back to it and make sure I see it poured; own a big dog; carry mace or pepper spray; have a man’s voice on my answering machine; don’t use highway rest areas; avoid forests or wooded areas even in the daytime; make sure to have a car or cab fare.

Yet, there is more — a lot more. Most often the men’s side of the chalkboard is empty and the women’s side overflows.

Katz said the responses are the same regardless of rural, suburban or urban areas and are like an unconscious second-nature mental checklist for women.

In his book “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help,” Katz describes scenarios and concepts like this.

The book is about awareness regarding sexual assault and how to reduce it. The general idea is that more men need to become aware and get involved with these issues, which he emphasizes are not “women’s issues,” but “our issues,” because women’s issues are men’s issues, too.

 I think it would be great if no woman had to worry about being sexually assaulted and no man had to worry about being thought of as a potential sexual assault perpetrator. Katz writes that perpetrators are indistinguishable from the rest of us and that the focus needs to shift from women to men — the perpetrators of almost all sexual assaults. A few women, but very few, are sexual assault offenders.

I don’t have much criticism of Katz’s book except sometimes he (remember this is a person with a Ph.D. in cultural studies and education) writes on a deeper level than I fully understood the first time I read it. Not understanding it the first time made me realize how much there is to this issue, how little I know about it and how I need to know about it.

A link to the full text of his book is available on the Ablah Library Web site. Some of his speeches are available on YouTube.