Award-winning journalist Lauren Wolfe asks a simple question that demands serious thought.
The mass rape of women in war is as old, and horrific, as war itself, and men are almost exclusively the perpetrators. But what if we were to step back and ask how men can actually be part of the solution? It requires a couple of basic assumptions.
First, that not all men can (or would) rape women in war. The second is that we’d have to think of “men as actual and potential agents of change for gender justice.” That’s what Dean Peacock, executive director of the South Africa-based Sonke Gender Justice Network says.
In a paper presented at the end of January 2011 to the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation, Peacock (who is also the co-chair of the Global MenEngage Alliance) asserted these ideas and more. In fact, he names power imbalance as a root cause of sexualized violence in conflict, as do we here at Women Under Siege.
“Whether in war or peacetime, the perpetration of sexualized violence is driven by socially sanctioned male dominance over women—and over socially weaker men, and children—by notions of manhood and power that valorize sexual conquest and give powerful men a sense of entitlement with no consequences, as many male politicians have shown us,” Peacock says.
Compare that with Gloria Steinem’s words in a Q&A I recently did with her about founding Women Under Siege: “Even in peacetime, the ‘cult of masculinity’ is so powerful that men commit crimes in which they have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose: ‘senseless’ killings like those in schools and post offices, serial murders, domestic violence, stalking, killing their wives and children and then killing themselves. They’re not hate crimes because they don’t hate the people they kill—but those people symbolize their lack of control, and so are killing the ‘masculinity’ on which their whole sense of self depends. In interviews, such men often describe themselves as victims because they believe they should have been allowed to have control. I think we should call such crimes ‘supremacy crimes.’”
Continue reading here at WMC’s Women Under Seige.
–Photo: A One Man Campaign protest against violence against women in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, on March 21, 2011, Human Rights Day in South Africa. (Eric Miller/Sonke)