Jackson Katz is social researcher known for his work around gender violence and how to prevent it in the first place. His biography lists him as: Jackson Katz, Ph.D., is an educator, author, filmmaker, and cultural theorist who is internationally renowned for his pioneering scholarship and activism on issues of gender, race, and violence.
In 2013, he gave a TED Talk (which can be seen below) in which he said the way we talk about gender violence is all wrong. This quote went viral last year at the start of the #MeToo movement. It’s powerful.
We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many raped women.
We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenager girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and boys impregnated teenage girls.
So you can see how the use of the passive voice has a political effect.
It shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term ‘violence against women’ is problematic.
It’s a passive construction; there’s no active agent in the sentence.
It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term ’violence against women,’ nobody is doing it to them.
It just happens to them.
Men aren’t even a part of it.
In fact, Katz wrote in his 2006 book The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help that he frequently spoke to groups of men and women and asked them (as groups) how they avoided being sexually assaulted. The results are stunning, although not surprising to any woman reading this right now.
Take a look:
“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they've been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, 'I stay out of prison.' This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, 'Nothing. I don't think about it.'
Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.
Here are some of their answers:
Hold my keys as a potential weapon.
Look in the back seat of the car before getting in.
Carry a cell phone.
Don't go jogging at night.
Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights.
Be careful not to drink too much.
Don't put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured.
Own a big dog.
Carry Mace or pepper spray.
Have an unlisted phone number.
Have a man's voice on my answering machine.
Park in well-lit areas.
Don't use parking garages.
Don't get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men.
Vary my route home from work.
Watch what I wear.
Don't use highway rest areas.
Use a home alarm system.
Don't wear headphones when jogging.
Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime.
Don't take a first-floor apartment.
Go out in groups.
Own a firearm.
Meet men on first dates in public places.
Make sure to have a car or cab fare.
Don't make eye contact with men on the street.
Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”
We have a problem and it is well past time to address it. It’s time to reshape how we address sexual assault from our classrooms to the workplace and everywhere in between. To train our young boys and men that humiliating, harassing, and sexually assaulting women is not okay. We have to start somewhere and if you are interested in dropping some knowledge on the men and boys in your life, take a listen to Jackson Katz’s TED Talk and share with others.