Rape not just 'women's issue,' educator says
Both sexes must deal with gender violence
Alexandra Zabjek, The Edmonton Journal
Published: 1:31 am
Jackson Katz's views on violence against women are blunt and hard to ignore.
"Most people think of rape as an important women's issue," Katz said in his keynote address to a men's leadership forum on Monday.
"If over 97, 98, 99 per cent of rape is perpetrated by men, how is it a women's issue?"
Gender violence is not a "women's issue," said Katz, and until men and women start dealing with the problem together, it will never be solved.
Katz made the candid statements during a speech at Breakfast with the Guys, an annual fundraising event to increase men's awareness about spousal abuse. More than 200 people bought tickets for the breakfast, with Edmonton Eskimos, city councillors, local police officers and MLAs all in attendance.
The attendees were joined by delegates from the First Global Conference of Women's Shelters, which has brought 800 women -- and a handful of men -- from around the world to Edmonton. The conference is being organized by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters and kicked off Monday night.
Katz, an American educator and author, spoke of his own experience growing up in a household with an abusive stepfather. The experience led him to question issues of violence towards men. Inspired by the works of feminist academics, he expanded his research to look at why men commit violent acts towards each other and women.
Critics have called Katz anti-male. He finds the characterization insulting.
"For those of us who care about boys, one of the best things we can do for them is to speak out against men's violence against women, and men's violence against other men," he said.
"If a man is abusing the mother of children, even if he doesn't lay a finger on those children, he's abusing them."
Popular culture can desensitize and normalize abusive relationships, Katz said. At one point, he showed a series of television clips from entertainment wrestling. In the clips, men were shown throwing bikini-clad women to the ground, smashing them with chairs and dragging them into the wrestling ring by their hair. The crowds on-screen cheered.
"This is going to come to define what's normal for men," said Katz.
A conference delegate from Rwanda said she had never seen such a show. "I am truly shocked," she said.
To stop violence against women, more men need to speak out about the issue -- particularly those with social, political and economic clout.
"One of your responsibilities as a leader is to address these issues," said Katz. "If you don't address these issues, it's a failure in your leadership."
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