I have, for a while now, been struggling with the call to end, or stop, violence against women.
Yes, we should do that and of that there can be no debate. But for me its not just about just stopping violence against women. Women are not the only victims of violence and men are not the only perpetrators of violence (and this is where I get close to being accused of victim blaming), but there are a couple of very key issues that seem to be constantly overlooked here:
For me the key to ending family violence is to focus on stopping violence in all of its forms, regardless of who the victim is.
As much as I have an issue with “stop violence against women” I was angered when the other day I read, from a leading American anti-domestic violence organisation a new slogan: “Stop, violence against women and girls.”
WTF? What about boys? What about the little boys who get beaten, abused and sometimes killed by (a minority of) men? Really, do boys not matter?
Isn’t this attitude symptomatic of the social attitudes toward boys that leads them to become the men that they become.
Boys don’t need to be protected?
I was with a group of men earlier this week when the question was asked, “when did you first realise that you had become a man? Was it when you smoked your first cigarette, your first kiss, your first car, leaving school or leaving home? Was it when you started your first job, the first time you had sex? Maybe your first fight or when you got married or when you became a father for the first time?”
I listened as the other men shared their experiences and I thought, “actually, I don’t remember ever feeling that I had become a man. I’m not sure if I have ever truly become a ‘man”.
It was then, for the first time ever, that I realised that although I don’t remember becoming a man, I knew when I began to become a man, and it hurt.
As a very young kid my best friend was a girl from 2 doors down. We were about the same age and although I have few memories of life before I was 5, I still today sense a special bond to her.
But all that was to change when we started school together. At home we played with whomever we wanted to play but at school there was a new code: boys played with boys and the girls payed with girls.
I had always felt more comfortable and safer hanging out with girls, I still do. I was the only boy in our family that had both an older and a younger sister.
Now, all of a sudden, I couldn’t even play with my friend anymore. It just wasn’t the way things were done.
I remember times at school when I would be playing with boys but watching to see what the girls were doing. Once or twice I would venture over to hang out with the girls and although to me it felt right, it would also feel awkward and there was always that compulsion to go back and hangout with the boys.
At home, the times when me and my friend would hangout together become less and less frequent. We had drifted apart but every now and then we would hangout and I would feel that familiar bind of comfort and security.
It wasn’t until I was to meet my wife that I was to feel that feeling again.
I was just 5 years old when I had to start becoming a man.
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