Administrator at the Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN), Kevin Liverpool said constantly describing men as “protectors” was benevolent sexism and could only encourage gender inequality in the long run.
Liverpool made the statement yesterday during a virtual talk shop titled – Intimate Partner Violence: Ending it before it begins.
The webinar was part of the Let’s Talk Thursdays, a webinar series hosted by the Institute of Critical Thinking in collaboration with the Pan-American Development Foundation.
On the topic of males and violence, Liverpool who dissected various aspects of it said holding men to that title, maintained the unequal power relation in society.
“It says that men are these protectors. We are more powerful and women are vulnerable and need to be protected. And that does not challenge that unequal power relation….it does not challenge that inequality. And by not challenging it, benevolent sexism creates an environment where violence will continue,” he warned.
He continued, “When you asked women, what they want. Do you want to be protected? Most women will say no…we want to be respected.”
He said while the idea of men protecting women, sounded good and maybe well-intentioned, in the end, it only maintained gender inequality.
“Women are capable of living their lives on their own terms. If we were to create a society where they don’t have to be protected. Men are not endowed by the creator to be ‘the protectors.’ And that’s a heavy burden that men take upon themselves. And because we have taken on that burden and place ourselves in that very rigid box of being a ‘protector,’ it results in a lot of depression when you cannot fulfil that.”
Responding to the question about the challenges experienced by men in intimate violent relationships, Liverpool said, they were many.
He shared a recent encounter with two men who would have experienced violence in their relationships. One sought the assistance of the authorities but was met with much difficulty trying to convince them that he was in fact the victim.
Liverpool said quite often in the incidents of domestic violence, it is often conveyed in the media that the man became angered and that was the reason for his violent act, but this was not true.
“Gender-based violence is rooted in inequality, so it is not an anger issue. It is not a problem where men are out of control of their anger, but actually men want to maintain control in their relationships and use violence and other forms of controlling behaviour to maintain control.”
He said while men and boys had to learn how to control their anger and develop emotional intelligence, intimate partner violence was not an anger issue.
He explained, men’s violence against women did not happen in isolation but formed part of what is called a triad of violence.
“On one corner of the triad is men’s violence of women, but on another corner is men’s violence against other men and the third corner is men’s violence against himself,” Liverpool explained.
He said the triad was held together by the false values and beliefs of what a man should be or represented.
“A lot of these ideas are rooted in power and control. At the foundation of it, is that men must have power and control. And one of these mechanisms or at least need to be seen as having power and control is the use of violence and this happens across all these domains of the triad that I mentioned,” said Liverpool
He related, with the existing values that men are not supposed to cry, ought to be strong, the breadwinners and leaders, it sets up a dynamic where most men find themselves, spending their whole lives in an elusive search to be a real man and a lot of times they use violence to compensate or to reinforce to themselves and to tell the world that they have power and control.
Liverpool warned such false notions of what is supposed to be a man created trauma for boys in their early years.
“If crying is seen as something that is not masculine, then you would find expressing a certain range of emotion which are human emotions, is really difficult for boys when they are growing up and for men, as they come into manhood. And that creates a level of trauma that we must address if we want to move men and society to a place where we have non-violence,” Liverpool advised.