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Wimps, Punks, & Sissies: Men’s Roles in the Prevention of Family Violence Jane F. Gilgun, PhD., LICSW University of Minnesota, Twin Cities USA

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Presentation on theme: "Wimps, Punks, & Sissies: Men’s Roles in the Prevention of Family Violence Jane F. Gilgun, PhD., LICSW University of Minnesota, Twin Cities USA"— Presentation transcript:

1 Wimps, Punks, & Sissies: Men’s Roles in the Prevention of Family Violence Jane F. Gilgun, PhD., LICSW University of Minnesota, Twin Cities USA Keynote Address to the Dakota Fatherhood Summit 3, Fargo, ND, May 22, 2003

2 Overview Importance of Men in Violence Prevention Significance of Gender in Violence Meanings of Violence Processes that Lead to Violence Strategies for Prevention

3 "Men must now do something themselves about male violence." Male Network, Governing Board of Save the Children Sweden, 1993

4 Why? One of three women in the United States experiences physical assault by a partner in their lifetimes 2-4 million women a year in the United States are assaulted by an intimate partner About 2/3 of domestic abuse victims are women; the rest are men

5 Why? more than 3.3 million children are exposed to physical and verbal spousal spousal abuse each year 60% to 75% of families in which a woman is battered, children are also battered. rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners lead to health costs that exceed $5.8 billion each year (CDC)

6 Why? 83% of arrestees for violent crime were men Men 3 times more likely to be murdered than women 90% of the murderers of men are men (Uniform Crime Reports, 2001)

7 Why? Hypermasculine attitudes and behaviors are linked to perpetration of violence Beliefs about masculinity are the single most important factor in the perpetration of violence

8 Why are men important? Men have more authority than women in promoting what it means to be male Men control most resources—such as media Men enforce male gender roles Consequences of not measuring up can be horrendous Men and boys are looking for models of how to be men Male look up to other males

9 Example of Men’s Authority Spike Lee Promoted a college education to the Black Expo in Columbia, SC Peers ridicule young black scholars as “acting white.” “But if you’re on a corner, holding a 40, smoking a blunt and holding your privates, then you’re real.” Role models not rappers (2003).

10 Challenges to Men’s Involvement in Prevention “You must be very tired spending a whole day trying to get us to talk about what we don’t want to talk about. It’s just the way it is.” Adolescent boy in Fergusson (2002)

11 Consequences of Men’s Violence on Children Silent victims: children exposed to family violence At risk for depression and anxiety At risk to become aggressive adolescents & adults These adolescents often depressed Often think violence is the natural way to deal with others Require loving attention of caring adults to learn to adapt to, cope with, & overcome these adversities

12 Consequences of Men’s Violence on Children Women victims of male violence More likely to physically abuse their children More likely to be psychologically unavailable to their children More likely to be ambivalent toward their children

13 Consequences of Men’s Violence on Families Women victims of male violence Suffer personally, socially, economically May be charged with failure to protect Children may be placed in foster care Are at heightened risk to be murdered

14 Consequences of Men’s Violence on Men Every man can be stereotyped as physically violent Is that what men want?

15 Consequences of Men’s Violence on Men Men who harm their partners Damage the quality of family/partner relationships Sometimes experience guilt Make themselves vulnerable to arrest and public shame to workhouse, jail, prison time to retaliation/self-protection from partner and children

16 Consequences of Men’s Violence on Men Other men may share their views that sometimes women deserve it Helps their bonding with these men— often takes place in men’s rooms, bars, boardrooms, golf courses Shores up identities as masculine men

17 Significance of Gender What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice, That’s what little girls are made of. What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, That’s what little boys are made of. Mother Goose

18 Violence is Gendered Women When they hurt others, they tend to do so with words that threaten relationships Men When they hurt others, behaviors often are physical and when men use words, they tend to be direct and aggressive

19 Women’s Violence Relational Aggression Harm or threaten to harm relationships Sense of belonging Friendships Reputations (Crick, et al., 1998, p. 77).

20 Relational Aggression Types of aggressive behaviors Silent treatment/ignoring Threat to end friendships Gossip Exclusion—or threat of ostracism Motivations Control others Feel superior Retaliation ” (Crick, et al., 1998, p. 77).

21 How do kids describe relational aggression? Tell a lie about other kids Tell someone, “We’re going to be in a group and you’re not going to be in it.” Pretend you don’t see another kid. Don’t talk to someone. Talk behind their backs

22 Relational Aggression Among Adolescents and Adults “Stealing” someone’s boyfriend Spreading lies or gossip Silent treatment Withholding love and attention Building a coalition against another

23 Effects of Relational Aggression Serious adjustment issues Peer rejection Loneliness Depression Emotional distress Low self-esteem Conclusion: relational aggression is harmful

24 Female Socialization Developing and maintaining relationships Emotional expressiveness Nurturing others Fears that direct expression of anger will damage relationships Women’s Gendered Aggression: A reversal of these socialization patterns

25 Male Socialization Competition Aggression Physical dominance Higher tolerance for distance in relationships Less concern about expressions of anger as threats to relationships

26 Male Socialization Use aggression to achieve a goal Do not have feminine qualities Do not be weak, a punk, a sissy, a fag Control: Threaten/beat someone up if the other person does not comply with a request Shame another male in front of men to damage his status in the eyes of other men (and some women)

27 Father Involvement Modifies Polarizations Girls: expressed more competition, aggression and less intense fear and sadness Boys: more expressions of vulnerability, including fear and warmth, less aggression, more empathy Brody (1999)

28 Parents’ Socialization strong gender effects Boys more likely than girls to use aggression to express both anger and sadness Boys more often rewarded for expressing these emotions through attacks on others

29 Socialization in Families Girls more likely to display negative emotions such as anger and fear if they believe others will respond with understanding and comfort Girls masked these emotions when they sought to promote relationships with others.

30 Socialization in Families Girls: socialized to use prosocial and norm maintenance displays of emotion Boys: focus more strongly on impression management—what kind of image do they have? Are they being masculine? Assertive/aggressive/independent/daring/stoic

31 Male Socialization Fragile vs. flexible sense of how others perceive their masculinity Anxiety vs. acceptance of self as masculine Men define each other as as having control over women and children Deep fear of being perceived as not masculine

32 Peers as Enforcers Punish each other for “inappropriate” gendered expressions Concern over how others perceive them Status for boys: competition & control Taking risks Winning in competitions Maximizing aggression, mocking others Minimizing fear, warmth, vulnerability

33 Peers as Enforcers Status for girls Goals: intimacy and affiliation Mutual vulnerability through self-disclosure Priority is not to get into trouble Emphasis on equality Bragging less acceptable compared to boys More exposure to women More expressiveness of warmth & vulnerability Works for both girls and boys

34 Peers as Enforcers Even 4-7 year olds are aware of status differences between males & females In play, girls who play boys are more directive Girls who play children are more directive with “mothers” than with “fathers ”

35 Media Depictions of Men Research shows media influences on learning of gender roles and aggression Portrayals of anti-social behaviors are wide-spread Violence depicted as justified Targets of violence portrayed as Deserving of violence Weak

36 Social Constructions of Gender in the Media What it means to be “manly” is exaggerated Being manly includes contempt for things female Scorn for “bleeding hearts” Mastery/Suppression of emotions such as fear, distress, joy Hypermasculine role models for viewers

37 Social Constructions of Male Gender Men pursue Excitement Danger Thrills Violence is manly: normative and acceptable Toughness valued To be masculine is to be not feminine

38 Social Constructions of Male Gender Culturally-based systems of meanings and practices are descriptive and prescriptive for individual men in particular situations

39 Social Constructions of Male Gender Individuals enact cultural themes and practices and do so in their own way Therefore, individuals enact and create culture

40 Enacting & Creating Culture Use violence to show others you’re not weak You can't think I'm a joke. If you underestimate me, if you think I won't do it and you think I'm a weak punk, I'm going, I'm going to go to any extreme to show you… Don't mock me or somebody's going to die. (Alan)

41 Aggression & Achievement of Manhood “One day he came home drunk and, it was like enough is enough. I threw a punch and knocked him down. And he said, ‘Okay, you’re a man now.’”

42 Needed More wide-spread alternative definitions of what it means to be masculine Wide-spread challenges to understandings what it means to be male Examination of processes that lead to rejection of hypermasculine values Examination of processes that lead to violence

43 How? Increased involvement of fathers in child care from infancy to adulthood Increased awareness of men of their own vulnerabilities Of the centrality of human connection Bring this awareness to work

44 Some men are so afraid… of not being masculine they do not see that it takes courage to challenge unrealistic, dangerous standards. Being called punk, wimp, & sissy is not easy

45 Meanings of Violence

46 What Violence Means to Perps Understanding what violence means to perpetrators provides the foundation for action Violence means many things All are linked to gender roles

47 Emotional Gratification Littleton, CO "every time they'd shoot someone, they'd holler, like it was, like, exciting." "They were laughing after they shot. It was like they were having the time of their lives.“ 14 year-old Barry Loukatis "It sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" as he stood over a dying boy who was choking on his own blood.

48 Emotional Gratification Sexual abuse of children: “warm, comfortable, gentle.” Rape “I would be shaking, physically shaking. Teeth would chatter, and I couldn't stop.” "The excitement is worth giving a whole bundle for." Burglary “It was like Christmas....Sometimes I got so excited I had to have a bowel movement.”

49 Gratification & Power Intimidating others “It's a, it's like a rush, it's like shooting your arm full of dope…. It's like a total body rush.” “They're giving me this high, this, this feeling of control or power...I got power now, over these people. Look, you know, and they telling me, ‘Oh don't hurt him, don't hurt him.’”

50 Power, Gratification, Image “You know man and, and I've got this power. You know and I love that. You know I love, I love people to dress me up.” “…I wanted to fight, shoot at people. I don't know just play like Al Capone, I guess.”

51 Image & Pride “ ‘What are you trying to do, you're trying to shame me, you're trying to embarrass me. You, you're not giving me any respect.’ Those are my famous words.” “I be trying to instill that fear in everybody's mind that's around me and say, hey look, if you fuck with me, this is what's going to happen to you.”

52 Image & Pride “I've seen guys who killed for less than a quarter you know, and how people talk about that. I wanted that hero image. To me that was the key word.” “I don't want to be embarrassed and say got your assed kicked.” “Can't be disrespecting me and insulting my pride...this is righteous anger.”

53 What They Don’t Do “I don’t know why I’m getting the feeling of I don’t want to burden nobody or come to nobody with my little old, you know, (chuckle) emotional whatever I’m going through.”

54 Relief “The more destructive that I've been toward material things, I've tore them up, it's given me relief. Even when I hurt people it gives me the relief.” “Like an elephant dropped off my back.”

55 Feeling Victimized & Not in Control “I get into a relationship and when I wasn't in control of the relationship, that's when I thought, I felt like I was a victim again.” “People pushing my buttons, you know, parole officer telling me to do this, go live in this halfway house or do this, don't do that. It was like I didn't have no control over my life at all.”

56 Feeling Victimized “All I want to do is get my point across that I'm right, you're wrong. I guess what it was is I was feeling kind of persecuted.” “It gets to the point where I just can't, I can't find anything in myself that's, that's worth a diddly ‑ dang. And the way I've learned is, and it sounds like an excuse maybe, the way I've learned to take care of it is to abuse someone else.”

57 Feeling Victimized “He never touched me after that. I think right at that point in time, I think I finally felt like I won. I think he had a sense that he lost.” “There's power in, well all that comes out of hate is rage. Anger and rage, and there's a rush in that for me, without a doubt. There's power in anger and there's power in rage ….When I feel like a victim, I perpetrate.”

58 Control “You're going do every damn thing I tell you to do and you have no choice.” “I got control. You know I can, I can handle this. I can deal with you. And you get that adrenalin rush you know. Get all pumped up. But then I get so pumped up my ears start ringing.”

59 Boredom "Life was boring, nothing, go to school, go home, get drunk, got home to hear parents fight, listen to friends verbally abuse me. That's why."

60 Violence as Survival “If you're not violent, people will walk all over you. Violence keeps people away. It's safe.” “…they have to stand up for theirself because they don't want to be considered weak. “Now if I let somebody put their hands on me I'm gonna feel like a coward, a punk.”

61 Survival ‘You whip a man good enough so he don't never want to come back after you.”

62 Death Wish: Whose? “I wanted to end it all.” “I've felt really bad in my life. Sometimes I wished I was dead.” “I was going to end my pain. I was going to end the kids' pain.”

63 Ownership “Your body is mine, you know. You can't. We get this tripped out thing about once a woman gives herself to us, she can't ever give herself to anybody else.” “Then it would run in my head that she's mine and always will be...It would run in my head that she always will be mine.”

64 Take What They Want “Sex. I wanted sex. I wanted sex.” “I wanted attention from them. The only way I knew attention from a woman was sexual. I want this woman just automatically to give into sex.” “I think I was more interested in my own need or my own desire than I was in whoever I was hurting."

65 Retaliation “...and I believed do onto others before they do onto you. I was taught if you, if I get the first lick in, the person doesn't have time to retaliate.” “I do think about hurting people when they do wrong to me.”

66 Scapegoating “I wasn't mad at my victims, I was mad at somebody else.”

67 Processes That Lead to Violence Case Studies

68 Moby Dick Bites Ahab’s Leg Off Ahab is flooded with anger, rage, and hatred Powerlessness Incompetence Worthlessness These responses experienced through gendered, cultured lenses

69 Responses Fantasies Revenge Self-aggrandization Self as scum Memories triggered Other noxious events recalled

70 How Long? Temporary On-Going Periodic

71 Human Agency Ahab has choices about how to deal with these strong responses He wants to feel better Powerful Competent Worthy He can do so Pro-socially Anti-socially Self-destructively

72 Pro-Social Responses Core response: return to a secure positive base Internalized processes Behaviors Forgiveness Adapt and learn Cope positively with the remaining “soul” wound

73 Anti-Social Responses Revenge Solace and relief Some sexual abuse/rape Some physical violence Some destruction of property

74 Self-Destructive Responses Use of chemicals, food, shopping, gambling Cutting Put self at risk Ruminating

75 Basic Principles Competent people have capacities for effective self-regulation of emotions, cognitions, and behaviors. Basic value: do no harm To be human means we experience anger, rage, and hatred.

76 Basic Principles Cognitions and emotions are integrated processes. This idea is so novel that we don’t have a word for it. Cultures of anger, rage, and hatred exist Organized in a variety of ways geography, ethnicity, gender, ideologies, and values

77 Basic Principles How we regulate these powerful states depends upon how we think we are supposed to regulate our emotions Emotions, memories, cognitions, psycho- physiological processes Internalized gendered ideas about our entitlements and “oughts” Who our audience is Our perceptions of situations

78 Basic Principles Many people have capacities to bypass gender role prescriptions that lead to self harm and harm to others Many of these prescriptions are “gendered”

79 Case Study Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

80 Dysegulation & Outcome Noxious Event Search for Coping Strategies Human Agency Outcome Pro-socialAnti-Social Self- destructive Dysregulation

81 Entitlement & Outcome Perception of Wanting Something Appraisal of How to Get it Human Agency Outcome Pro-socialAnti-Social Self- destructive

82 Both Types Draw upon gendered cultural themes and practices Conclusion Significance of challenging and transforming what it means to be male

83 Family violence is one of many ways that some men measure and maintain their dominance.

84 What to do? Gender equality Gender balance

85 Humane Expectations About Boys and Men No matter what traumas a boy or man has experienced No matter how seriously victimized No matter how psychologically damaged …

86 Gender Balance Violence would not exist if we transformed social constructions of gender Father involvement in families is key

87 Father Involvement Modifies Polarizations Girls: expressed more competition, aggression and less intense fear and sadness than girls with little Boys: expressed more vulnerability, including fear and warmth, less aggression, more empathy than boys with little father involvement Brody (1999)

88 Gender Imbalance Most men do not see themselves as having power Yet men world-wide dominate all social institutions, including families

89 Gender Imbalance Men in positions of dominance rarely articulate the ideologies that drive their choices and behaviors Gender equality can be attained through collaboration between women and men

90 Gender Balance Will Lead Fathers to think of themselves as important parents competent parents to share In the responsibilities of parenthood In the satisfactions of parenthood

91 Emotional Expressiveness We need to create blueprints saying that boys are real men when they confess their pain, deal with it, and let it go. My research tells me that boys risk severe punishment for sharing such personal, sensitive material.

92 Male violence would not exist if we had humane expectations for boys and men.

93 The Rejection by MEN of Male Violence Nearly impossible for many men Dominance & control at heart of male self-definitions Consequences of departure too dire

94 Near Impossibility Men benefit from unequal distribution of power, privilege and prestige Men don’t want to be thought of as Wimps Punks Sissies

95 You’re not man enough to do it. You don’t have the guts. You throw like a girl.

96 What’s Needed for Prevention Transformation What it means to be male Definitions of masculinity What it means to be female Transform misogyny Promotion Gender balance

97 What’s Not Enough Create a culture does not tolerate domestic violence holds offenders accountable for their actions punishes criminal behavior. Provides victim services

98 What’s Enough Transform Gender Roles Create balance —challenge both extremes Promote father involvement in families Promote balanced men into positions of power Welcome balanced women into positions of power

99 Strategies for Prevention Take the experiences of boys and men and girls and women as starting points Be even-handed in dealing with aggression that is characteristic of both genders View violent behaviors as processes that have numerous points along which the process can be interrupted

100 Strategies for Prevention If individuals enact and create cultural themes and practices Why can’t men create new cultural themes and practices? In fact, many men are


102 Mentor Violence Prevention Program By focusing on bystander behavior, MVP reduces the defensiveness and hopelessness that many men and women often feel when discussing men's violence against women. MVP aims to construct a new vision for society that does not equate strength in men with dominance over women.


104 Depression Common Among Men with Histories of Violence Why? If violent men are hypermasculine, how does this affect their relationships? What makes life meaningful? Why is men’s depression untreated?


106 Some Key Issues in Preventing Male Violence Glorification of violence Humane expectations about boys and men Gender equality From the Male Network, 2003,


108 Men Stopping Violence Shift norms that support subjugation of women Asserting oneself as male does not have to involve proclaiming self not female




112 Effective Prevention Gender is central in any prevention program Gender is a proxy for power Power related to ethnicity and social class central to prevention programs

113 Effective Prevention Start where participants are Understand their values that support violence Understand the worlds they’ve constructed Do participants have vulnerabilities in addition to values that support violence?

114 Effective Prevention Deal with vulnerabilities Fears of being sissies, punks, & wimps Fears of exclusion Sense of self as defective Self-defeating inner working models

115 Effective Prevention Particular situations bring out different aspects of gendered behaviors Expectations of consequences central to how persons enact gender and the power attached to male genderisms Each person struggles with mulitipe identity issues We cannot reduce each other to gender stereotypes

116 Effective Prevention Parent education Involved fathers have children whose gender roles are more flexible and less stereotyped Involved fathers provide role models for gender equality

117 Effective Prevention Enlarge choices Understand schemas/scripts Seek to change schemas/scripts What do participants value?

118 Effective Prevention Each person struggles with multiple identity issues We cannot reduce each other to gender stereotypes Human agency Choices that are contrained

119 Effective Prevention Increases range of choices Provides schemas of what can be Promotes interpersonal connections Promotes direct expression of emotion Leads to clarity in relationships Negotiated sense of who we are and what we want from each other and for ourselves

120 Effective Prevention Balance Start where participants are

121 References Brody, Leslie (1999). Gender, emotion, and the family. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Fergusson, Muriel McQueen (2002). Worlds apart…coming together: Gender Segregated & integrated primary prevention implementation for adolescents in Atlantic rural communities. In Berman, Helene & Yasmin Jiwani (Eds.), In the best interest of the girl child. Phase II report. Status of Women Canada Crick, Nicki, R., Nicole E. Werner, Juan F. Casas, Kathryn M. O’Brien, David A. Nelson, Jennifer K. Grotpeter, & Kristian Markon (1998). Childhood aggression and gender: A new look at an old problem. Gender and motivation. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 45, 75-141. Role models not rappers (2003). Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 20, B4.


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