Jackson Katz Visits U of G

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Written by May Warren

Jackson Katz, a leading gender violence prevention activist, delivered an inspirational message to a packed Peter Clark Hall on Monday. Katz has been doing advocacy and educational work around gender violence prevention for over fifteen years. He is the founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program, an organization that broaches issues of gender violence and sexism with athletic teams on university and college campuses and he has done extensive work with the United States Marine Corps. This was his first visit to a Canadian University.

Katz spoke passionately to the audience, which included U of G students, professors, and members of the larger Guelph community such as police officers and secondary school teachers, about the importance of recognizing that preventing violence against women is not a women’s issue.

“Many domestic violence prevention programs emphasize things women can do to enhance their safety such as not walking home alone at night or not accepting drinks from strangers, he explained, “while this is useful its really more risk reduction then prevention.”

Katz focuses his approach on men and boys, not only because they are overwhelming the ones that commit violent acts but because they are often the bystanders to these acts.

“We try and place an emphasis on positive participation,” he says about his Mentors in Violence Prevention program, "we attempt to get men and boys to rise to the challenge and question their friends, team mates or coworkers. It takes courage and strength to stand up to your buddies when they are making lewd comments about women, so why do you get called a wimp?,” he asked the audience after getting them to shout out different names used to silence both women and men who try and stand up for women’s rights.

Katz concluded his presentation with a series of clips from his films Tough Guise and Wrestling with Manhood which examine images of men and masculinity from the media. A particularly disturbing clip from Wrestling with Manhood showed male wrestlers brutally beating their female counterparts while the announcers insisted that the female wrestlers were “enjoying it.”

In respect to media images, Katz emphasis, not just the copy cat effect but the desensitization and normalization of boys and men to these images. “In public boys are being taught to respect women as their equals, but then they go home with their friends and see images like this on TV. It’s very difficult for them to navigate these two worlds,” he argued.

Katz stressed the need for men and boys to join the fight against violence against women not just by not committing violent acts themselves, but by actively challenging individuals and institutions that contribute to this problem.

His visit was sponsored by the Wellness Center, the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, the College of Arts, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Athletics, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Criminal Justice and Public Policy Society.

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