When men were targeted for prevention efforts, in educational or community settings, they were often sseen as potential perpetrators. The message to them: you need to recognize the triggers for your own bad behaviors so you can interrupt the process before you have the urge to strike your girlfriend/wife. Or, you need to develop better interpersonal communication skills, like good listening, so you do not force yourself on women sexually. Or, if you occasionally or regularly drink alcohol and then behave in a manner you cannot defend when sober, you need to get immediate help with your drinking problem.
The first problem with this approach is that it treats gender violenec as an individual issue that is caused by man’s personality flaws. It presumes that gender violence is a type of dysfunctional behavior that can be cured with therapy or punished by jail time, rather than a specific manifestation of a deeply rooted system of male dominance. As we have seen, people constantly misrepresent gender violence as the behavior of a few bad apples.
Men of color are more likely than white men to be held accountable for their crimes, especially if their victims are whire. For example, in the early decades of the twentieth century, thousands of African American men were lynched by vigilante mobs of white men, predominantly in the South, based on trumped up charges that they had raped white women. This racist legacy cannot be overlooked or wished away. But the solution to this disparity is not to ease the pressure on perpetrators; it is to seek fair treatment in the application of justice. If fewer men who assault women got away with it-including wealthy white men-the anticipation of negative consequences would reinforce the need to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Journalist Nathan McCall explains in his essay collection What’s Going On that he and some of his African American male cohorts in the 1960s and 1970s learned a lot about “manhood” from watching gangster films which featured ruthless Italian men who regularly assaulted each other and treated women as little more than property.Â Gangsta rap in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century borrowed a lot from these cinematic portrayals.Â Ironically, many young suburban white men today are powerfully influenced by black urban gangsta rappers, who in turn learned about how “real men” are supposed to act from white actors in movies that were written and directed by white men.