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Socialise girls AND boys to reject gender stereotypes to prevent domestic violence

May 14 2015 By Paul Linossier, CEO, Our Watch

​We now have a wealth of international evidence that tells us, unequivocally, what we need to do to prevent violence against women.

Paul Linossier, CEO, Our Watch Image

We need to reject the stereotypes that seek to define and pigeon-hole men and women, boys and girls, into limiting gender categories, roles and behaviours. We need to embrace gender equality as a basic right that improves and enriches the lives of all Australians.

Boys and men are socialised to believe that being tough, emotionless and aggressive are the hallmarks of masculinity. Girls and women are continually sexualised and undervalued in almost all facets of society.

Restrictive stereotypes ripen the conditions for men’s violence against women to occur and to be tolerated; and they both help create, and are reinforced by, the structural inequalities that see women under-represented in leadership positions and paid less for equal work. 

And so it follows that it is imperative that we make our society more gender equitable to prevent this violence which has allegedly claimed the lives of 36 women in 2015 alone.

Sallee McLaren’s view (The Age 13.5.15) – that we should make women and girls tougher so they can stand up or be more resilient against their ‘aggressors’ – feeds into the dangerous narrative of ‘victim blaming’. 

Victim blaming is implicit when we question why women do not leave a violent partner, or why they return to those relationships. It also sits behind commentary that says women shouldn’t be on the street alone at night or dress in certain ways.

Men’s violence against women is the responsibility of men. Perpetrators must be held accountable for the violent (physical or otherwise) trauma they inflict. Women have a right to live in safety.  

It is well documented that women are most at risk of aggression and violence when they stand up to or try to leave such relationships, in fact the latter is when women are most likely to be murdered. 

Media promotion of the victim blaming narrative makes matters worse. Editors need to be more accountable when publishing stories that implicitly or explicitly blame victims for the violence they have/are suffering. We all have a role to play and the media can step up in this regard.

Challenging gender inequality, traditional gender stereotypes and violence supportive attitudes is crucial to preventing violence against women and their children. We must eradicate aggression from the story of what it means to be a boy/man, NOT teach girls/women be tougher so they can handle it.

While the majority of Australians (men and women) do not support violence against women, they do support (to varying degrees) gender inequality and stereotypes.  

Gender stereotypes limit our children’s ability to fulfil their potential and yes, gendered marketing plays an important role in reinforcing these stereotypes.

It’s not wearing pink versus blue or playing with trucks versus dolls, it’s about raising our children with the support and encouragement that enables them to be who they want to be.