HOW CAN A RE-EXAMINATION OF
HELP STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
A summary of "Swimming Upstream:
Looking for Clues to prevent male violence in couple relationships"
by Oswaldo Montoya Telleria.
Montoya's article is based on the research carried out by the Foundation
Puntos de Encuentro (Common Grounds) in Nicaragua which aimed to
identify male fears and expectations in couple relationships with women
and to identify the personal and social factors that influence men to be
non-violent in couple relationships. The study was part of Puntos de
Encuentro's development of a campaign against male violence against
women. As it is estimated in this piece that 29% of Nicaraguan women
have experienced physical violence from their partners in the last year
(from ENDESA 1998), this is clearly a pressing issue.
One of the reasons that this study is particularly interesting is that
it uses a group of men practicing non-violent relationships to
effectively study why men are and are not violent in a relationship. Two
study groups were set up -- a group of men who did exhibit violent
behaviours with their partners and a group that did not. Non-violent men
were studied in more depth because it was hoped that very particular
lessons could be learned from them, which could then be applied to men
exhibiting violent behaviours. By comparing the two groups it was hoped
that the factors influencing violent actions would become clearer. In
addition, it was hoped that the results of an examination of men's fears
and expectations could then feed into a more successful campaign.
The methodology of the study revolved around in-depth interviews,
particularly with men who had non-violent relationships with their
partners, and it used notes and from workshops on men and masculinity in
Nicaragua. One of the most critical aspects of this methodology was the
clear identification of 'violent' and 'non-violent' relationships.
Subsequently, men who are free from physical and sexual violence
behaviour against their partner, who are neither authoritarian nor
controlling in their relationships, who do not resort to behaviours
considered to be emotionally violent and who are not drug or
alcohol-dependent are considered to be non-violent. Similarly, men who
had been involved in the anti-violence or feminist movements were
excluded from the study.
The first part of the study examined men's fears and expectations in
couple relationships with women. According to this research, men
generally expect the following;
* To be served by the woman
* To be understood by the woman
* To lead the relationship
* That the woman be dependent on him
* That the woman be faithful
* That the woman give birth to his children
Similarly, men's fears included fear of being dominated, fear of having
an independent partner, fear that the partner had sexual relationships
with others and fear of "performing badly" in sexual
relationships. These findings were then used in the campaign to
demonstrate to men that their own patriarchal expectations of
relationships in fact "locked" them into a particular way of
interacting with their families -- one that often leads to violence.
They were also used in the design of pre-campaign surveys to identify
men's attitudes about relationships which were then compared to
post-campaign survey results.
On the other hand, numerous factors that promote non-violent behaviours
in men were identified.
They are as follows:
* Reasoning (ways of thinking)
* Support and stimulation from others
* self-image as non-violent
* open to self-examination
* working from an ethical standpoint
* childhood experiences
* non-violent models or rejection of violent models
* connection with mother
* parents moral understandings
Through this research men identified numerous benefits to being
non-violent, such as well being of their children, harmony in the home,
self-esteem and developing a good reputation. However, men also
indicated that there are heavy pressures to be a "real man"
who is not controlled by his wife. This research also revealed that
although non-violent men may work actively to share control within the
household, overall patriarchal values still abound in their
relationships. The men interviewed, violent and non-violent, still held
traditional expectations of their female partners, considered themselves
the "givers" in a relationship and felt the need to lead the
relationship. This led the researchers to note that when working with
men against violence it is very important to avoid promoting the
"good patriarch" as the ideal model of behaviours. While
non-violence may represent a "fissure" in dominant expression
of masculinity, it is still embedded in patriarchy.
The campaign against violence against women took these findings and
proceeded to design actions and messages around them. In particular, the
work with non- violent men provided proof that there are ways of living
non-violently while in a 'machista' context. Similarly, posters
developed by the campaign demonstrated alternative actions that men can
take when they are on the verge of mistreating their families. Posters
advertising more egalitarian gender roles within the family were also
distributed. The campaign also used a "man to man" approach
and had non-violent men sharing their experiences over radio, TV and
print media. The campaign proved to be fairly successful. Of the men
surveyed after the campaign, 60% knew about the campaign and 1/3 of them
had talked it over with their wives; 2/3 of men hearing about the
campaign talked about it with other men.
Source: This article was summarized from the full text of the
presentation given by Mr. Oswaldo Montoya Telleria, "Swimming
Upstream: Looking for Clues to prevent male violence in couple
) at the Men, Masculinities and Gender Relations in Development webpage.
This site was developed as a result of the Men, Masculinities and Gender
Relations in Development seminar series held in partnership with The
School of Development Studies (University of East Anglia), The Institute
of Development Studies (University of Sussex) and Oxfam.
AWID Resource Net
Issue 39 - Friday August 17, 2001
The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
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