“The majority of the aggressors are common men, typical citizens, often models, recognized and many times respectful and cordial at work. They are men who base their personal safety in values that represent the traditional male stereotype; power through physical strength, competitiveness, aggressiveness and a superiority and privileges status towards women. Men who are not able to reconvert themselves to a new kind of egalitarian relationships based on mutual respect. But they are not the majority at all. So, what about the rest of us? Where are we and what do we, the rest of the men, do?” asks rhetorically Guillermo Perez, sociologist and social psychologist, to the people gathered in front of the Barcelona town hall.
As it was happening in that precise moment of the evening of October the 21st in numerous Spanish cities, men and women assembled in a circle and with their hands joined before candle-lights listened in silence.
“Violence is possible because the rest of the men keep maintaining some kind of complicity and tolerance. Might it be for selfishness, for resentment or for a misunderstood male solidarity, what is given is that many of us are not doing enough to stop gender-based violence. What is given is that many of us simply don’t do anything. Until now the majority of us have only looked at this problem from the distance, feeling free of blame and thinking it was enough not to be the abusers. But it is not enough because silence makes us collaborators. Let us break silence”.
This is the fourth year the Men’s Association for Gender Equality (AHIGE) created in the southern town of Malaga one decade ago, organizes the rueda (circle) of men against violence towards women. Never before had the event been as widespread in the Spanish territory as in this edition of the event, with more than 30 cities around the country (only 3 last year) participating and therefore becoming the biggest mobilization of men in the Spanish history.
As it happens since 2007 the event is held with the objective to take a public position against violence towards women, visualize the existence of men who fight for equality and invite people to participate in the demonstrations of November the 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year only in Spain 59 women have been killed by their partners, more than in 2009 period (55 women killed).
“The decision of doing it today is because we wanted to have it close to November the 25th but not on the same day, when women are the ones demonstrating, and we would have taken their prominence away”, says Paco Abril, sociologist, university researcher and professor specialized on gender and masculinities, member of AHIGE for more than two years. “You know, we men sometimes when getting to a place tend to occupy it all, it is part of our identity in inverted commas”, he points out smiling. For him, as a sociologist and a homosexual, it was relatively easy, he says, to “detect the gender jail to which the social process forces us” and thus decide to work on questioning the roles men should play.
Besides the campaign “Vivamos sin violencia, el silencio nos hace cómplices” (Let us live without violence, silence makes us collaborators), out of which the idea of the circle was born, AHIGE, part of the MenEngage network, also develops programs such as CO-RESPONDE, a nationwide program funded by the Woman’s Institute of the Ministry of Equality and addressed at promoting men’s domestic and family co-responsibility, workshops on emotional intelligence, inter-gender relationships and masculinity and virtual training and education intervention courses with men from the gender perspective.
This year approx. one thousand people got together around Spain on October 21. Not a consistent number, but, as Guillermo points out, while finishing reading the manifesto, “few but good ones”.
Worldwide on December 6 the White Ribbon Campaign will take place, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women.
Getting close to November 25 I try to find other ways to talk about an issue that , not differently from prostitution, too much often is simplistically analysed by only looking at those who suffer from it and ignoring the other parts, those who exercise it and, the most numerous ones, those who believe not to be responsible but in fact, with their words and silences, help making up the world that legitimizes this abuse in such a subliminal way that sometimes they become both victims and aggressors without not even noticing it.
As if it was only women’s, homosexuals’ and prostitutes’ responsibility, for instance, to be aware of and overcome the violence they receive, the only ones to have their psychological profiles analysed, the only ones, in the end, who have a problem.
Since I strongly believe we are all responsible and we can all do something, I have decided to start these pre-November 25 reflections of mine from this story. More will come in the future.