2006 – “Violence against women concerns us”
Violence against women concerns us
Let’s speak out and make a commitment as men
“We are witnessing a continual return of violence done by men against women, with alarming statistics even from “developed” Western democracies. Violence that takes many forms, from barbarous murders and rape, to beatings, to negating freedom and imposing constrictions at home, to showing disdain for the female body. Research by the European Council confirms that male aggression is the primary cause of violent death and permanent disability amongst women age 16 to 44 worldwide, and that such violence is done mainly at home.
Are we facing a quantitative exacerbation of this violence or an increase in its reporting on the part of women? The fact is that now public opinion and common sense no longer tolerate extreme manifestations of male sexuality or abuse.
Whoever works in Social Services reports an often critical situation in adolescent male behaviour, more inclined than their female counterparts to acts of violence, both individually or as a group.
Perhaps the eclipse of the old system of relations between the sexes based on undiscussed male supremacy has provoked a crisis, a disorientation in men which requires a new capacity for reflection, for self-evaluation, in-depth research on the dynamics of our sexuality and the nature of our relations with women and other men.
The women’s liberation movement that we have seen in the second half of the last century has changed the world. First of all our lives have changed, as have our family relations, friendship and love between men and women, and our relationship with our children. Our habits and ways of feeling have changed. Even the written norms concerning living together, however slowly, register this change.
The affirmation of female liberties does not belong just to Western societies. The movement of emancipation and women’s liberation has extended, in many forms, in many ways, sensitive to different issues, around the globe. The conditions of women comes up frequently in controversies regarding “culture clash” around the world. We believe that the logic of war and cultures fighting can only be overcome through “a cultural transformation” worldwide based on a new quality in the relationship between men and women.
Today we are experiencing a contradictory phase in which there seems to be a large scale violent reaction against the changes produced by the women’s liberation movement. Physical violence against women can be interpreted in terms of continuity, observing the lasting traditional male attitude that perhaps for the first time has been challenged by such acute social criticism, but also in terms of novelty as a daily “response” to the change in relations between the sexes.
Another worrisome symptom is the proliferation of a mentality and behaviours inspired by various types of religious, ethnic, and political fundamentalism, systematically accompanied by an authoritative, male chauvinist vision of women’s role. These same tendencies however are currently under growingly widespread criticism, especially—but not exclusively—by women.
In this context of uncertainty (in part real, in part emphasized by the media and political sectors), continual emergency and fear of terrorist actions, and the contradictions spawned by the unprecedented size of the flux of immigrants, in the political debate, the matrix of patriarchal violence and rape is often referred to as deriving from cultures or religions other than our own. Many voices however rightly insist on the fact that even today our Western society is not immune from this sort of violence. On the contrary, it is possible that the stress attributed by the media to rape done by “foreigners” corresponds to a subconscious mechanism of displacement and a false sense of awareness with respect to the existence of this type of violence, albeit in different cultural contexts, by us Western males.
The need has been mentioned for a greater role to be taken by public institutions, even having local and national government organizations taking a role in civil suits regarding violence against women. There has even been the accusation of a hypothetical “feminist silence” when facing the sharp increase in rape and violence cases.
We think the time has come, first of all, to publicly and clearly speak out and assume responsibility as males. In recent years, there have been numerous individual males and groups of men that have sought to reflect on the crisis of the patriarchal order. But today, a quantum leap is needed, a collective realization. Violence is the most dramatic emergency.
A strong public male presence against the violence done by men could take on significant symbolic value. Even signing and distributing this Appeal, calling for demonstrations, meetings, and assemblies in your area to stimulate a true exchange of views.
We are more and more convinced that a single thread links very different phenomena which lead back to the intolerable resistance by males in society to react to the desire of women to decide how to run their own lives, to give meaning to their lives, to act with their new-found freedom: the female body is negated through violence. Yet it is even disdained and considered to be mere merchandise. It is removed from decisive centres of power: in politics, academia, information, business, and union organizations. Male eyes have not adequately seen the great transformation in our societies introduced in the last decades with the massive entrance of women in the workplace.
We propose and hope that finally a public reflection will begin and spread throughout Italy amongst men, in families, schools, universities, places of politics and information, the workplace, a reflection together capable of creating a decisive change in the daily behaviour and lives of each of us.”