October 23, 2019

Male Gender Equality Activist Wednesday’s Cayman Islands IWD Keynote Speaker

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The first man to ever minor in Women’s Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will deliver tomorrow evening’s (Wednesday, 8 March 2017) keynote address at this year’s International Women’s .

His speech for the event is titled “Gender on the Agenda: Why equality between the sexes is a critical issue for women and men.”

Dr. Jackson Katz suggests that gender equality is one of the biggest unmet goals of the human species, and that many societal ills, including income disparity, climate change and economic development, stem from not fully addressing the problem. His work honours women’s leadership in these areas as well as challenging men to do more.

The American educator, author, and activist is, in his own words, one of the architects of what is now widely known as the bystander approach, to combatting gender violence.

This stance advocates that male friends, relatives and co-workers take a robust stand in challenging the male perpetrators of acts of gender inequity such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape.

He says, “Traditionally, it’s been the victims of gender violence who have been singled out for unwelcome attention, in terms of their behaviour, dress and demeanour, instead of those committing such acts.”

According to Dr. Katz, “The bystander approach empowers men with the responsibility of not only understanding that their silence is a form of tacit consent but taking the lead in personally challenging gender harassment and violence in their peers. It speaks not just to men who know “perpetrators” but men and young men who are part of peer cultures where sexist attitudes and beliefs are generated and sustained.”

The call for direct action by the perpetrators’ peers is an interesting paradigm shift which demands males counter the “failure of leadership in tackling such issues”.

Using such “circles of influence” in censuring anti-social behaviour is a potent message which Dr. Katz has taken up to develop bystander programmes that have been adopted in several school districts, university campuses and workplaces across America.

“Men share a fundamental responsibility to challenge societal norms and existing structures. It’s not a debatable point,” he adds. “They need to reinforce their opposition to patriarchal control. This is as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue.”

In recognising that men hold a disproportionate amount of economic and social power, he calls on them to “step it up” by personally engaging through contributing and support.

While acknowledging that overcoming gender inequality must be fought on many levels, his research suggests that one way to actively help is by recognising the influence of coaches in forming and validating young male behaviours. He suggests training coaches to espouse a progressive approach through Mentors in Violence Prevention programmes.

“[Young men] can spend more time with their coaches than their fathers and so have a significant platform of influence they can use to broach such issues head on,” Dr. Katz argues.

“We need to redefine what it means to be a strong man in the 21st century. Such definitions should include having the moral courage to stand up for justice and define strength more broadly to being strong in supporting and helping victims of gender violence and racism,” he concludes.

By improving the quality of women’s lives, Katz suggests, we will help lift up entire societies, increasing the economic status, literacy, life chances and the role of women and girls generally.

“To fix broken systems means being proactive… and requires us to make connections across the gender divide through education, advocacy,” he concludes.

Dr. Katz’s keynote talk will be followed by a question and answer session.

The International Women’s Day Celebration 2017, hosted by the Department of , will take place at the , West Bay Road, with a

5.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. reception. The main event is from 6.30 p.m.to 8.30 p.m. and general admission is free. Tickets are available from the Family Resource Centre, Compass Building on Shedden Road. tickets are $25 and include hors d’oeuvres, refreshments and special seating.

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