Feminism: It's a Fight for Men Too
Image description: Photo of a man against a blurred background of water. He is sitting with his elbows propped up on his knees and his hands clasped over his head. He is looking at the ground in a dejected manner. He is wearing dark wash blue jeans, a blue and brown plaid button-up and a black watch, as well as a wedding ring.
Feminism and women’s rights are just as much a priority for Australian women today as they have ever been. Recently, the media has bombarded us with statistics about domestic violence being the most common cause of injury and death of Australian women under the age of 45. At the time of writing this article, 39 women have been confirmed killed by domestic violence in 2019. ABS statistics from 2016 state one in four women will experience violence by an intimate partner compared to one in 13 men. In comparison, men are more likely to suffer violence at the hands of another man and more than one in four men suffer violence at the hands of a stranger, compared to one in 11 women. However, the underlying issue is one that is much more complex and ingrained across all genders within our society.
Primarily, we need to consider a few other statistics about men and women. Statistics for death by suicide are three times higher for males than females in Australia. Sadly, we are trying to tackle a situation where men are killing women and themselves. A study funded by Beyond Blue in 2015 investigated the most probable causes for such a prevalence of male suicides in Australia. It identified several factors revolving around personal stressors and social isolation. Most concerningly, the study reported unhealthy conceptions of masculinity and the 'Tough Aussie Bloke' stereotype as the biggest problems. Men reported their beliefs surrounding masculinity led them to isolate themselves when feeling depressed. A sense of loss or guilt and anxiety is perpetuated by a subsequent perception of weakness or failure. Families reported that these men tend to react to distress in a typically masculine manner, by bottling it up, subsequently resulting in families being unaware of warning signs.
Essentially, if, as a society, we do not identify, unpack, address and create a safe space for men to deal with issues of male dominance, then feminism doesn't stand a chance. Men and women are both victims of the patriarchal, male-dominated culture within Australia. It is imperative to address the issue from a social perspective, not just a gender-specific one. Without cooperation and support from men in our society, the changes we seek as feminists cannot occur. Yet men are unable to change without the correct skills and resources.
Image description: Close- up photo of what appears to be a man's hand punching a red surface.
When I see or hear about a man behaving in such a manner, all I can think about is how once an innocent boy witnessed sexism and possibly violence in his community and, most likely, even his own home. This is where we need to start. Young men need to feel safe and not be gaslighted or suppressed. As a primary response to this issue, we as a society need to check in with young men and boys. We also need to drive the message home to men that their behaviour is not ok. There is only one way we can do that, and that is with the support of men in our communities.
We need men to stand up and say this kind of violence isn't ok. We need them to feel safe to seek help. We need them to speak up when they see a young man being bullied. We need men to approach other men and acknowledge their behaviour isn't ok. The moment people decide to stay out of these situations, regardless of how they have manifested, the bully has succeeded in isolating their victim. This is a fundamental ploy of abusers, and what we need to openly tackle if we are to offer any hope to victims and end the violence and toxicity in our culture. Essentially, attitudes towards mental health issues are of utmost concern in this battle. We need understanding and education if, as a society, we are to ever break the cycle of bullying, gaslighting, isolation and victim-blaming.
The damage of not taking a victim’s cry for help seriously can be detrimental and long term. It can isolate victims more and result in complex PTSD. Abusers use isolation as a tool in their abusive cycles. One common ploy of abusers is to gaslight or smear the reputation of the victim by claiming they are crazy or a liar. These accusations can make it hard for victims to not only get help, as others may not believe them, but is also an attempt by abusers to absolve themselves of responsibility by shifting it to the victim. This tactic is exactly how abusers isolate and terorise their victims, making the most vulnerable even more so. They then become easy prey for predators in the community, as people no longer believe their claims. The more stigma there is about mental health, the more successful this tactic can be. Men that behave like this may also be acting out of fear of psychological health issues and coming under scrutiny themselves. They may also be projecting their own perceptions of ill mental health as a weakness. This behaviour needs to be viewed as an immediate red flag.
Yes, awareness of bullying is changing, which is good. But, as feminists, we need to educate the wider community about how this problem is bigger than an isolated domestic dispute. Men are essentially conditioned by their peers to view mental problems as a serious weakness that should be shunned, not greeted with love and respect. Men need to be engaged, feel safe and have the resources to not only seek help themselves but to also know how to intervene when they see something happening. They need to be educated on how to raise their own boys, so they understand. This by no means is effeminizing. People, not just women, who live in fear will also isolate themselves. As general members of the public, we can acknowledge bad things are happening and aggressive men may not have the resources to deal with situations differently because of their own experiences. We can also change that. We can help young men respond correctly, support themselves emotionally and understand why they are feeling the way they are before it escalates.
Image description: Black and white, close-up photo of what appears to be a woman with her face hidden in her hands. She is wearing an engagement ring.
We need men to fix these problems. The rest of us need to support that process. I guarantee you a bully who thinks their victim cannot be isolated will think twice about abusing. We need men to feel safe and have access to resources. We need an environment where men feel they can deal with their emotional issues as well as speak up on behalf of other men. Above all else, we need men to stand by us and support the fact that violence and abuse in our community is not ok. Then, and only then, can we finally tackle the issue of domestic violence and how it contributes to feminism and women’s rights.
By: Violet December
Player M,J, Proudfoot,J, Fogarty, A, Whittle, E, Spurrier, M, Shand, F, (2015), "What Interrupts Suicide Attempts in Men: A Qualitative Study"
retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4474962/ABS website (2018) “Causes of Death, Australia, 2018” retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3303.0
ABS website (2016) "Personal Safety, Australia, 2016" retrieved from
Australian Government Australian Institute and Welfare website (2018) "Personal Safety, Australia," retrieved from
The Black Dog Institute website " About us" retrieved from
Ellem (2016), "The War on Feminism and the Normalisation of Misogyny in Australia" retrieved from
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