Each month we bring you a nonviolence training workshop
based on the experience of the Nonviolent Action Training
project and INNATE.
Men and violence, women and violence
here to view print version]
The material here is an outline workshop template
which can be adapted and altered significantly to fit the
needs of a particular group, and the time available. It begins
with an exercise which requires imagination, and a facilitator
and group who are happy to use role play/sociodrama to explore
a situation. The questions or issues following are for group
and individual consideration and can be used apart from the
first exercise, if desired.
Alan - He really got on my nerves, going
on like that. I couldn't stand it any more so I hit him one,
I felt better after that.....
Alana - She really got on my
nerves, going on like that. I couldn't stand it any more so
I went home and had a good cry, I felt better after that......
Even if the above quotes from 'Alan' and 'Alana' are two stereotyped
responses from a male and a female, men and women do often
react to difficult situations in different ways. Men have
a greater tendency to lash out, using their physical strength,
and women have a tendency to turn some of the difficulty or
violence in on themselves but they are also better at both
showing and sharing emotion (while 'big boys don't cry' -
The examples of Alan and Alana above can be
worked on in small groups;
- You can use your imagination to work out what
kinds of situations or events could have led Alan and Alana
to react as they do above. And even if 'Alan' didn't actually
hit someone, what else might he have done if he 'couldn't
stand' the situation? And what would Alana's alternatives
- Having worked out some possibilities, role-play
a couple of them. [If there are at least a couple of small
groups developing different scenarios, they can be role-played
in front of the whole group before getting feed-back on them
all, and developing into discussion].
- Either as part of the role-play, or afterwards,
work out how Alan and Alana could have responded differently
- assertively and nonviolently. You can, if time permits,
role-play the alternative(s).
These can be used for group discussion, or given to group
members to think about. If the latter, you can, for example,
announce that the next session would ask people for reflections,
and pick up on questions which particularly interest people.
Any of these questions could be the topic for a whole session
of, say, an hour and a half or more, though depending on the
nature of the group the facilitator might need to provide
some structured input (e.g. details of some examples relating
to the questions involved).
1. To what extent is male violence biological
(a physical given) as opposed to cultural (something picked
up through childrearing and society in general)? What can
we learn about this from different cultures around the world?
And how easy is it to change things?
2. Feminists and others, including sociologists,
talk about 'patriarchy' (from the Latin 'pater' for father,
meaning a social system where prime authority lies in the
hands of older males). Is our society 'patriarchal'? If you
think it is, to what extent is this so, and what does it mean
in practice? If you think it's not, or only partly so, who
does hold power in our society?
3. How does male power relate to violence? Think
of different kinds of violence; domestic, street, structural
(the violence of poverty, etc), national (repressive political
regimes) and international (war). This can be done on a flip
chart sheet showing any linkages.
4. Women can be as violent to other people as
men. Why are they normally not? And are things changing -
if you think they are, then why?
5. Some feminist theory points out that the
early socialisation of children leads to boys identifying
with the mind/thinking rather than the body/feeling - the
latter becomes a female concern. So the male is brought up
to feel in certain ways and not to express certain feelings
('big boys don't cry'). Do you agree this is how children
are brought up?
6. Feminist and anti-militarist theory would
also point out that the distancing of men from their feelings
is a primary factor in the making of soldiers as people who
can kill whenever they are ordered to. Men don't pause to
think, they prefer 'action' - whatever the consequences. Is
this right, do you think?
7. How can men become more involved in overcoming
8. How can women become more involved in overcoming
9. One vision for the future is that we need
the best of both maleness and femaleness as currently defined;
gentleness, intelligence, nurturance, courage, awareness of
feelings, cooperativeness, initiative, sensuality, and an
identity rooted in being as well as doing, and not tying identity
to ownership and occupation. What identity would you like
for males and females in the future? This can be done as a
brainstorm list. How could things change for these qualities
to be achieved?
10. How far are we from equality for men and
women? And what would be a 'just equality'?