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This is an archive of material
mainly from 1992 until December 2020.
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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Each month we bring you a nonviolence training workshop based on the experience of the Nonviolent Action Training project and INNATE.

Big Boys, Big Girls
Men and violence, women and violence

[Click 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' - why not?).

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 be?

- 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).

2. Some Further Thoughts and Questions
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 violence?

8. How can women become more involved in overcoming violence?

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'?

Copyright INNATE 2016