Seeds of Violence
A social media initiative for the 16 Days of Activism against Gendered Violence.
Seeds of Violence is a primary prevention initiative of Central West Women’s Health Centre for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence 2021.
The aim of this initiative is to raise awareness of the things that lead to violent attitudes towards and actions against women.
According to Change the Story¹, factors associated with gender inequality, also known as gendered drivers, are the most consistent predictors of violence against women.
They create environments where violence against women is more likely to be tolerated and even condoned.
These gendered drivers don’t just have a negative impact on Cis* women but also on people of diverse genders who don’t conform to a stereotypical or traditional idea of gender.
They also impact Cis* men, as societal expectations of what a ‘real’ man is supposed to be is limiting and can be damaging to those who don’t conform.
We are all harmed by these attitudes and stereotypes.
Gendered Drivers of Violence Against Women
Condoning of Violence Against Women
Sexual harrassement is one form of violence against women.
Justifying, excusing, trivialising, downplaying, or shifting the blame for any type of violence, are all forms of condoning violence against women.
Less action will be taken to support victims and hold perpetrators to account when:
- the belief that it is acceptable for a man to use violence against women in certain situations is common,
- a man’s behaviour is blamed on things like alcohol or stress,
- the belief that things like domestic violence are a private matter is widespread,
- the belief that women make up or exaggerate claims of assault is common,
- the blame for violence is placed on the victim because of their clothing or intoxication.
A society that allows violence against women in this way will see more of that type of violence occur.
Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
Levels of violence against women are significantly and consistently higher in societies, communities, and relationships where there are rigid ideas about what is the man’s role and what is the woman’s role.
According to Our Watch, research has shown that men are more likely to be violent toward women if they have traditional or hierarchical views about gender roles.
Rigid ideas about gender roles can lead to:
- A sense of entitlement which is linked to the use of force (including forced sex) by some men, particularly in intimate relationships.
- Violence being used to reinforce expected gender roles or to punish women when they don’t fulfil those roles.
- A division between public and private lives that can isolate women and make them dependent on men.
Sexist or stereotypical ideas of what is masculine and what is feminine can also drive violence against women because:
- Men may be seen as callous, insensitive and ‘naturally’ more violent than women, and violence or “toughness” may be celebrated.
- Men may be seen as driven by uncontrollable sexual urges.
- Men may be seen as being more important or in charge and therefore have power over women.
- Women may be seen as ‘naturally’ passive and submissive or as objects for the male gaze.
- Women may be seen as inherently deceitful, unfaithful, and needing to be controlled.
These rigid and stereotypical ideas of the roles of men and women harm everyone, including men.
Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public life and relationships
When men control decision-making in families and relationships, violence is more common. Where women are allowed more independence or are treated equally this violence is less common. The limits to women’s independence may be at an individual level (such as the husband making all financial decisions for the family) or at a societal level (such as women not having equal access to education).
The impacts these types of attitudes or behaviour have include:
- sending the message that women are less worthy of respect and value than men,
- making women economically dependent on men and therefore unable to leave violent relationships,
- undermining women’s participation in civic decision-making, making it harder for changes that support freedom from violence to be implemented.
Limiting women’s independence increases their isolation and cuts them off from potential support networks.
Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women
Male peer relations (both social and within organisations) can be important supports for men. However, when they are negative and reinforce or condone stereotypical and aggressive forms of masculinity, they can create disrespect of and hostility towards women.
These negative peer relations are associated with higher levels of violence against women because:
- The emphasis on aggression or sexual conquest may make some men feel their use of violence is supported or accepted by their peers.
- When more importance is placed on men’s relationships with ‘mates’ over those with women they may be more likely to excuse their friend’s behaviour or violence towards women.
- They may be reluctant to stand up against violence or their friend’s disrespect of women due to the possibility of rejection or ridicule by their peers.
Factors that reinforce gendered drivers of violence against women include:
- Condoning violence in general
- Where violence in general is normalised, violence against women will be considered a normal part of everyday life.
- Experience of, and exposure to, violence
- Again, this may normalise violence, making it seem like a normal and acceptable or expected way to deal with things
- Weakening of pro-social behaviour, especially harmful use of alcohol
- Things that compromise the way individuals may normally act can contribute to increased violence.
While things like alcohol don’t cause violence against women (not everyone who drinks is violent and not everyone who is violent drinks) drinking may increase the likelihood of violence, particularly when the violent person already holds some of the problematic views/attitudes around gender roles and violence against women.
- Socio-economic inequality and discrimination
- Anything that reduces or limits women’s access to resources, social/economic power, or perceived worth as a group, increases the likelihood of violence against them.
Inequality or discrimination such as racism, discrimination against people with a disability or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity can lead to higher levels of violence when it intersects with gender inequality.
Women in many of these groups may not have the same access to support or may not feel comfortable seeking support due to the multiple forms of adversity that they face.
- Backlash factors (when male dominance, power or status is challenged)
- When very rigid gender role or stereotypical views of masculinity/femininity are held, the likelihood of violence against women is increased if those beliefs are challenged – for example when a man believes he should be the breadwinner but is unable to provide, or his wife earns more money, his dominance may be threatened leading to violence.
What You Can Do
To learn more about what you can do when you witness these seeds of violence, visit Our Watch’s Doing Nothing Does Harm page – https://www.doingnothingdoesharm.org.au/
For information aimed at young people check out the EViE Zine – a violence prevention resource created as part of Blue Mountains Women’s Health & Resource Centre’s EViE Project.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence contact 1800 RESPECT by phone (1800 737 732) or check out the website https://www.1800respect.org.au/
If you are in immediate danger call 000.
– Cis – short for cisgender, means that the gender an individual identifies as is the same as what was presumed at birth. E.g., Someone who was declared male at birth identifies as male as an adult.
Gender is unrelated to someone’s sexuality. An individual can be cisgender and straight, or cisgender and gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or another sexuality, just as they could be trans and any sexuality. For more information on this check out ACON’s TransHub https://www.transhub.org.au/101/cis
Information cited from:
¹Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, Our Watch, Melbourne, Australia. https://www.ourwatch.org.au/change-the-story/
Our Watch, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and VicHealth (2015) https://www.ourwatch.org.au
Ending Violence Improving Equality Violence Prevention Resource – EViE Project, Blue Mountains Women’s Health and Resource Centre.