Walking the path of gender-based violence
A girl walks back from her friend’s house at night. She makes her way home, walking through neighborhoods that are lively and unassuming during the day, but quiet and seemingly more daunting at night. She perks up at the sound of every car that drives by, rustling in the grass and person she crosses paths with—her pace quickens. It is second nature to constantly be reassessing her surroundings, and she finally feels relief when she is safely inside her home.
Did you think something bad might happen to her? So did she.
Many women live in fear of their safety. Many feel the unblinking male gaze resting on their bodies. Sure, there is comforting words for those who do receive negative, unwanted male attention, but those words are often closely followed by “it's awful, but you shouldn’t have been walking alone” or “next time you will have to be more careful..." More careful? Throughout our lives, women hold the expected responsibility of proceeding with extra caution. Not that this is always a bad thing…it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep safety in mind. However, if a women experiences abuse at the hands of a male even though she took the expected precautions to stay safe, that abuse will often be overshadowed by what she didn’t do—not what he should not have done.
This is one of many ways in which toxic masculinity manifests in society. Toxic masculinity can be reinforced in small instances of every day life that we find easy to brush off, but it can also manifest in those instances that escalate into trauma not so easily undone. It’s important to note that this is not a term intended to describe the intentions of all men, but rather gives a name to the reality that patriarchal gender roles and norms exist at the root of North American culture. These roles and norms limit both men and women.
Further, these patriarchal roles and norms tend to manifest into toxic perspectives regarding the relative value of men and women, with women's worth being diminished and negated. This ultimately leads women being harmed structurally, morally, emotionally, and physically. Such was the case recently in Toronto, in which a man's attack on women was allegedly fueled by his misogyny and resentment. As a representative of a Toronto-based Violence Against Women organization recently remarked (personal communication), some activists are now referring to that incident as the "man attack" rather than the "van attack". This is intended to remind us that the focus ought to be on the perpetrator's motives and intentions (eg. toxic masculinity, misogyny), rather than on the tool that he used to commit harm.
Recently, the Toronto Star reported on the Toronto Police Conference that addressed intimate partner violence. This article features Detective Ann-Marie Tupling, coordinator of the Toronto Police Service's Domestic Violence Advisory Committee. Det. Tupling has been working to bring the topic of intimate partner violence to the forefront of conversations held by the Toronto Police and broader public. She has also organized this conference, which has provided an opportunity for survivors and family members affected by domestic violence to speak of the powerful impact that this crime has had on their lives. Many agree that it is time for more rigorous plan to end gender-based violence-- one that addresses the roots of toxic masculinity. Women’s shelters Canada has stated a call to action for the Canadian Federal government to commit to National Action Plan on Violence Against Women. Read their powerful message and sign the petition here.
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Note: We recognize that domestic violence does not just effect cisgender women. This post is intended to be inclusive of trans-women, non-binary individuals, and femme-presenting individuals affected by gendered violence/risk.