Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Paradigm Shift in Gender Violence Issues

Jackson Katz is a middle-aged, self-proclaimed anti-sexism educator. In his 2012 Ted Talk, he opens with the statement, "I'm going to share with you a paradigm shifting perspective on the issues of gender violence." In a random moment of procrastination, I watched this Ted Talk because a friend had posted it on Facebook. The minute I heard the first words of the talk, I couldn't help but think of my Psychology of Creativity course. A Big-C Creative is someone who proposes paradigm shifts and culture-changing ideas. In his Ted Talk, Katz argues that gender violence issues are not women's issues, but a men's issue. Sexism is a gendered act, but it is not in the hands of one gender. Before I continue, Katz's talk is worth a watch: 

In a university dominated by an overwhelmingly female student population, discussions of sexism and feminism are present everywhere around us; it is nothing new. Last year, the Damen Cinema was one of the only theaters in Illinois to show the documentary, The Hunting Ground, which discusses the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. I have the privilege to be educated about these things at Loyola, and I hardly think of this privilege as ground-breaking or paradigm-shifting, until I heard the Ted Talk by Jackson Katz.

Jackson Katz is a creative because he breaks the barrier between current cultural ideas of gender and how to handle gendered violence; he argues a point and then argues a solution.

Often in implicit cognitive processes, we perceive race to mean black, and we understand gender to mean female. Katz diagrams a sentence which proves his point, "the way we think...keeps the language off of men." People have become implicitly creative in defending the traditional stereotypes of gender. As a Social Work and Psychology student from a conservative catholic family, I have heard endless reasoning from "It's just the way God made men and women" to "The cave-men needed to hunt and the women raised the kids, it's how it's always been." Katz does not accept this. Katz argues that women are neither solely responsible, nor the sole victims of gendered violence. He says, "We are both victims of men's violence." This is familiar of Sternberg's element of perspicacity (meaning a quality of questioning societal norms and is willing to take a stand).

Taking a stand is Katz's solution. Creatives don't just have an idea and let it simmer into something great, they have the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to find a solution. Sexism is a problem. Gendered violence is a problem. It's a men's issue. Katz proposes the Bystander Approach, and says "silence is a form of acceptance." It doesn't seem all that creative to say, "Speak up!" but in male culture, silence is common. The other part of the paradigm shift is the leadership component. Katz calls on adult men with power to take lead in this paradigm shift. While Katz may be intrinsically motivated by his passion and interest in gender-equality, not all men are like this.

I think men are often afraid to speak up for women because they think they cannot understand what it is like to be the victim of gender-based violence. This is the final reason I think Jackson Katz is a creative--why I think Jackson Katz has perspicacity. Currently, his video has almost 1.3 million views on Ted's website and over 1.5 million views on YouTube.  He is using his environment--his resources--to propose a shift, to argue a point, and shift a culture.

Fighting sexism may not be ground-breaking, but how we go about it? It's time for men to take a stand. Gender Violence Issues are men's issues.

Works Cited:


  1. I've read about some of Katz's teaching methods against sexism, and one anecdote in particular stands out to me: he had a group that was pretty evenly mixed between guys and girls, and he drew a line down a chalkboard and proceeded to ask both the guys and the girls what they did to protect themselves from harassment and wrote their answers on the respective sides. As you can imagine, the guys' half of the board was completely empty while the girls' half was overflowing, and it helped the guys better understand where women were coming from when they talked about sexism. I think it takes a pretty creative individual to not only reconceptualize sexism as a men's issue but to find a way to lead other men to that same conclusion without mansplaining the things women go through, and I really hope his ideas can spread more and become the common-sense approach to undoing sexism in society.

  2. I think Katz's Bystander Approach is interesting, in that it redefines a problem--and at the same time provides a solution. The problem is changed from being men attacking women, children, etc. The problem becomes men not speaking out when they see forms of violence. And when men start to stand against sexism, it changes the culture about it. I found this approach unique--and hope that it is successful. I wonder how many other problems could be approached in a similar way, by redefining issue to create a solution? To be honest, however, I do struggle to categorize Katz as "creative". Women have encouraged men to take a stand against sexism in a similar approach, but without a specific name. I think part of the reason Katz has become such a spectacle is exactly what he mentioned. Some gender topics are only received well when coming from a man--there are some things that "only men can say".

  3. I thought that Katz's lecture was very well-constructed. I liked that he explained how the dominance of hegemonic masculinity in the institutionalized, binary gender system seen in societies across the world leads to men not introspectively realizing their privilege. In addition, I think it is really important he made the point that the social norms associated with traditional masculinity are harmful for both men and women. Furthermore, I thought that his "bystander approach" was a radically different and great concept. Not participating in sexism is simply not enough, men must take an active role in the destruction of social norms and values surrounding gender and sexuality that glorify the objectification of women, hyper-masculinity, and mandatory heterosexuality. By not taking a stand, by-standers are allowing for the social reproduction of an institutionalized system that has various negative consequences such as domestic violence, bullying, fag discourse, sexual assault and harassment, and slut-shaming. These problems affect both men and women, and, as Katz said, it is time for men to step up and take a more active role speaking out against these injustices. Katz wants men to take a leadership role in this movement, and, as leaders, men must be willing to take any and all social sanctions associated with standing up against hegemonic masculinity.

  4. I think it is interesting to consider Katz as a big C creative because of his paradigm shift thinking. While he's not the first to propose some of these ideas, I really appreciate where he calls on men and women of power to promote equality and lead against gender violence. Like you said, he is really using all of his resources when thinking of how to problem solve. While I struggle to consider Katz a big C Creative, I think he is definitely exploring the realms of creativity in the way he communicates this important message.


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