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Male peer relations and disrespect towards women

Male peer relations and disrespect towards women

Gender inequality creates the social conditions for violence against women to occur. There are four key expressions of gender inequality that have been found to predict or drive this violence. To prevent violence against women, we must focus our efforts on addressing these drivers.

Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women is one of these drivers.

What do male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women look like?

This gendered driver of violence against women is where men and boys seek to form relationships and bond with each other by proving their masculinity through actions that are sexist, disrespectful or hostile towards women. Examples of this include:

  • Sexist 'locker room talk' that disrespects women and is viewed as harmless and normal.
  • Fear of rejection by male peers if they take a stand against their friend's disrespect of women.
  • Believing it's natural for a man to want to appear in control of his partner in front of his male friends.

When aggression, sexism and disrespect towards women is normalised and seen as an important part of being 'one of the boys', it creates a culture where violence against women is more likely to be used, supported, excused or ignored (Our Watch, 2017).

The socio-ecological model

Looking at how this driver of violence against women manifests within different settings where people live, learn, work, socialise and play can help plan your approach to addressing them. The socio-ecological model comes from the public health field and is used to help explain how violence is a product of multiple, interacting factors at the individual, organisational, systemic and societal levels.

The four gendered drivers exist at all of these levels and are the social conditions which predict, or 'drive', higher levels of violence against women.

Reinforcing factors interact with the gendered drivers at the individual and relationship level to increase the probability, frequency and severity of this violence.

Adapted from Change the Story, Our Watch (2015)

Unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women takes many shapes and forms

At an individual or relationship level unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

Speech bubble with the words 'Men telling degrading jokes about women to bond with their male peers'

At an organisational or community level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

Speech bubble with the words 'College chants and initiation rituals that promote abuse towards women'

At an institutional or systemic level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

Speech bubble with the words 'Sexualised objectification of women used as a marketing strategy'

At a societal level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

Speech bubble with the words 'All-male sport panels where degrading talk about women is ignored.

What are some actions that you can do to challenge male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women?

Take action to strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between and among men, boys, women, girls and people of all genders. This includes challenging peer relations between boys and men that involve disrespect or hostility towards women. For example:

  • implementing a whole school approach to respectful relationships education
  • delivering training programs to men and boys
  • implementing organisational policies that send a clear message that gender discrimination and sexual harassment is not tolerated
  • encouraging bystander action in highly masculine/male dominated work or peer environments

Male friends, colleagues, family members and other peers are best placed to encourage positive relations and expressions of masculinity. Whether it's the office, the locker-room, the classroom or the street, the intervention of peers can have a powerful effect (The Man Box, 2020).

What you can do: