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:
At an organisational or community level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:
At an institutional or systemic level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:
At a societal level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:
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:
- DVRCV has developed a series of tip sheets on the four gendered drivers. This resource is a great primary prevention tool that can be used to increase understanding about how men's control of decision making and limits to women's independence drive violence against women. Read about the tipsheets.
- Check out Our Watch's Men in focus: unpacking masculinities and engaging men in the prevention of violence against women.
- Read Our Watch's Putting the prevention of violence against women into practice: How to Change the story.
- Check out the XYonline clearinghouse that has a huge range of articles and resources on men, masculinities and gender politics.
- Explore VicHealth's suite of Masculinities and Health resources. You'll find an extensive range of resources that unpack and challenge stereotypes of masculinity.
- Read Jesuit Social Services' Unpacking the Man Box report and fact sheets. The report includes a range of recommendations to support young men to break free of the man box, live healthy lives and be their best selves.
- Read VicHealth's How to be an active bystander. Here you'll find a range of tools on how to act on sexist and sexually harassing behaviours