Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

No Women Allowed: Exclusion and Accountability in Men's Anti-Rape Groups

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

No Women Allowed: Exclusion and Accountability in Men's Anti-Rape Groups

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper is a discursive analysis of men's anti-rape organizations that exclude women, either from physically attending meeting or presentations, or representationally, in that women's perspectives about rape and sexual assault are absent from the material. The discursive framings that result from this exclusion often subvert and preclude helpful anti-rape work. Women's points of view are often excluded from the material or entirely misrepresented leading to the communication of dangerously inaccurate information. Positive anti-rape work is often derailed in the literature as the organizations become entangled in unreflexive rhetorical battles. By examining the discourses, as well as what the discourses exclude, we can understand some of the problems that are foundational to these organizations. The stated purpose of these anti-rape groups is to fundamentally change violence against women in this society and therefore they have the potential to profoundly impact men's and women's lives. Due to this possibility, problems within the literature must be taken extremely seriously, analyzed, and, hopefully, reformed. The exclusion of women creates a variety of problems that demonstrate the necessity for a higher standard of accountability and responsibility for men's anti-rape organizations.

Keywords: Men; sexual assault; representation

Introduction

Over the past decade or so, men's role in preventing violence against women has become of increasing interest to academics, advocates, pro-feminists, charity organizations, and others in the field. Where previously anti-rape work has been predominately founded by and oriented towards women, organizations have sprung up focusing specifically on men as allies in ending rape. Groups involving men in ending violence against women have produced books, guides, pamphlets, packets, advice sheets, and much more. It is my objective in this piece to examine this literature and its role in anti-rape advocacy work. In the course of my research, I have discovered that many of the men's anti-rape groups either exclude women in a physical sense--by preventing women from viewing their programs or from becoming presenters themselves--or, alternatively, in a representational sense--by misrepresenting or negating women's perspectives on rape and sexual assault. This forcible exclusion is troublesome and circumvents efforts to end male violence against women.

As I began my research into this area, I was surprised at the plethora of information now aimed at boys, teens, athletes, coaches, teachers, fathers, and even offenders, offering advice on the prevention of violence against women. With such an overabundance of information, there is a vital necessity to research these materials and ensure that they are accurate and helpful to anti-rape work. The power of these organizations and their literature cannot be underestimated: their messages to men about violence are directly intended to influence men's actions and, at times, even reconceptualize masculinity. Their efforts can lead to change in the lives of women and men--positive or negative. By examining how the exclusion of women operates within these organizations and their materials, this essay represents the first stage in the development of a much-needed feminist methodology that evaluates men's anti-rape discourses and holds groups accountable for the information they disseminate.

Organizations that seek to end violence against women are doing vital and appreciated work. Since women have primarily worked in the anti-rape field, men's groups are (or once were) rare--and therefore not often criticized. I am all too familiar with this response in that when I began this research project, I was hesitant to critique others whose intentions were good and whose presence in the field seemed rare. Part of the difficulty in this research project was going against that impulse in strongly and, I hope, unrelentingly examining these organizations. …

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