Attitudes regarding men’s violence against women shape both the perpetration of violence against women and the responses to this violence by the victim and others around. This is why, with good reason, we see many violence prevention campaigns focused on attitudes. Attitudes play a role in violence against women in several domains including gender, culture, individual and institutional response to violence, women’s own responses to victimization and more. Gender role attitudes and their forced adherence play a major role regarding violence towards women.
Let’s talk about gender roles. From a young age, boys are taught that to be a “man” they cannot cry, show emotion and must be strong protectors. While girls are taught to be kind, giving, understanding and passive. Through these gender roles as well as the media, men have been taught to feel entitled to women. Traditional gender roles require the woman to cook, clean, care for their children and fulfill a man’s sexual needs. This has created an issue where men view women as subservient to them as the man holds the power and is the decision maker.
Men with more traditional gender roles including misogynistic gender-role attitudes are more likely to practice domestic violence (O’Neil & Harway, 1997, p. 192; Heise, 1998, p. 278). Studies have found that almost all measures of masculine ideology were significantly associated with sexual aggression. This tells us there is a strong relationship between men’s adherence to traditional gender roles and their use of violence against women.
Additionally, gender roles have a big effect on women’s attitudes towards violence against themselves. Women are more likely to blame themselves for the abuse, less likely to report it to authorities and more likely to experience long-term psychological and emotional effects. This can all be tied back to the social norms taught to women including placing their partner’s needs above their own and exhibiting a passive or “self-silence” attitude. Women are also less likely to report violence if they express traditional gender role attitudes (Harris, Firestone, & Vega, 2005).
The good news is women are fighting every single day for equal rights. Women are securing equal job opportunities, are able to support their own family and their interests are much larger than creating a warm and loving home for their husbands. Men also have more of an opportunity to be more connected to their families and wives and we are even seeing an uptick in stay at home dads. We must keep the conversation going by telling our boys it’s okay to cry and telling our girls it’s okay to be outspoken and independent. It is time to officially break the gender role mold.