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Working with men and masculinities

4 minutes

We know that 95% of violence perpetrated against people of any gender is perpetrated by men.

While not all men perpetrate violence, all men can play an active role in challenging and transforming the patriarchal structures, norms and practices that uphold gender inequality and drive violence against women.

Understand the issues

There is no one way of being a man or expressing masculinity. However, some expressions and representations of masculinity can be understood as socially dominant.

Research shows that men’s belief in and adherence to rigid, socially dominant masculine stereotypes is linked to a higher likelihood they will:

  • use violence
  • sexually harass women
  • condone violence against women
  • not intervene if they witness other men expressing sexist attitudes and beliefs towards women.

Socially dominant forms of masculinity operate across all levels of society. While these forms of masculinity are not always harmful (or ‘toxic’) in themselves, they can help to maintain gender inequality and create and give legitimacy to the power and privilege that men hold over women. At their most harmful, these dominant forms of masculinity also help drive men’s violence against women.

It’s important to remember that men’s relationship to power is not the same and men can experience both privilege and oppression at the same time. When working with men, male privilege and entitlement needs to be addressed in a way that does not treat all men as part of the same group.

All men can act to challenge and transform harmful expressions of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control over women.

Things you can do

  • Reflect on and develop your own understanding of the socially constructed gender binary and gender hierarchy, and how these look in our lives and society.
  • Apply an intersectional approach to your work by recognising and reflecting on the diversity of the men and the communities you may be working with.
  • Develop and deliver primary prevention activities in strengths-based ways that are tailored to meet men where they are at in their understanding of gender and their relationships to socially dominant forms of masculinity.
  • Ensure that activities are culturally responsive and trauma-informed to meaningfully and respectfully engage men from diverse backgrounds with diverse life experiences.
  • Ensure that your approaches are gender-transformative in ways that actively challenge and transform socially dominant gender stereotypes.
  • Seek solutions that challenge and transform socially dominant forms of masculinity across all levels of society.
  • Ensure all primary prevention activities are accessible and include translations where appropriate.

Tools to use when you’re working with men and masculinities

Research and evidence about working with men and masculinities

Messaging guides, communications tools and campaigns