Partnership & Accountability blog series

Partnership & Accountability blog series

Accountability to the women´s and to social justice movements is crucial for building collaborative and equitable partnerships. Accountability requires the development of a receptive capacity in men and others who have been placed in positions of power and privilege, so that they can listen to the perspectives and needs of oppressed groups in order to become authentic allies. Accountability and partnership building also require us to engage in respectful dialogues, and a willingness to constantly address issues and concerns raised by our partners.

We hope that this blog series contributes to these ongoing conversations and serves as another platform to share useful information.

Blog posts are written by member and partners of MenEngage, for whom we provide a platform for dialogue. The opinions expressed in the posts do not necessarily represent those of the MenEngage Alliance.

To learn more about MenEngage & Accountability go to

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The gender politics of men's anti-violence work

By Michael Flood

The ideal or principle of accountability is widespread in gender-conscious work with men. Its practice may be more uneven, with research in men’s anti-violence groups in the US, for example, finding two problems: definitions of accountability often were absent or diverse or unclear, and the burden of policing men’s sexist behaviour typically fell to women (Macomber 2012). On the other hand, two international initiatives show promise. The Engaging Men through Accountable Practice (EMAP) intervention provides a curriculum for engaging men in change in relation to personal and relational accountability (International Rescue Committee 2014). MenEngage, a global alliance comprising over 700 non-government organisations, country networks, and UN partners, recently developed accountability standards and guidelines for its members (MenEngage 2014).

Around the world, there are few if any instances where violence prevention work with men has directly taken funding away from work with women. One could argue that directing any resources to work with men by definition takes resources away from work with women, given a limited funding pie. However, assessing the implications of this then is a matter in part of assessing their relative value and effectiveness in ending violence against women. Funding support for work with men and boys, as a proportion of all work addressing gender equality, appears to be very small. For example, direct support provided to organisations or programmes targeting men and boys by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in 2012 comprised only 0.8 percent of its total funding for gender equality (Dover 2014).

There have been tensions between efforts to engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls and other feminist efforts focused on women and girls themselves. For example, an international study among representatives of organisations that engage men and boys (in Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North and South America) found that many spoke of experiencing suspicion from or conflict with victims’ organisations and feminist and (other) women’s groups. Interviewees expressed concern regarding the allocation of resources, ideological compatibility, and leadership sharing (Casey et al. 2013).

Another concern is that men may ‘take over’ violence prevention campaigns. While there are international cases of men taking over programmes on gender, there are few if any documented cases of men taking over women’s or feminist violence prevention campaigns. Men in communities often argue for their right to involvement in women-focused events, such as Take Back the Night marches in the USA (Kretschmer and Barber 2014). However, this demand rarely if ever comes from male anti-violence advocates themselves. While men-focused organisations are increasingly visible, especially in North America, most work engaging men in violence prevention around the globe is done by broader women’s and violence prevention organisations (Kimball et al. 2012). Perhaps the greater problem here is not that men will take over, but that they will not turn up, in that few men join efforts to prevent violence against women and much of the work is done by women. In Australia, for example, while the White Ribbon Campaign is described as a ‘male-led’ effort to end violence against women, only one-third of the community events in 2014 were organised by men (L. Davies, pers. comm.).

A more obvious problem is that the small numbers of men who do participate in violence prevention advocacy sometimes do act in patriarchal ways. It is an article of faith in men’s anti-violence work that men should strive for non-violent and gender-equitable practice in their own lives. The small number of studies among male activists and educators – nearly all from North America, and none which are longitudinal –  does find that these men do develop more anti-sexist forms of practice (Flood 2014). At the same time, this research also shows that some male activists and educators espouse stereotypical notions of their roles as protectors and defenders of women, emphasise their homosocial investments in evaluations by male rather than female peers, or respond in defensively homophobic ways to others’ perceptions of their transgressions of masculinity (Flood 2014). Men may not take over entire campaigns, but Macomber’s (2012) careful research among US ‘engaging men’ groups finds that some men in the movement do dominate interactions and interactions, claim unearned expertise, or act in other patriarchal ways. This is not surprising given the patterns of masculine socialisation to which most men are subjected.

Male advocates in the violence prevention field may be given greater status, power, and recognition than women doing similar work and rise more quickly to leadership positions (Macomber 2012). This echoes the ‘glass escalator’ effect documented among men in other feminised professions such as nursing and primary school teaching (Williams 1995). At the same time, other axes of privilege and disadvantage in any particular context are likely to intersect with such processes. Research from the USA on Black men’s experience as male nurses (Wingfield 2009) suggests that the glass escalator effect in men’s violence prevention may more available to white, heterosexual, economically privileged men than to other men.

Excerpted from: Flood, Michael. (2015). Work with men to end violence against women: A critical stocktake. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 2015. Vol. 17, No. S2, S159–S176, Full text available at:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this article.
    I am a little concerned that this "partnership and accountability" blog has so far focused so heavily on how men in men's anti-violence work are already so accountable. There's not a lot of significant critique, either as self-analysis or externally.

    I'm also concerned by this statement: "Around the world, there are few if any instances where violence prevention work with men has directly taken funding away from work with women." This seems like a very bold assumption. I think we may wish to consider the possibility that women and women's organizations feel unable to call out men in this work for all kinds of reasons. Are we really hearing the ways in which our work is being experienced by women?