Rethinking manhood: an interview with Ted Bunch.


For Ted Bunch, gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls are rooted in a history of male domination that has deeply influenced the definition of manhood in our culture. Bunch is the co-founder of A CALL TO MEN, a violence prevention organization that provides training and education for men, boys, and communities. Bunch has lectured in countries such as Israel, South Africa, Ghana, and Brazil, among others, and was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a Committee Member to UNITE, an international network of male leaders working to end violence against women. In an interview with the Journal, Bunch discussed the concept of manhood and how social norms and culture have impacted the current notion of masculinity. (1)

Journal of International Affairs: Your organization, A CALL TO MEN seeks to promote a "more healthy, loving, and respectful definition of manhood." How does this definition manifest in real life?

Ted Bunch: Our mission is to create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful, and all women and gifts are valued and safe. The definition is based on the deconstruction of the traditional image of manhood, keeping the wonderful things about being a man and letting go of the ideas and beliefs that are harmful to women, children, and men. It is not only about the individual men who perpetuate the violence, it is also about the collective socialization of men. All men in our society are taught on some level that women have less value than men, that women are the property of men, and that women are objects for men. We pass this collective socialization down to our boys.

We are primarily a prevention organization, focusing on preventing violence against women specifically. We were born out of the Battered Women's Movement, and we celebrated ten years in 2012. Tony Porter, the other co-founder and partner of the organization, and I started working together almost twenty years ago on the issue. We both worked with men who were domestic violence offenders. As we worked with them, it became clear that these men who are abusive--physically, verbally, and emotionally--know how to be respectful and non-abusive. They show this capability all the time with their bosses on the job, and with police who come to their houses to arrest them for violence. Actually, men who perpetrate violence against women demonstrate great control and even conflict-resolution skills when there is a negative consequence if they do not do so. Therefore, men's violence against women is rooted in the collective socialization of men, and the foundation of our collective socialization is born out of sexism and male domination. Men's violence against women is very controllable, and it is actually a learned behavior that can be unlearned. The belief that women have less value than men is widespread. You can see it right now with youth football. If you go to a practice where a seven-year-old kid is playing football, the coach will often say something like, "You got to throw harder than that, son, you throw like a girl." Girls throw just fine, but we start teaching our boys very early that a boy should not want to be a girl or do anything like a girl. That is also where gender-based...

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