VAW and hyper-masculinity

Who’s responsible for domestic violence: gender inequality and violence against women

Part one: Hyper masculinity

23th April 2014


The media profile of violence against women is slowly being raised in the media but there is still trepidation around discussing the root causes of this violence and what leads to gender inequality.

According to the World Health Organization, unequal power between women and men, rigid adherence to gender roles and broader cultures of violence are the three main contributors to violence against women.

Gender inequality is the leading cause of violence against women under 45 in Australia. Vanessa Born, the media projects manager at Domestic Violence Victoria says there is a positive correlation between gender inequality and levels of gendered violence. “Where gender equality is higher, violence against women is lower,” said Ms Born

Michael Samsel, author of Abuse and Relationships, says that media is largely to blame for gender inequality. He says men’s health magazines perpetuate hyper-masculinity, which increases violence in the community. “Muscle mags condone and glorify the use of steroids, and exogenous steroids are a huge contributor to violence,” said Mr Samsel.

Editor of Men’s Fitness magazine, Todd Cole says magazines are not to blame, “we strongly promote women’s fitness and empowerment of both sexes.” Mr Cole believes that the health benefits from promoting fitness are both physical and mental and may work to reduce violence. “[Fitness] gives young people something to focus on and health has a great impact on levels of happiness.”

Mr Born says that promoting people’s health and fitness is not essentially hyper-masculine, but men’s magazines production of hyper masculine ideas is damaging to society. “This concept that men are meant to be stronger at all times is very problematic,” said Ms Born.

Hyper masculinity in the media reinforces the belief that men should be in control. The idealisation of muscular men reinforces the notion that men should be huge and women should be passive and small, said Ms Born. She says men’s magazines give strong messages “about what masculinity is, who is allowed to have it and how it’s enacted.”

Whether or not men’s magazines and the wider media are causing societal change or responding to it is never easy to define but there is a strong argument to confirm that media perpetuate gender roles, and forms of gendered media, such as men’s magazines have an explicit role in this. “Our culture is increasingly about power and control where it used to be more about authority and community,” said Mr Samsel.

Ms born says that gender roles are to blame, “on an individual level, men that committed violence against other people have very rigid understanding of gender roles.” Gender inequality and sexism are widely noted to be leading to violence against women and the deaths of around 80 Australian women a year die at the hands of their partners.

Ms Born says that society is responsible for reinforcing gender relationships and all society is responsible for changing the attitudes. She says the attitudes of the general community support the attitudes of violent men, which lead them to justify their behaviour. “We’re all responsible for supporting the view that these attitudes are correct,” said Ms Born


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