USC professor speaks out against domestic violence

Dr. Michael Messner addresses students and faculty to raise awareness about violence against women. (Photography/Adam Kolvites)

Dr. Michael Messner, a sociology and gender studies professor, outlined the contents of his forthcoming book “Some Men: From Violence to Anti-Violence,” on Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the Student Services Center.

The book illustrates Messner’s powerful attitude in ending violence on college campuses, in the home, in the workplace, in military, and in organized sports.

His immediate passion for feminism began in college in the 1970s when feminism was really taking off.

“Finally, the lid has come off it,” Messner said.  “A lot of people were talking about ‘what can men do’ and how do we think about men differently.”

Messner commented on the OJ Simpson trial recalling how USC removed Simpson’s Heisman trophy from the building while the trial was taking place.  The trophy has since been replaced.

In our National Football League today, the media has reflected on several incidents involving violence and/or spousal abuse, specifically Ray Rice,  Adrian Peterson, and Jonathan Dwyer.

Messner mentioned that he added a final chapter to his new book regarding gender-based violence in organized sports. He focused also on the “triad of men’s violence,” and how we give kudos for football violence which takes a terrible toll on men’s violence with women.

Messner said he found that first these athletes are suppressed, then rewarded on the football field. They are revered as “Sexual Gods.”

“Reframing masculinity and mutual respect and dignity for women, and promoting non-violence are important,” Messner said.

With a diagram, he outlined the four types of men in relation to personality traits and behaviors.

There is the “Violent Perpetrator.” These men display a “male supremacy” attitude.  They are insecure,  and cannot handle strong women,  and must be emotionally, physically and verbally  in control. They brag about their conquests and live out cycles of one bad relationship after another.

The “Controlling Men,” also holds a male supremacy attitude.  For example,  “I respect women, and would not hit a woman, but anything that happens to her is her fault.”

These men use pressure and intimidation in their relationships. They respect their mothers, but not other women. They join in on sexual jokes. They, too, end up in one bad relationship after another.

Messner spoke about the biggest category of men, “Good Silent Men.” They feel that “hitting women is wrong; I would never hit a woman,” and they respect women as equals. They feel good about women. But they are silent when in men’s groups. They look the other way when a woman is hit. This evolves into a “culture of silence.”

Lastly, Messner cited the “Allies.” These men feel individually and socially responsible in stopping violence against women.  They hold themselves and others accountable for the full equality of women.

Messner told the story of  Gilbert Salazar, 29, who was raised in a poverty stricken Latino family. As a child, he watched as his own father was abusive to his mother. He saw violence in the streets and eventually got involved with gangs. There was substance abuse in the family. Eventually, Salazar turned his life around with the help of support groups and instead, got involved with anti-gang violence.

Salazar does campaigning, telling men to listen to women and treat them properly. He is now the manager of Monterey County Rape Crisis Center.

“The Most important thing is to encourage these young boys and teach them to have empathy for women and other boys, Messner said. “In the past, boys were taught to ‘toughen up’ and ‘take it like a man.’ This only produced grown men with a propensity toward violence.”

Ultimately, Messner advises that men should learn to communicate with women effectively.  Check with women as to what they want. There are women’s shelters available, and numerous other support groups.

“I can tell you if it hadn’t been for the women’s movement, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Messner said.