People always ask Jackson Katz why he’s spent 30 years writing and speaking about gender violence prevention. People assume, he said, that something dreadful happened.
“If that’s all it took for men to get involved, then there would literally be billions of men involved,” he said.
Katz, perhaps most famous for his viral TedTalk “Violence Against Women — It’s a Men’s Issue,” will be speaking in Spokane on Feb. 11 as part of the YWCA’s GoodGuys program, a male-led effort to stop domestic violence in Spokane.
His lecture is titled, “What Does It Mean To Be A Strong Man?”
Katz was in undergraduate school in the ’80s, he said, when he came to understand how big of a problem sexism was.
“Men commit the vast majority of abuse, so why should women be the ones speaking out?,” he said. “I’m a man. Where are the men?”
It became the focus of his life.
Katz became the first man to graduate from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst with a minor in women’s studies in the early ’80s, then later earned a Ph.D. in cultural studies and education from UCLA. He’s a co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program and has written numerous books and documentaries on the subjects of gender equality, toxic masculinity and sexual assault prevention.
In his newest film, “The Bystander Moment,” Katz explores the role of bystanders in perpetuating sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of gender violence.
He said he’ll speak about the bystander approach during his Spokane talk.
“If you’re a man and you yourself don’t abuse or harass women, but remain silent, then silence is a form of consent and complacency,” Katz said. “A strong man doesn’t stand silent.”
He said a man who speaks out is a leader.
“One of the reasons I’m framing it as a leadership issue is because a lot of guys haven’t heard that. A lot of guys think it’s not their issue, they don’t engage in that, and that’s such narrow thinking,” Katz said.
He added that men’s violence against women is linked to men’s violence against other men, and even against themselves.
The same system, he said, produces this violence both locally and globally. And although more people are talking about gender violence, he said, there’s still a lot of work to do.
“We’re not talking about a quick fix,” he said. “It’s not something one piece of legislation or one generation of educational programming is going to solve.”
The solution is changing the underlying social standards.
“If we don’t change the norms, we’re playing a version of Whack-a-Mole,” Katz said. “We need to take a step back and see how society is producing these guys generation after generation.”
Manny Hochheimer, co-founder of GoodGuys, said their goal is to create awareness and get more men to step up in the community.
Katz, they felt, was an ideal speaker to bring to Spokane because he can draw people in and inspire them to make positive change, and hopefully that message will spread to other men.
The talk will be in Gonzaga University’s Hemmingson Center, 702 E Desmet Ave., at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at ywcaspokane.org/jackson-katz or by calling (509) 789-9312.