This month the book “Masculinities (im) possible. Violence and gender, between power and vulnerability”, by Matías De Stéfano Barbero, came to light. Posted by editorial Galerna, the work addresses from an anthropological perspective the construction of masculinities of men who exerted violence against women in their partner.
In this framework, the program Subversions, which is broadcast on FM 102.3, spoke with the author about the book, gender violence and masculinities. De Stéfano Barbero is a doctor in Anthropology and a member of the Institute for Masculinities and Social Change.
“Possible (im) masculinities” begins with an interesting premise: the need to work with those who exert violence. As an example, the author rescues a linguistic game raised in the 80s:
“We started with a scene where Juan violates Maria, after Maria was raped by Juan, later Maria was raped and finally Maria was a victim of violence. This is how we tend to think about the question of violence: we focus on the people who suffer it. “
“With that perception, the victim of violence is defined in that way, as if it were the only thing he is, and Juan is exiled, it is considered as something that could be solved with punitive issues,” he continued.
And he closed: “The book proposes a return to Juan, to that scene where Juan violates María and even further back: to see who Juan is, what happened, how that moment was built.”
Work with men who exert violence
Matías included in the book his experiences in the Pablo Besson Association in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, where he coordinated group meetings and conducted in-depth interviews with its participants, all of whom were male who exercised violence.
Given this, in the field of feminism it is common to discuss whether it is “worth it” to deal with these men and whether there, when considering a macro problem, does not fall into a justification for the violence they exert.
The author considers that “this fear has to do with the absence of analysis on the thing. If someone can be accused of humanizing the men who used violence, it is because there are speeches that dehumanize them. In many cases it has to do with an absence of reflexion”.
Because, he assured, violence is not born when it appears, when we see it for the first time. In fact, “when Juan violates María, it is not Juan’s first experience with violence,” said De Stéfano.
“In the effort to condemn violence, which is celebrated, we are left with that condemnation and it seems to me that being able to understand where it comes from, how it is produced, is far from justifying it. The proposal is not to remain with a clear conscience, we are all in favor of I agree that violence is reprehensible, “he said.
And he added: “But after that we have several options: punitivism, individual responsibility, or understanding how these conditions are produced, how much social structure, gender, life experience have to do with it; to see how it can be subverted and do not take it as a state of things that are going to disappear by osmosis, by magic or put aside: we already know that that does not work “.
No one is exempt from the exercise of violence. It is necessary to believe that people can transform themselves, they can change.
How are men who exert violence constructed?
The book has two parts: a theoretical one, where an analysis and a review of the concepts and points of view that historically existed around violence are carried out, and another where some of the men with whom the student worked are portrayed. Author.
In this context, it is shocking to read some of the stories that these people bring with them. Previous violence, fears, lack of dialogue. For this reason, De Stéfano stated: “The approach with which we work, of more daily violence that does not reach stronger extremes (such as femicides), has to do with reflection on the process: the place that violence has had in making us males “.
And he remarked: “To build a person who exercises violence, you have to print violence on him.” Faced with this reality, he proposes the importance of early prevention. For example, with Comprehensive Sex Education from early childhood: “We do not have to wait for a man to exert violence in one way or another.”
On gender violence
The author proposes in the text a more specific term to consider the act of violence of men towards their -for example- partners. It proposes working with “male violence against women” instead of gender violence.
This is because that last term has already been so widely used and blurred – in the media and academic publications – that sometimes they generate problems. It should be remembered that the concepts have scopes and limitations.
“Gender violence, in the common sense, ends up reducing gender to women. It is a broader concept, it has to do with the gender system. There are authors, and I believe it too, who argue that homophobia is a form of Gender violence. It has to do with how men become men. If they call me a fag because I am a woman in this society, it has to do with gender, it has to do with how we build ourselves as men and women, “he said.
The experience of working with men who exercised violence against women
The question arises as to whether the state investment in spaces to work with men is useful. Given this, De Stéfano assures that yes, they work “The cases with which I work in the book are mostly men who stopped exercising violence, had no other complaints, did not return to space,” he rescued.
Although he also understands that it is difficult for this to have an impact on a social and cultural level: “When they are subjective changes and such personal transformations, it is difficult to make a number and show the effectiveness of a public policy.”
However, the perception of the care spaces for these men (there are several in the country, in Córdoba there is the Integral Center for Men in a situation of violence) is that transformations exist.
“The work is at least one year, it is not three months or two weeks. It is not that I say something to that man, I take him down and that person modifies his behavior. We need resources, that there are more spaces. There is a lot of waiting list in the places, many come voluntarily. There are also more complaints. There are spaces that do not cope. To see if something works we have to provide them with adequate resources. “