A native of Boston, the now-Los Angeles resident emphasized bringing men into the domestic abuse situation to those attending the annual Making a Difference Luncheon — a benefit for the Center for Women in Transition held Thursday at Covenant Life Church.
The event included a “Taste of Tri-Cities” luncheon, with food donated by several area restaurants. It was the second area stop for Katz, who also spoke at a fundraising dinner for CWIT in Holland on Wednesday night.
“Historically, this has been a women’s issue,” he said. “A lot of people think gender means women. In each case, the dominant group doesn’t get paid attention.”
To put this in perspective, Katz noted that it was normal for people to hear a question such as, “How many women were abused in West Michigan last year?”
Katz also asked, “When was the last time you heard, ‘How many men have abused women in West Michigan in the past year?’”
The same goes for teen pregnancy, he noted. Statistics often quote how many teens got pregnant, not how many men impregnated teens, he said.
Katz said society’s norms have contributed greatly to the characterizations of men and women. Disney TV shows and movies portray the women using their feminine wiles to attract the man — often a brute of a man with a sensitive side.
“And, however strong a female might be, she still has to be rescued by a man,” Katz said.
On the opposite side, you have a recording artist like Eminem “who mirrors ‘Beauty and the Beast,” he said.
“Kid Rock is another one,” Katz said. “He has glamorized ‘pimphood’ and he doesn’t get called on it practically ever.”
Katz noted, in a conversation prior to his speech, a current story in the news about a man charged with a crime after a YouTube video showed him encouraging his son to beat up another boy.
“In the absence of positive male voices on the issue,” you get men exploiting children, Katz said.
Katz said men need to step up and partner with women in the quest to change the norms, by challenging those doing the exploiting and speaking up.
“If we want to change the social norms, which have made violence and abuse much more normal than you think, we have to take responsibility for each other,” he said.
One of the ways Katz has taken responsibility has been to co-found the multi-racial, mixed-gender Mentors in Violence Prevention program at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. Katz is also one of the key architects of the bystander approach, founded at the center in 1993 — one of the first programs to use a bystander model for gender violence prevention.
Katz also works with several branches of the military who have adopted training for gender violence prevention. He frequently speaks to athletes and students at high schools and colleges around the country.
His book, “Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help,” was published in 2006 by Sourcebooks.
Another member of the Progressive Women’s Alliance Lakeshore — Katrina Olson of Muskegon — said, “I’m in the medical industry. We’re always supposed to ask a woman if she’s been abused. We never ask the guys.”
Katz said one in six boys were abused as children, or have watched a parent being abused. He noted that educating ourselves is a good way to be armed against the abuse.
“We have been failing our children for a long time in allowing them to be exposed in this way,” he said.
Belinda Fish of Spring Lake said that “bystander” is the buzz word.
“I don’t want to tolerate being a bystander,” she said.