What We’re Watching: “Violence and Silence”

Students at Work Options for Women face a number of obstacles when they come to us for training, and many of them report having been or being in an abusive relationship or experiencing domestic violence.

In his independent TED talk “Violence & Silence,” anti-sexism advocate Dr. Jackson Katz discusses such gender-based violence and how we as a society can help to combat it by using an example that can show how much sexism permeates our life everyday.

Dr. Katz’s breakdown of a sentence and its numerous versions — an exercise developed by the late feminist linguist Julia Penelope — illustrates how often the perpetrator is not the focus of our action against gender-based violence. Instead, the onus is placed on the person against whom the violence is committed.

“Victim-blaming,” in other words.

The sentence mutates further, so that the person against whom violence is committed becomes identified solely by that violent act.

Indeed,  Dr. Katz goes on to describe the mentality of being a “bystander,” that is, someone who is neither the person committing a violent act or the victim of such violence. Someone who can stand by and watch it happen.

Or someone who can step in and enact a change.

At the heart of this video is one major takeaway: Women and men can take control of their actions and hold others accountable for theirs, in order to break the cycle of gender-based violence.

More on Dr. Jackson Katz

Dr. Katz appears in many textbooks on gender and communication, and it’s no wonder why.

An educator and social theorist, he works in gender violence prevention and encourages people to think critically about how sports culture, the military, and the media shape our thoughts and actions. Dr. Katz co-founded Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), “a gender violence, bullying, and school violence prevention approach that encourages young men and women from all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to take on leadership roles in their schools and communities,” according to its website.