Interview with Professor Michael Flood: how men can take action against violence against women in their daily lives

7 July 2023

In a society where the fight for gender equality is becoming increasingly prevalent, the RAJA-Danièle Marcovici Foundation tackles the subject of men's role in this struggle. Discover the interview with Professor Michael Flood (Queensland University of Technology), author of the book "Men Speak Up: A toolkit for action in men's daily lives", who talks about the importance of men becoming actively involved in the fight against violence against women.

Through his books, and his personal experience, Professor Michael Flood offers insights into how men can help change gender norms, by educating and raising awareness among those around them. Far from being a women's struggle, he shows us that gender violence is a societal problem that concerns us all.


  • Pourquoi est-il important que les hommes s’impliquent dans la lutte contre la violence envers les femmes, et qu’est-ce qui vous a inspiré pour écrire “Men Speak Up: A toolkit for action in men’s daily lives” (en français : « Les hommes s’engagent : Une boîte à outils pour l’action dans la vie quotidienne des hommes ») ?


Men and boys need to be actively involved in stopping violence against women for several reasons. Firstly, violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men and boys. Most men and boys do not use violence against women, at least in most contexts. However, when domestic violence or sexual violence occurs, it is predominantly carried out by men and boys.

Secondly, masculinity influences some men’s use of violence against women and girls. By masculinity, I refer to the way men and boys are socialized or raised, as well as the messages they receive about what it means to be a man. Masculinity plays a role in shaping this violence.

The third reason is more optimistic: boys and men have a positive role to play. By taking action, they can prevent and reduce such violence.

Regarding the toolkit, I was commissioned by a national violence prevention organization, White Ribbon Australia, to write the toolkit Men Speak Up. White Ribbon Australia is part of an international campaign known as the White Ribbon Campaign. I already had extensive involvement in advocating against men’s violence, and writing this toolkit provided an opportunity to compile practical guidance on what men can do to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls.


  • How can men challenge gender norms that perpetuate violence against women, and what role does education and awareness play in empowering men to become allies?


Sometimes, men approach me and express their concern about violence against women. They acknowledge that it is a serious problem and may mention having a friend who has experienced rape or assault. They ask, “What can I do? How can I, as a man, address this issue?” The first step, in my opinion, is for each man to begin with himself. We must examine our own behavior and ensure that we treat the women and girls in our lives with nonviolence, respect, and care. This is the initial way for men to challenge the gender norms and inequalities that perpetuate violence against women. By cultivating nonviolent and gender equitable lives for ourselves, we take action.

The second thing we can do is to speak up and take wider action. When a male friend makes derogatory comments, such as claiming that some women ask to be raped or that some women bring violence upon themselves, we should speak up. Similarly, if we witness men around us treating women disrespectfully, with sexism or hostility, we must address it. In other words, men can play a significant role as active bystanders by speaking up and taking action in our everyday lives, whether it’s in our workplaces, families, schools, faith institutions, or sports environments.

I believe that in many countries, there are numerous men who do not condone or support violence against women. However, they may struggle to identify the role they can play in addressing the issue. It is crucial to make them aware that they do have a role to play. Education campaigns, social media initiatives, groups, and events can actively invite men to participate and contribute. While it is true that some men may lack interest or harbor hostility towards this issue, feminist women have long invited men to join them in the effort to end men’s violence against women. Education and awareness can help men realize that they can indeed make a difference and contribute to this cause.


  • What are common challenges men face when engaging in conversations about violence against women, and how can they overcome them? How can men create safe spaces for women to share their experiences and concerns?


One major challenge for men is their limited understanding of violence against women compared to women themselves. Men often lack awareness of the prevalence of such violence and have narrower definitions of various forms of abuse. As a result, men’s attitudes and understanding of the issue tend to be less developed than women’s.

Another issue is that men often perceive violence against women as solely a women’s problem. While they may acknowledge its importance and recognize it as a significant social issue, they struggle to see how it personally concerns them or why they should take responsibility for addressing it.

A third challenge arises from men overestimating other men’s support or comfort with violence against women. For instance, in a group of eight men having a casual gathering, one man might make a comment or joke condoning or excusing violence against women. Although six of the eight men may disagree with the comment, they remain silent assuming that everyone else in the group shares the same perspective. In reality, only one other man might hold the same view, leading to a lack of response due to an overestimation of other men’s tolerance for sexism and violence.

“Furthermore, men often refrain from speaking up due to fear of others’ reactions, particularly from other men. They may also feel uncertain about the appropriate actions or words to use in such situations”.

When men initially engage in efforts to end violence against women, additional challenges emerge. Some men mistakenly view the problem as solely related to other men, disregarding the fact that many men have been perpetrators of violence. It is crucial for men to reflect on their own behavior and take responsibility for it. Another common mistake is men tending to dominate or take control in anti-violence campaigns, sometimes sidelining women. Additionally, some men believe they must attain a level of perfection before speaking up, thinking they cannot address the issue unless they have never behaved poorly in the past. In reality, men can acknowledge their past poor behavior, take responsibility, and strive to improve their conduct.

When men engage in discussions with women about these issues, further challenges arise. Some women may be distrustful or skeptical of men’s support for the cause, which is understandable considering historical patterns of men taking over or dominating such spaces. Men’s use of feminist language insincerely or with ulterior motives has contributed to this distrust. Some men may claim to be feminists for self-serving reasons, such as pursuing sexual relationships. Consequently, men actively addressing these issues may face distrust and uncertainty.

On the other hand, men also may encounter excessive praise, receiving more attention and recognition than women who have long been engaged in this work. While such praise may be gratifying, it can be disproportionate to their actual efforts and unfair. However, these reactions from others are understandable, given that many men do not take any action on this issue. Men should expect a range of responses, both positive and negative, as they navigate this challenging terrain.


  • What advice would you give to men who want to become advocates and allies? Are there specific initiatives or campaigns you recommend for making a tangible difference in the lives of women affected by violence?

The first thing men must do is start with ourselves. As I’ve said, we must put our own houses in order. We must critically examine our own lives and relationships to ensure that we treat women, girls, and others with nonviolence, respect, and care. However, to truly put an end to men’s violence against women, personal change alone is not enough. We must also engage in collective social change. Therefore, a crucial step for men is to contribute to women’s rights campaigns, groups, and networks that have been fighting against men’s violence towards women for at least 40 years.

When men begin to get involved in this work, it is essential to assess our own behavior and learn. We should explore feminist theories and actively listen to the perspectives of feminist women. We should critically examine the media we consume, including TV shows, movies, and pornography, and analyze the messages they convey. Parenting styles and friendships should also be evaluated. In addition to personal change, there is a need for societal transformation.

One way men can contribute is by supporting local women’s groups and campaigns. This can involve donating money if feasible or offering our time to engage in behind-the-scenes, less glamorous tasks. It is important not to expect to be in the spotlight or receive status and recognition immediately. Men should be willing to undertake unpaid and low-status work and inquire about how they can be of assistance to women in these organizations. Joining or supporting local groups, networks, and campaigns is another valuable step.

Moreover, it is worth seeking out initiatives that specifically aim to involve men in this work. International campaigns such as the White Ribbon campaign exist for this purpose. Many countries also have anti-sexist or pro-feminist men’s groups and networks. Men can explore these options and actively participate. However, it is crucial to enter these spaces with humility and recognize that trust and acceptance cannot be assumed; they must be earned. Building trust requires demonstrating a genuine commitment to equality and actively challenging and dismantling sexist and patriarchal dynamics.

In summary, men must embark on a journey of self-reflection and personal change while actively supporting and contributing to women’s rights campaigns and organizations. By doing so, we can play a role in both personal and collective efforts to eradicate violence against women.


  • What steps do you believe are necessary to create an ideal future where men actively prevent and address violence against women?


The initial steps toward creating a future free from men’s violence against women require a change in men’s behavior. Violence against women is fundamentally a behavioral issue within a certain group of men, a significant minority in many countries. It is only by transforming this behavior that we can put an end to men’s violence against women.

To achieve this, we must also address broader gender inequalities, patriarchal structures, and social norms that enable and perpetuate such violence. We need to challenge the gender norms and inequalities that contribute to some men becoming perpetrators, individuals who engage in pressuring, controlling, and coercing their partners, or perpetrating sexual harassment in public spaces, among other harmful behaviors. Therefore, it is crucial to change these societal conditions.

For this transformation to occur, men must join forces with women in collective advocacy to bring about substantial social change. It is particularly important for men to focus their efforts on other men, as women are already inundated with advice on how to reduce their risk of assault or rape and navigate violent relationships. There has been a lack of emphasis on the role men can play in refraining from using violence themselves and in challenging other men’s behaviors. Thus, for men committed to ending men’s violence against women, our primary focus should be on ourselves and then on engaging with other men. We should strive to change men’s behavior and foster healthy, gender-equitable ways of living, promoting positive masculinities among men and boys.


Professor Michael Flood (Queensland University of Technology) is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of violence against women, violence prevention, men, masculinities and gender. He has made significant contributions to academic and public understanding of men’s involvement in preventing violence against women and building gender equality, as well as to research and programming in violence and violence prevention. Professor Flood is the author of Engaging Men and Boys in Violence Prevention (2019, click here to access the book in PDF format), co-author of Masculinity and Violent Extremism (2022), and senior editor of Engaging Men in Building Gender Equality (2015) and The International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities (2007).

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