The ARC Gender Relations project is a primary violence prevention project which aims to engage communities in the Lismore and Tweed regions. The goal of primary prevention approaches is to reduce or prevent new instances of violence across whole populations before they occur, by addressing the underlying causes of violence.[i]
The ARC project draws heavily on the Our Watch – Change the Story framework, which makes clear that addressing gender inequality is a core aspect of preventing violence against women and their children. Our Watch identifies four main gendered drivers of violence, which are:
- The condoning of violence against women
- Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence
- Stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
- Disrespect towards women and male peer relations that emphasise aggression
The core work of the ARC project is to address these underlying causes of violence and promote more Accountable, Respectful and Connected (ARC) Gender Relations in our local communities. ARC uses an intersectional feminist perspective, to acknowledge and disrupt intersecting systems of power that enable prejudice, discrimination and inequality. These systems include racism, sexism, economic disadvantage, homophobia, ableism, transphobia and ageism. We will do this by providing programs that:
- Support healthy gender relations and build safer communities
- Challenge rigid gender stereotypes and roles
- Strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between people of all genders
- Challenge cultural norms that enable violence-supporting masculinities
- Promote and normalise gender equality in public and private life
The ARC project uses a gender transformative approach, which “seeks to reshape gender relations to be more gender equitable”.[ii] Within this framework, gender is understood as socially constructed patterns of behaviour rather than ‘natural’ characteristics that are biologically driven and ‘set in stone’. Given this, one of the main aims of the ARC project is to work with men and encourage them to reflect on how they have been socialised to ‘be a man’.
According to Dworkin et al, “research finds that men who adhere to dominant ideals of masculinity experience worse mental health outcomes, are more controlling of their sexual partners, engage in more high-risk sex, use violence to demonstrate power over others and avoid healthcare clinics more than men who challenge dominant notions of masculinity”.[iii] By reframing understandings of what gender means, the ARC project engages men in positive ways with the aim of integrating more respectful behaviours and attitudes, and better equipping them to become agents of change in violence prevention.
Dworkin, S., Fleming, P., & Colvin, C. (2015). The Promises and Limitations of Gender-Transformative Health Programming with Men: Critical Reflections From the Field. Culture, Health and Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care, 1-16.
Our Watch. (2019). Change the Story: A Shared Framework for the Primary Prevention of Violence. Retrieved from https://www.ourwatch.org.au/What-We-Do/National-Primary-Prevention-Framework
(2014). Our Watch Policy Brief 1 – Key Terms, Definitions and Statistics. Our Watch.
[i] (Our Watch Policy Brief 1 – Key Terms, Definitions and Statistics, 2014, p. 4)
[ii] (Dworkin, Fleming, & Colvin, 2015, p. 1)
[iii] (Dworkin, Fleming, & Colvin, 2015, p. 3)