Behavioral approaches and anti-rape workby Lydia Guy Ortiz on 04/14/11
A colleague recently asked me what I thought about the increasing popularity of behavioral approaches to the prevention of violence against women and the tension between anti-oppression/feminist work and those approaches.
These are my thoughts.
When I think of behavioral approaches, including but not limited to the Green Dot campaign, I see community based approaches that leverage the influence of peers. Approaches that engage members of a community in creating new behaviors that challenge the violence around them and therefore create a new social norm. When I think of anti-oppression and/or feminist work in the anti-rape movement, I see an intellectual and/or political analysis, challenging people to acknowledge oppression (in themselves, others and institutions) and encouraging people to engage in activities which dismantle the institutions and norms which support and contribute to the oppression.
Behavioral = END
Anti- Oppression/Feminism = MEANS
So the question becomes are the two compatible. I have always been clear in my work that anti-oppression/feminist analysis is my theoretical home. I evaluate frameworks such as public health to see if they fit into my personal paradigm of how and why I do the work. I keep what works for me, acknowledge the dissonance and move on. I am at heart a pragmatist. I see VAW as a quixotic quest and value the notion, but do not expect any one else to do so. Currently, my favorite quote in describing why I do the work is from the Impossible Dream from the Man of LaMancha “One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world was better for this.” I think in order to do SV prevention work you either have to believe prevention is possible or at the very least to be up for a quixotic quest.
So back to the question, are they compatible?
Should we as a movement do VAW prevention work without the benefit of (express) feminist analysis?
I think so. Let me tell you why. I think it boils down to being comprehensive; of having a variety of complementary and hopefully synergistic approaches. It is about using a hammer for a nail and a screwdriver for a screw. Not everyone wants needs or is even interested in a socio-political analysis. A behavioral approach might be entirely appropriate for those folks. The challenge is not to forget that the means matter. A we incorporate new strategies we must “check for fit.” We must engage in debate and discussion to remain true to anti-rape work being a movement in addition to a sexual violence service delivery system. I may become an anachronism the longer I remain in this work. I am committed to the idea of an-anti rape movement to create social change. Expedience validates the pragmatist in me. My personal challenge is to balance the pragmatist with the feminist in order to become visionary.