In Sweden, police Capt. Goran Lindberg has spent the last 20 years devising gender violence prevention training for police officers. A hulking figure standing well over 6 feet tall and weighing at least 250 pounds, he serves as an expert adviser on gender equality for the government of Sweden and is the chief commissioner of the Uppsala County Police Department. Lindberg is also the former director of the Swedish National Police Academy.
For two decades, he has witnessed the repetitive cycles of men's violence against women and the steady increase of negative depictions of women in Swedish advertisements.
"Europe's advertising is the same as America's: It features emaciated women as sex objects," Lindberg explained during an interview in a restaurant near the United Nations. As the chief of police in his district, Lindberg believes so strongly in men sharing responsibility for child rearing and domestic life that he refuses to hire police officers who have not taken care of children.
"If you want to be a police officer in a high rank in my department, you must show me you have nursed children, your own or others," he explained, adding that attitude changes among Swedish men and boys are critical for shifting the status and ensuring the safety of women and girls.
"We must support new male role models or men will not have the courage or strength to remain as role models," he continued. "If you don't support men who are doing this, they will remain quiet. There is the silent crowd, those who keep quiet, and there are those who agree with good role models, who must break the silence. The people's silence can be devastating."
Lindberg knows he is often made fun of by fellow police officers for his fierce departmental commitment to women's rights and for holding men accountable for their actions and attitudes toward women.
"They call me Captain Skirt, but I am proud of my nickname, and I have a fan club, too," he said smiling. "Outside the police force I speak to presidents of companies and men with political power and try to reach them and change their minds. The man culture in Sweden is to look upon the men with power and if they do good things, we little men can do good things too. It is important that men with power join us."
A Leadership Issue
American filmmaker and gender violence prevention trainer Jackson Katz agrees with Lindberg. In trainings he leads with the U.S. Marine Corps, Katz has found that appropriate role modeling is the key to making lasting impressions on young men.
"We need to create a peer culture climate among men where they realize they will lose their status in their peer culture if they hit women," said Katz, the founder of MVP Strategies and the creator of the new film "Tough Guise: Media and the Crisis in Masculinity." "There are ways to be a man that are not abusive toward women and girls. This is a leadership issue. It takes guts to speak up. There are policing mechanisms in peer culture that keep men silent. Most men don't speak up for fear of having their 'manhood' attacked."
In addition to changing what constitutes peer culture for men, Katz said new language is needed to help redefine masculinity and manhood.
"The language we use is part of the problem," said Katz, who spoke at the United Nations. "We often use the passive voice to talk about crimes against women. How many girls were assaulted by their boyfriends? How many girls were raped? Compare that language to 'How many boys and men raped girls? How many men assaulted women?' The passive construction of describing the problem focuses on victims and perpetuates the problem."
Katz said his choice of words is also critical in winning the respect of Marines and male athletes he encounters during his gender violence prevention trainings.
"When I walk into a room full of Marines, I don't start out talking about my feelings," said Katz, a former football, basketball and baseball player. "There is a bit of posing in the beginning, but the shell is protection against vulnerability. I am convinced beyond any doubt that there are millions of men who want to break down the posing and the posturing. When they have the opportunity to be human beings and to talk about their experiences in a safe place, it changes their whole life. Their whole psyche shifts."